Sunday, August 5, 2012

Grow your own bucket garden

As mentioned on this and other blogs, one way to save on preparedness is to supplement your food supply with what you grow at home.  You can either use the produce in lieu of buying at the store and use those liberated $$ to buy less perishables, or can your home grown for future use. There are many how-to websites for this concept. Here is one that seems to cover the basics and some intermediate steps. I just put my buckets on the part of the back patio that gets 10 hours of sun instead of  0 or 16.

I've had surprising results from my bakery bucket gardening experiment.  The sugar snap peas were going gang-busters until some fungus got them. Now that the monsoon is here, they have re-sprouted and are producing again.

The rhubarb had some setbacks during the heat and low humidity  of June, but are now doing better.  Cabbage was eaten by some transient critter -- probably a caterpillar from the looks of it. 

Right now I have okra coming in.  Lesson learned there is to plant it later, in a bigger bucket with deeper soil and keep it to 2 plants per bucket.  I used a 4 gal bucket half-full of soil and it's not enough. I also put in 3 or 4 plants and 3 survived. Now I realise how HUGE an okra plant can be, it's to much plant for too little growing capacity. Next time, 6 gallon bucket, 2/3 full of soil and 2 plants.

Using the drip on bucket gardens is also tricky. You really must have a hole in the bottom, even if it's a small one, like 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter. One is enough to keep the plant from getting root rot if the drip or a sudden rain provides too much water. Two holes may be too many and the plant can dry out-- at least here in the arid southwestern US.  Second, you need to play with what size drip emitter for the type of plant and amount of soil in the bucket.  We run the drip 3 times a week for about half an hour this time of year -- mostly insurance if we have a few days without monsoon rain. A 1-gal/hr emitter is too big for some plant and bucket combos, but not enough for others. Keep an eye on what needs a larger emitter or supplemental water. Example: the snap peas are fine on the 1 gal/hr size emitter, the huge okra in the too-small bucket needs more.

The last lesson I've learned is timing. Our seasons are really different from the norm. Only a few hardy annual crop items can survive the punishing April through June of the high desert (>5000' elevation of AZ and NM). Resisting the urge to plant early is difficult, but things really do not flourish until the monsoon.  Unless you need the greens to survive, and are willing to baby them -- including having them in container you can take inside on scorching days, wait.  Start your seedlings in mid-June and plant when the dew point gets to 50 for two consecutive days. Let the monsoon take them from there!

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