Thursday, June 13, 2013

Minimalist Gardening - Self Watering Containers

I am a minimalist and I like things to be as efficient as possible. Many times, I refer to this as my 'lazy' streak. One of my lazy streaks was onset by my love of gardening but my dislike for maintaining the garden. Enter - the Minimalist Martha Mentality - where I try to outsmart gardening.

How do you outsmart Gardening?
First, I think of every way I kill my plants. Overwatering and underwatering. That about does it. And perhaps not adding plant food but in general plants don't really *need* extra food as long as the soil is okay.

Now I know what KILLS my garden. How do I get around it? I find some self-watering methods. I've looked at them all. Self-watering containers (fairly small or large and expensive), drip systems, timer systems, gravity fed rainwater systems, you name it and I looked it up.

What must I overcome?

  • We rent
  • We don't have a backyard - we have a balcony with no soil (obviously)
  • The light in the house is not good enough to grow indoors
  • I have to go through the master bedroom to get to the balcony which means when fiance is sleeping I might wake him if I have to water
  • We don't want to choose between vacation and our garden crop
I kept circling back around to the self watering containers. But they are a bit expensive. And they don't look that big. And they need to be refilled frequently which means asking a neighbor to refill them every few days if we go on vacation. So this was the best option but not the best option. 

What did I end up doing? A revised version of this video:
I plan to create a tutorial on my version the next time I make a self watering container. My version is significantly easier (in my opinion). But I don't want to get into it too much. I have purple self watering container 'tubs'. I have a lot of them and I'm still learning.

The best thing about the tubs is that the covers act like mini greenhouses and you can plant right into the tubs and the seedlings are protected from animals, birds, squirrels, etc. (I've found evidence of squirrels and birds trying to get at them unsuccessfully). 

Why I love this version 
  • I water once a month. That's it. And then I'm pretty bored honestly. 
  • After they are set up, you don't have to set them up again - even for the next just plant right in them. Pretty awesome!
  • I can add liquid fertilizer right to the water supply and don't have to worry about burning the roots because it holds so much water and dilutes perfectly
  • I don't have to worry about when it rains because there are overflow holes that means the rain fills up the tubs and then the excess simply flows out. When it rains, my containers get filled up and it means just that much longer before I have to fill them up again!
  • Being inside the tubs prevents the seedlings from getting blown over in storms and I can put the lids on for added protection if I want.
  • While they can be a pain to move when they are full of soil, plants and water, they can still be moved and I like that - portable is awesome.
  • When our apartment complex decides to spray the grass outside, I can put the lids on our plants and don't have to worry about pesticides or whatever green paint they are putting on the grass blowing onto our garden. Just one less thing to worry about.

What have I got planted? A lot. Let me list it for you:
  • Gem Corn (It was crazy popular on pinterest and had to get some!)
  • beans (to climb up the corn)
  • lettuce (it really thrives as a ground cover in the tubs)
  • Radishes (also a good ground cover in the tubs)
  • Cucumbers (they are going to climb my balcony railing and look gorgeous I hope)
  • Cherry Tomatoes (they will also climb my balcony railing from the OTHER end and look gorgeous I hope)
  • Bell Peppers (they are not doing fantastic but I think it was my seed saving methods)
  • Green onions (these are easy peasy to grow!)
  • Strawberries (these have done the best out of everything! I plan to plant three more tubs of these next year!)
9 Strawberry plants just planted
Same 9 Strawberry plants - 2 months later and one watering
The gem corn and beans and lettuce have done very well

I also have a special project which will get a post all of its own - the Kitchen Scrap Garden. It is ONE tub planted with only scraps from the kitchen. So far I have planted the following:
  • White Onion bottoms (have done very well)
  • celery (the sun killed it I think)
  • Bok Choy (the sun also killed it)
  • Romaine Lettuce (the sun killed it really efficiently)
  • Nappa Cabbage (It has been doing well but floundering recently)
  • Leeks (these have been doing well also and are part of the onion family)
(Photo above was before the celery, bok choy and lettuce died)
So as you can see, the kitchen scrap garden is floundering a bit. But I'm still trying! I'll be posting updates (hopefully video) in the future. 

So far I really love my self-watering garden. It is very easy to take care of. After I set up the tubs I just check the water levels. The strawberries went an entire month without watering and have really flourished. 

I had radishes and lettuce planted in the front of our little apartment and right off the back and two weeks in a row the landscaping guys have taken a weedwacker to our little pieces of salad patch. This past week was especially frustrating as I asked the man that was trimming the front to please leave my lettuce and radishes alone and he apologized and immediately went to our backyard area and weedwacked the entire lettuce/radish area back there that was clearly marked off and covered with landscaping cloth.

So...I'm okay with the landscaping people being jerks. Because they can't get to my tub garden and that makes me very happy.

The hardest part about this tub garden is really not being needed. I sort of wander around the balcony a few moments and look to be needed and come back inside disappointed that I'm not but still happy the garden is thriving without me. 

I have found the cucumbers, corn, strawberries, green onions (they do well anywhere), beans, lettuce and tomatoes have really done well in self watering containers so far. I really plan on three more containers of strawberries next year. I did try spinach but it was just too warm I think. I'll try again in the fall. I haven't tried carrots yet but I plan to in the next couple of weeks. I have some extra soil and need to just put together a couple of 5 gallon self-watering buckets for the carrots so they have something deep to grow in.

Well that's all for the self-watering container garden for now! I highly recommend this if you would rather spend your summer doing fun stuff and avoid watering daily and pulling weeds (I found three weeds in two months). 

I hope this has given you an idea and sparked an adventure.
Comments or questions please post below!

Thanks for reading!


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