Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Updates and The Sterilite Experiment

I hope you can forgive my absence of late. Fortunately, it means that I've been busy in the garden (or unfortunately, if you actually derive any entertainment from my ramblings..). Of course, I haven't just been busy in the garden.. I've been busy everywhere, every minute, of every day (jobs and motherhood will do that to you), but it's the path I've chosen and so I'll travel it with a smile! Finally this morning, on my third cup of coffee, I've found some time (and chemical-induced energy) to provide an update on my gardening-filled weekend.

First of all, I decided to transplant the volunteer onions from the squash bed to a container. When I gently dug them up, this is what I found:

I find it funny how the size of these guys varies so much! I replanted them in a container filled with a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost and then gave them a little dose of fish emulsion. So far they seem to have adjusted well to their new home. When I dug them up, I also found lots of worms. Three years ago I never thought I'd say this, but YAY FOR WORMS!!

With my current situation being the way it is (stupid HOA rules and snotty neighbor), I'm using lots of containers, which get to be expensive. And therein lies the problem. You see, I'm cheap. Well, I guess the fashionable term would be "frugalista" or "recessionista", but I've always been one to call a spade a spade and don't feel the need to dress up reality with a fancy, hip, new word. I don't think vegetable gardening should HAVE to cost an arm and a leg - even if you can't plant all of your crops in the ground. Eventually I'll tally my expenses into one of those fancy Google Spreadsheets, and perhaps I'll keep track of what I harvest as well (although a harvest seems so far away right now), just so we can see if this 'hobby' ends up costing more than it's worth. So, without further adieu, I'd like to introduce you to...

The Sterilite Experiment

Disclaimer: This is not a scienfific experiment. I am not a scientist. I will not investigate causal relationships among variables, or test a hypothesis, nor will I include controls or placebos. My only objective is to see if Sterilite containers are reasonable substitutes for more expensive garden pots.

I started with about 10 plastic containers in varying sizes. I found the best prices at Home Depot - the largest ones were only $5 each, and prices decreased from there. I flipped each one over:

And drilled several holes in the bottom of each for drainage. I did split one of the containers slightly, but to avoid this I learned to drill at a slow and steady pace, and did not have any other problems. Imagine, here, a picture of a container will holes, please. I'm terrible at taking pictures of my progress, but I promise I'll try to get better (I have no idea how food bloggers do it - maybe it just becomes a habit?)!

I then filled each container with a mixture of compost, vermiculite, peat moss, and top soil (again, because I'm cheap and filling all these containers get expensive). So far, I'm giving the plastic containers one point for this:

Looks like I didn't get my potting medium mixed as well as I thought I did. Thank you, clear plastic, for allowing me to see that!

After filling the containers, we carefully placed our seed mats in them,
Then spread a mixture of peat moss and vermiculite over the mats:

Then we patted them down and gave them a light watering with some fish emulsion:

We planted (or transplanted) peas, carrots, radishes, chives, pak choi, buttercrunch lettuce, a looseleaf lettuce mixture, basil, cilantro, oregano, dill, and parsley. So far, the basil transplants haven't held up very well, so I'll start some more seeds over the weekend and I'll be sure to give them more time to harden off. Also over the weekend, I'll start my tomato and pepper seedlings and amend the squash bed to get it ready for those seeds in a few weeks. Maybe I'll even have time to make and freeze some pasta... and a nap would be heavenly!

It's been really rainy here lately and it looks like it will continue for a while. The lettuce and herbs I transplanted a few weeks ago are definitely enjoying the precipitation (and so far the containers seem to be draining well enough). If the rain lets up for a bit, I'll take some pictures to update you on the progress. I really want to start chowing down on that romaine soon!


Erin said...

Great experiment! Great for the kids, too. I don't see why it shouldn't work, and if the light affects the soil or heats it up too much, you could probably either sink them in the ground a bit, or just pile up mulch around the container? It will be fun to see what transpires there, literally! I have been busy too lately, kids started swimming lessons, have to watch them outside when they are playing down the street since it's warmer out, gardening chores, etc... Spring is certainly busy!

Annie's Granny said...

I've used those containers (shoe box size and up) several times, and they work just fine. You just have to make sure they drain well. I see you're a crazy toilet planting lady, too. Someday they'll be calling you Granny Strange ;-)