Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Self-Watering Containers, part II

Last year, I wrote about building your own self-watering container to grow happy plants. Self-watering containers have a water reservoir at the bottom of the container. Water is wicked up into the dirt, while roots reach down to get at the moisture. Plants grow strong and healthy, and you spend less time watering plants.

I was looking for a more flexible self-watering container than the two large bins I have. I wanted one I can take indoors or outdoors, and that is easy to clean. A plus would be one that is easy to make!

Allison Fastman, author of Cantabrigian Farm Girl, taught a fantastic workshop last summer on indoor gardening projects, including how to create self-watering containers out of Trader Joe's flower buckets. You've probably seen the buckets holding cut flowers. At closing, the buckets are sadly tossed into the dumpster - or better yet, the staff will hold them for you to pick up the next morning. Because the plastic isn't too thick, you can cut through them with scissors, making them easy to work with. So even if you have just a superglue gun and a set of scissors, you can still DIY.

Materials (for one self-watering container):
  • 2 flower buckets from Trader Joe's
  • Rope (natural, not synthetic)
  • Superglue gun and glue sticks
  • Weedblocking material
  • Scissors
  • Optional: hardware cloth, screwdriver
  • The rope and weedblocking material are sold in larger quantities than needed. Share with a friend!

Do It Yourself!

1. Start by supergluing rope around the bottom third of one bucket. When you slide this "inner" bucket into the second bucket, the rope will prevent it from fitting completely, allowing space for a water reservoir.

2. Cut a hole in the center bottom of this bucket, large enough to slide rope through. If you are pushing the point of the scissors down to start the hole, add pressure slowly to avoid cracking the plastic. Do I know this from experience? Yes. (I used a combination of scissors and a screwdriver.)

3. Cut weedblocking material to fit in the bottom of the inner bucket, then cut a hole in the center. For structural integrity, you can also add hardware cloth at this point. (The hardware store can cut it down to size for you.) The weedblocking material will keep the dirt in your top bucket and keep it from falling through into the bottom bucket.

4. Tie a knot in the end of another piece of rope, then cut to about 6 inches. Pull the rope through the holes you've just cut in the bucket and weedblocking material. The rope will act as a wick, moving water from the reservoir up into the dirt.

5. Poke two or more holes in the second "outer" bucket, a few inches up from the bottom. The holes should be just below where the bottom of the first bucket will end. If your plants are outdoors, this will prevent them from drowning in a rainstorm.

The bucket sat too high when empty, but sank lower when filled with dirt.

6. Fill the bottom bucket with a few inches of water, and the outer with soil. Then, plant!  And remember to add water as needed.

Red Robin cherry tomatoes

If you need any containers, feel free to ask - I got about 20 from Trader Joe's. Happy planting and let me know how it turns out!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Spring Salad

 I celebrated a mid-week day off with a spring salad. Bon appetit!

Asparagus (steamed 7 minutes) and chive flowers


Spinach and grape tomatoes


Spring Salad

In future, I will not be combining the onion-y chive flowers with asparagus. (I liked the colors, though.) A better choice would have been the clover flowers I have out back.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mark Your Calendars

Last Saturday, in the shade behind the Harvard Co-op bookstore, I found a flock of chickens. 

Yes, chickens, 6 months old and adorable. Beside their coop, there were information booths from Grow Your Own Stuff on hydroponics, Fresh Pond Reservation on invasive plants, City Sprouts selling seedlings grown in schoolyards, the awesomely helpful Green City Growers on building a raised bed garden, and more.

This was the Get Growing! Festival, part of Harvard Square's MayFair, with information for anyone interested in creating a container garden or raised bed garden, backyard chicken coop, rainwater catchment system, or just about any other urban homesteading project you can think of.

I walked away from the Get Growing Festival with free seedlings, a handbook on hydroponics for my soon-to-be-built window farm, and supplies for making a self-watering container. (soon to be new blog posts!)

I also brought back leaflets and postcards with several dates to keep in mind for workshops around town:

Saturday, May 19, Fresh Pond Day
Music, storytelling, dog training, birding, container gardening, crafts, wildflower walk. The ultimate family day at Kingsley Park (250 Fresh Pond Parkway)

Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20, Seedling Sales
Organically grown vegetable, flower, and herb starts for your home garden, at Waltham Fields Community Farm (240 Beaver Street, Waltham, MA)

Saturday, July 14, Breakfast on the Farm
Waltham Fields Community Farm hosts chef Joh Kokubo of Kitchen on Common.(240 Beaver Street, Waltham, MA)

Friday, August 10 - Sunday, August 12, Northeast Organic Farming Association's Summer Conference
Located in UMass, Amherst, the conference includes workshops on organic gardening, permaculture, landscaping, alternative energy, and cooking, as well as music, organic meals, and a country fair. For info: info@nofasummerconference.org

Tuesday, August 14, Potluck and Stargazing
7:30-8:30pm Potluck
8:30-10pm Stargazing
Waltham Fields Community Farm hosts Astronomer Andrew West. Free event! (240 Beaver Street, Waltham, MA)

Sunday, September 23, Cambridge Urban Ag Fair
Winthrop Park, Harvard Square
Celebrating local gardeners, growers, and foods, this is a little like a country fair, but in the city. Prizes are awarded for the biggest veggies and tastiest jams.

Whether in Boston or elsewhere, what events do you have on your calendar this summer?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Garden Update

I planted spinach, a mesclun mix, peas and some flowers last week, but I have a couple of other things growing in my garden.

The garlic I planted last fall seems to be doing well, though I predict these container bulbs will be small . I'm still not sure when to harvest them. It's too bad I don't eat clover on a regular basis, as that seems to be doing REALLY well.

(Actually, maybe I should eat the flowers - apparently they're delicious in salads.)  

Also, the oregano I planted last spring overwintered well (probably because it was such a mild winter) and smells soooo good.

Not too bad considering this took absolutely zero effort on my part.