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Build Your Own Trans-Potable Garden

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Two years ago drought gripped this corner of New England and water restrictions were in place everywhere, yet I grew bumper crops of tomatoes, peppers, and other vegetables without violating the law.

The secret lay in the containers - barrels and tubs adapted so that they had reservoirs at the bottom.

On the hottest of days, moisture was never far from the probing roots of these plants. Even so the system used far less water than conventional gardening, because no water drained beyond the reach of the roots and I was able to keep the reservoirs filled using rain water collected during occasional showers.

Tubs make it possible to grow plants where there is no suitable soil. In my case, some of the sunniest areas are where tree roots make conventional gardening impossible. Once in place, these tub gardens virtually take care of themselves, apart from watering every few days.

Any container capable of holding water can be turned into a planter. I have used 32-gallon garbage barrels to wastepaper office bins. As an example, let's take a plastic bushel basket:

You will need some perforated drainage pipe, available from any lumber yard, some PVC tubing as a filler tube and a piece of cloth, preferably polyester because it won't rot. It also makes a very effective wick.

In most containers one layer of drainage pipe makes an adequate reservoir; in 32-gallon bins, place a second layer on top of the first to double the reservoir size.

Place a handful of compost in the bottom of each planting hole and resort to liquid fertilizing once the plants are growing strongly. Liquid fertilizer can also be poured directly into the reservoir. Dilute it to half strength and add a new batch once a week. Don't use an organic fertilizer in this fashion, such as fish emulsion. I once did and while the plants did well, I could smell the container from six feet away. Fish emulsion poured on top of the soil works just fine.

I will grow as many as three large indeterminate tomatoes in the 32-gallon barrels; two or one in the smaller bins. The medium-sized tubs hold two to three peppers and the same number of eggplants. Once a week I water each tub thoroughly from the top; otherwise I use the filler tube to top up the reservoir whenever needed.

Another Method of Fertilizing


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