Friday, April 29, 2022

Some Considerations to Make before Container Gardening

While containers can be a fantastic option for those who cannot grow in the ground, they do present a number of challenges. For me, two of the biggest concerns with containers are container volume (how much the container can hold) and a lack of insulation (how much the container is effected by variations in daily temperature fluctuations). The larger a container can hold, the larger the plant’s roots can grow. Likewise, there is a incredible amount of damage that can happen to the roots of plants in containers during the summer.


Even if growing in white buckets, the temperature of the soil just inside the plastic in a 5-gallon-bucket by the end of a summer day can be much hotter than the outdoor temperature. Temperatures more akin to solarization will damage the roots of most any vegetable plant. This occurs because the container is exposed to both direct sunlight and radiant heat from outside of the container. While there are ways to mitigate this concern (insulating a container and growing in a larger container) know that the first several inches around most non-insulated containers can be designated a “dead zone” and that, as the spring turns into summer, the “dead zone” will only increase until the plant is so stressed that it will no longer support fruit growth.


Am I against growing in containers? Not at all! I do it. But if the vegetable grower does not take into considerations the risks and disadvantages of doing so and understands the limitations that container growing presents, then – with proper thought and planning – a small crop of whatever can be grown in containers. Would growing in a 5-gallon-bucket work for a giant pumpkin? No. Nor would it work well for an indeterminate tomato variety. Would it work for growing something for 2-3 months. Yes it would – if you take the above issues into consideration.

For further reading:

Here is a blog post about me growing in hydroponic baskets in 5-gallon-buckets

And some of my experience doing so in the greenhouse.

And outside of the greenhouse.

Though not perfect, this article talks about the consequences of heat stress on plants and what some possible solutions to heat stress may be.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Planting in 10 inch Hydroponic Baskets

One of the things I greatly enjoy about gardening is that it provides endless opportunities for learning. Though the gardener may grow a variety of vegetable in the garden one year, changing a couple factors the following year can dramatically change the outcome of the crop. A particular issue that many gardeners experience is limited space in the garden bed to grow their crop. While some choose to remedy this problem by growing in containers, container growing can be especially challenging in areas with intense sunlight or heat. Unless the gardener has the resources to obtain a very large container or one that is somehow insulated from the worst aspects of the climate, direct sun hits the sides of the container and, when combined with heat, can damage roots or dry soil to the point at which the plants suffer, dither and their health in general deteriorates.


My experience with gardening in containers has been like this. Even in a very large wine barrel, the plants in the container do not live to their potential and if they produce, the fruit is smaller and the harvest is much less. So now I generally garden in containers only when I am experimenting with a variety that I just need some basic information about or I grow in containers with the intent to place the entire container into the ground. By using a 10” hydroponic basket I am able to solve the issue of “not enough space” by growing my plants in a container until a spot in the garden opens up for me to plant.


10 inch hydroponic baskets are definitely a mixed blessing. Here are some of the pros and cons of using them as a method of transplanting into a garden:

-Fits perfectly into a 1-gallon container for ease in initial growing and transporting to the garden bed-Makes it possible for transplants of a very large size.
-Enables the gardener to maximize harvests of multiple summer crops in a small area.
-Fragile roots of the plant are not put in a state of “shock”.
-Roots grow through the basket and make use of the nutrients, moisture and biology already present in the soil.
-Dramatically increases the survival rate of plants because they are both larger when being transplanted and because the lip of the basket can be placed just above the soil line (as a barrier to creeping critters)
-Mitigates disease for the observant gardener by keeping disease contained to the soil in the basket. The gardener can remove the plant from the garden before disease spreads any further.

-Damages soil by requiring the gardener to make a hole that is over 10 inches in depth and width.
-Dramatically increases labor required to plant the crop (labor is multiplied by 3 or 5 times what it normally would be in preparation of the soil, growing the plant and in transplanting of the basket)
-Dramatically increases labor required to remove the crop (labor is multiplied by 5-10 times what it normally would be in removing the basket, leveling the soil, in repurposing the soil and cleaning the basket)

In talking about transplanting large hydroponic baskets, I don’t want to paint too rosy a picture of the work involved. First one needs to get the baskets, then compact soil into the basket. If there is not enough compaction, the soil will fall through the cracks. Then the seeds or soil block is planted into the basket. It generally takes more time to water plants in 5-gallon buckets than in the ground. To transplant, the gardener needs to dig a hole that is over 10 inches in width and depth, then fill in the soil so that it is in complete contact with the bucket. Any trellising needs to work with a 10 inch plastic container. It requires much more time and energy than regular planting of seeds or soil blocks would.

At the end of the season, when the plants have been removed, the work required is even greater. The basket is carefully removed (now that the roots have grown through the container and established themselves in the garden, they need to be torn free to be able to remove the basket). Then the hole in the garden bed is filled, leveled and the soil in the basket is repurposed. Then the basket is cleaned, dried and stored for the next season.

On the flip side, the benefits are amazing. If the gardener has minimal space and planting time, the gardener can make a lot of use of the limited time they have to grow a whole lot. The old crop can be replaced by transplants that have grown for 4-6 weeks. If fruit is not already set on the plant, the plants are so large that fruit develops quickly. Transplanting 10-inch hydroponic baskets is not for everyone, but the ability to get multiple from seed to harvest in the time it would take to get one crop to maturity may be worth all the work involved.
Last, but not least, here is a video to demonstrate a little about how this is done:


Friday, April 15, 2022

Rootbound Plant

Prior to the pandemic, I took this picture of a rootbound plant that had shed its pot. Someone told me that it may be a Schefflera Arboricola, but that is about all I know about it. Enjoy!

Friday, April 8, 2022

Enjoying a Couple Gardens

Here are some pictures of a couple gardens I enjoyed during 2020. One was in Yountville, California and the other was my father-in-laws garden in western Colorado.

The garden in Yountville was incredible. For context, Yountville is prime wine-growing country in Napa county. The market garden was on about an acre and supplied a nearby restaurant. Usually during the time of the year we visited, Yountville would be completely packed with tourists and wine enthusiasts. However, when we went the town was nearly deserted. We happened to be there for the purpose of visiting landmarks, included some in the town’s cemetery.

The diversity of vegetables that can be grown in Mediterranean climate is quite amazing. I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Western Colorado has quite a different climate than that of the Napa County. While visiting family in Grand Junction, I decided to take a few pictures of my father-in-law’s garden.