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Gardening Tips; 1st. Quarter of 2022.

Jan 13, 2022
Today begins a new volume of the Gardening Tips series. This one we will find the discussion of container gardening being discussed. Although I am involved with gardening on a larger scale, using tractors, various tillage and harvesting tools. Usually this type will cover several areas. Also we do greenhouses as well. But in this line of discussion we will be looking at a method that most people reading this can benefit from and participate in and that is container gardening. Normally people doing container gardening will use smaller containers, like clay pots, gallon cans, etc. But I have found that a 5 gallon bucket or 5 gallon bucket size really works very effectively and in my opinion, best. So in this discussion one needs to keep in mind that we are using these 5 gallon buckets. The information can be adapted to fit any size that works best for you. Remember, one size does not fit all.
Step #1- Here you need to decide how many containers that you would like to have. Get those containers. Most any 5 gallon bucket will work, unless it has had chemicals or oil in them. Maybe you can talk to a bakery, food preparation places, etc., Many times they get food items in buckets and once they are empty, they throw them away. Of course as a last resort you can always buy the buckets. Then take and measure up, from the bottom and make a mark at the 2 1/2 inch point. Do the same on the other, opposing side. Then drill a hole about the diameter of your pinky finger at those marks. These are to drain excess water away. We want to see some water in the bottom of the bucket so that the soil will allow for water to be wicked up to the plant as the plant will need it as the soil dries to a certain point. This is how nature works. Now with the holes bored/drilled/carved, we are ready to move to step #2.
Step #2- Now we are going to get some gravel or sand, doesn't matter which, and fill the bucket with the sand/gravel to just a 1/2 inch or so above the holes.
Step #3- Now we are going to fill the bucket with a soil mix to about the halfway mark on the bucket. This soil mixture will consist of local soil, try to get a good top soil from somewhere. Keep in mind that it won't take much to do this. But before putting it in the bucket, you will mix in a little bit of peat moss. Don't use a whole lot. The object here is to break up the soil a touch and to help hold water in the soil at the plant's root level or a little below.the root level for later use by the plant.  I like to use older horse manure instead of the peat moss, but either works just fine. Generally, people will use whatever is locally available that is essentially a medium that will soak up water and release it as the soil dries out.
Step #4- Now we are going to fill the bucket up to the 3/4 full mark on the bucket. Of course there won't be a lot here, but you will use the same soil that you used in the previous step but now you are going to mix in a more broad spectrum of food, nutrients, etc. This step is largely dependent on the local soil conditions. Within this step, you must have previously determined which plants you are going to plant, and what their needs are. Things like determining pH is a very important part of this step. I have a few pH meters that I use to determine this. Usually these are available at garden stores and cost between 10 and 20 dollars. I have found that they are accurate enough to do the job at hand. I am not telling you which types of supplements to use, IE; Synthetic or Natural. Anymore it is not unusual to find the whole gambit of Synthetic to Natural and most anything between at the same garden store. So I guess that you can use whichever type you choose.  As to my own applications, I have to contend with a high pH soil, around 8.0 and I like to use a composted Turkey and Pine shaving mix for my general fertilizer mix with additional supplements based on the individual plant's needs.
Step #5- Now we are going to set back and take care of the plant's needs and wait for the harvest.
Step #6- Now this is the step where we begin the process of getting ready for next year. We call this the "After Harvest Step".  With this step, we break up the foliage part of the plant, if that is the type of plant that was grown in this container. Usually this part of the plant at this time is dried out, frozen down to almost nothing. We take the left overs of the plant and incorporate it back into the soil. Plus we can pull in some compost from the compost pile and eventually add a little bit of fertilizer. We then cover the soil in the container with a little bit of soil, maybe a 1/2 inch or even an inch, and water it. From this point on we wait until the next year planting is to take place, because you are now ready for next year.  . 
General thoughts;
By following the container gardening method you will find the amount of water used to do this on a per plant basis is very low. The weed control is incredibly easy, in that you don't have to cover a lot of  area. Everything is elevated so you don't have to get down on all fours. This can be a challenge for age challenged people and people with various handicaps. When doing this method, you can move your plants around depending on the level of shade required or even full sun. You can start plants in the buckets by covering the top of the bucket with clear plastic in order to have a makeshift greenhouse. and then you could cover the bucket with a blanket or towel at night when needed due to frost, wind, rain and other concerns. Also, the buckets can be moved into a garage or under a covered/protected area if the need were to arise.  The way it looks to me this is a very good option for most people with limited resources and limited whatever, space, etc. I just do not see a whole lot of down side to this method for most people.
Some ideas on what to grow are to consider some of these plants used for essential oils. A lot of those plants can be grown using this method. You won't likely grow enough to go into the distilling business, but you can use these plants as herbs. Many of these plants make for excellent additives to your diet and food preparation. Several of my sons fancy themselves as a fancy type of chef. They use these types of herbs as part of their meal preparation. You can end up spending some serious money purchasing these herbs. So it can be helpful there as well. Other plants to consider are the more pricier ones in your local grocery store produce department. Normally these are the Tomatoes, Cucumbers, colored Peppers, and even nowadays, the Green Onions and Radishes. Really, you can plant whatever you want, within reason, and be successful by using this method. 
I hope this gives you some ideas that you can use. As always, if you have questions, feel free to get with me and I will do the best I can do for you.
End of Discussion. KK

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