Growing Food In Containers
3A: Planting out Part 1
- Our leafy green plants are ready for planting out, unlike our fruiting vegetables which are slower-growing and are better planted when it’s warmer.
- We plant bok choy, Cos and Iceberg lettuces, rocket, perpetual spinach, rainbow silverbeet or chard, cavolo nero kale and some parsley.
- Leafy greens like lots of nitrogen so we work in well-composted chicken manure to the potting mix along with a few handfuls of a well-balanced fertiliser. We’re also going to sow some mesclun seed so we don’t put the fertilisers near the area to be sown.
- In order to get water down to the roots of the plants in the taller containers, we use a 1.5L water bottle and cut the bottom off. Keep the lid on and drill a few holes in and around the neck of the bottle. Then we bury it in the container upside down. When filled, the water seeps out the holes we’ve drilled at a lower level where the roots of the plants are, lower than what the watering can will reach. If the potting mix is moist, just fill the funnel a couple of times when you water.
- We’re growing our climbing beans from seed and in a 75L grow bag. They need staking, so we put 4x 1800mm bamboo stakes in around the edge of the bag and tie them together at the top to make a teepee. Beans and peas don’t like a rich soil, so we don’t add any fertilisers to the potting mix. We put 2 bean seeds in at each stake, in case only one germinates. Push them into the potting mix around 2 cms deep.
- Planting flowers in a food garden is really important. Flowers attract bees which pollinate the vegetables that produce fruit eg tomatoes, beans, capsicums, chillis, cucumber etc. Flowers also attract beneficial insects – the good bugs that take care of the bad bugs. We plant cosmos, cornflower and sunflowers – check out this list for other suggestions.
Making hoops for nets
- Birds are a real nuisance in a food garden – they peck on leafy green vegetables and like the tender shoots of peas. We like to make hoops over which we drape netting to keep them at bay.
- Make yourself up a board to which you screw in a couple of bolts and clamp this to an outdoor table. We use 6mm reinforcing steel around 3m in length for each hoop. Mark up 500mm from one end and at that point, turn the steel rod around one of the bolts. At this point thread 2m of irrigation tubing or hosing onto the rod down to the loop. Then put the rod and tubing back on the board and wind the other end of the steel round the bolt again, making sure the two loops are on the same side as each other. These dimensions are good for a one-metre wide container. If you want a lower hoop, cut the rod and tubing accordingly.
- Bend the hoop round a container like a recycling bin making sure the loops are on the outside of the hoop, then insert into your garden. Cover with bird netting and secure into place with weed mat pins.
- Once we start producing, harvesting and eating our vegetables there will be lots of organic waste. That’s one of the reasons for having a worm farm. The Hungry Bin is a great design because it’s up high so it’s not attracting rodents and the tapered shape of the lower part of the bin compresses the castings, encouraging the worms to move to the surface layer to access fresh food. Compressed castings are easier to handle and largely free of worms.
- As we harvest our vegetables, we’ll use the worm castings in our containers to build the levels back up and add nutrients before re-planting. And we can use the worm juice as a liquid feed.
- Worm farms can’t take meat, chicken or fish and go sparingly on citrus and onions. Keep the lid closed as worms like the dark and they’re best sited in a cool spot out of the sun. If you don’t have a shady spot, you may need to create one using shade cloth.
Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Michael Hardcastle