Growing Food In Containers
4: Maintenance and re-planting
It’s now 5 weeks since we put in our leafy green vegetables and root crops and 3 weeks since we planted our fruiting vegetables. We can harvest some of our bok choy, mesclun, kale and spinach now and we have work to do on our fruiting and root vegetables.
Thin root crops
- Our carrots and beetroot need thinning. That means imagining how big a carrot or beetroot will grow and gently pulling out the seedlings that are too close.
- Alternatively, you can leave the planting a bit thicker and pull some of them out when they’re young to eat as baby carrots and beetroot, leaving the others to grow to full size.
- Beetroot seedlings are the only root crop that can be transplanted successfully.
Mulch and net fruiting vegetables
- Apply mulch and hang netting over hoops (see here for how to make hoops) to fruiting vegetables to keep up the moisture level and protect from birds.
- Examples of good mulch are the straw we put around our strawberries (buy from a horse supplies place) or coconut fibre which expands when added to water. Another good alternative is lucerne chaff (also from a horse supplies place).
- Delateral on day with a clear sky and gentle breeze. A humid day is not good as humidity can cause fungal infection.
- Identify 2 or 3 strong leaders. Remove all the other branches by snapping them up and down to break them off. If they don’t snap off, use clean secateurs. Make sure you nip out the leaves that form in the crooks of bigger branches.
- Apply Flowers of Sulphur to the wounds with a paintbrush.
- Tie the leaders up with cloth ribbon.
- Water in the morning only to prevent the fungal infection called blight.
- Don’t put your tomato cuttings into your worm farm as a concentrated amount of them can be toxic.
Sow and plant regularly to keep supply of food up
- Work out how much your family eats and sow and plant accordingly, so if you eat 4 bok choy a week and one lettuce on average then every 2 weeks, sow 8 bok choy and 2 lettuces.
- When you re-plant, add a bit more potting mix to the container, as the previous crop will have taken some of it out. Also add a fertiliser like sheep pellets or chicken manure as the potting mix will be somewhat depleted of nutrients.
- Healthy plants repel pests and diseases which is one of the reasons why the aim of an organic food gardener is to keep your plants as healthy as possible. The other reason is because it’s best for our health.
- If you do encounter slugs and snails, a good way to deal with them is to make a mixture of 1 cup of warm water, 1 teaspoon of dried yeast and 1 teaspoon of white sugar. Stir well and leave to sit until it froths up at the top. We kept the bottoms of the bottles that we used to make watering funnels for this purpose, but any small container will work. Bury most of it in the garden and then pour in the yeast mixture. Slugs and snails are attracted to the smell.
Keep picking longer-term leafy greens
- Leafy greens like herbs, rocket and mesclun will go to seed if not picked regularly. That’s because the plant thinks its usefulness is over and it goes to seed in order to reproduce itself.
Keep your worm farm cool
- Worm farms do best in a cool shady position. As our two Hungry Bins are not in an ideal spot we cover them with shadecloth.
Liquid feed your plants
- To a bin or bucket with a lid, we add 3 handfuls of sheep pellets or chicken manure or vermicast from the worm farm, and around 8 litres of water. Leave for at least 4 days before diluting 50/50 with water and applying. You can add more water to the bucket to make more liquid feed and eventually you’ll need to tip out the remaining sludge into the garden and start over.
- Foliar feeding with liquid comfrey is hugely beneficial to tomato and potato crops. You can buy a commercial blend or make your own by putting comfrey leaves in your bin or bucket and adding water.
Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Michael Hardcastle