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Bringing the farm home, Sept. 27, 2012

Bringing the farm home, Sept. 27, 2012

Farmer Bubba knows all about gardening in containers

FarmerBubbaLOGOoct12By Farmer Bubba

Aloha ya'll.

It's here. And what's here you ask? The cool nights, low humidity and warm days that start the next growin' season. Before you know it, we'll be covering our plants to protect them from a frost or freeze. But that's not here yet so let's get on with Bringing the Farm Home this week.

I’m going to dig into container gardening. Not just any container gardening, mind you, but the Farmer Bubba method of growing.

In Bubbland (a term I use on the farm), it’s all about black containers of all sizes. My farm is a self-contained container farm -- meaning my container dirt is made with the help of my four-legged composting squad and I only grow my vegetables in 092612compost teamthose containers with that special dirt. I know you have read in this column more than once and now I'll say it again -- it’s all about the compost.

I seem to have always been growin' somethin'.  My very first container farm was created up on the second story lanai (balcony) of an apartment in Austin, Texas, as I recuperated from a divorce. 

I know it's hard to believe, but, unfortunately, my second story garden didn’t please the downstairs apartment dwellers, or the apartment authority. After being issued an eviction notice, the mini-farm had to move. That was the the infamous beginning of Farmer Bubba’s container farm.

BUBBA NOTE: Before shutting my apartment farm down, I picked all the vegetables and had a party with my neighbors. After they tasted real, home grown food, I think they wished I had been allowed to keep the farm going.

092712ConplantsThe first thing to remember about growing in containers is this. Containers contain!

This means the dirt has no where to go or spread out as the vegetables grow like it does in an in-ground garden or raised bed and so it's important to make sure the dirt does not get compacted.

When dirt becomes compacted, everything from plant roots to root vegetables have a difficult time pushing through the dirt to grow. Potatoes, beets, and onions are a good example of root vegetables.

Root vegetables need room to get big, so the only way you’ll get a decent size root vegetable is to make sure the dirt is loose in the container.

It’s also important to consider the size of the container in relation to the vegetable plant that will be growin' in it.

092712BlackContainersNow all of this may start out sounding complicated, but Farmer Bubba is here to walk you through my way of gardening to convince you that it's worth it.

The black containers I use for gardening come in all sizes up to 45 gallons. There’s the small 4-inch container, the 1-gallon container, and 10- and 20-gallon containers. I use the 45s for potatoes and 10s and 20s for almost everything else.

This might surprise you, but I've never bought a container.

Over the years, I’ve collected them from building sites that have been landscaped, from my home improvement customers who were going to throw ’em away, and from the sides of roads and highways.  I believe I’ve collected over 2000 containers of all sizes. So if you're thinking about starting a container garden, look around before you buy. Someone somewhere is throwing those little black-gold mines away.

092512FBpeppersBUBBA NOTE: Let me tell you what a black container is. When you go in to your favorite garden center, take a look around. Notice what all the plants they're selling are in.  Yep, black containers. And why the black containers? Let's see. They're free.

Each plant has specific needs in regard to what kind of container it will thrive in. For example lettuce grows great in a 1-gallon container.  Potatoes do real good in 20- to 30- gallon containers or larger, as do most everything else. The 20- and 30- gallons are my favorites. I just like the size. Not too big and not too small. Just right. 

Over the years I’ve helped plants get used to growin' in small containers. Some plants just enjoy natural ground and are difficult to grow in containers. An example would be tomatoes. Some varieties, like Better Bush, is a little hard headed.  But with a little patience, most plants seem to adapt to smaller homes.

092612Vetivcal pepperThis stabilizing process and the plant becoming ‘settled into the container’ could take up to 6 re-plantings.

Enough about containers, let’s talk about what goes in them -- soil.

In containers, good soil should be dense enough to give the root system a good footing for above ground growth at the same time it allows air and water to sink deep into the container where little families are feeding the plant.

Containers also need good drainage. I put holes in the sides and make sure I have enough big holes in the bottom so water can drain out easily. Some gardeners put rocks in the bottom of their containers. This is ok. Just don’t use lime rock. Lime will change the PH of the soil. Plus when the plant roots hit the lime, the leaves will change color.

Growin' vegetables in containers allows me so many more options than raised beds or inground gardening:

- I can move the plant whereever I want to give it more or less sun.

- The black containers help keep the dirt warm in the winter.

- If I have a problem with a plant, I just pick up the container and get it out of the garden without disturbing the rest garden family.

092712BOKcontainerAnd the biggest fun I have is growin' a several vegetables and herbs in one container in a small space.

With the right size container and dirt, you can grow lettuce, radishes, onions and garlic in the cold months, and then replace those plants with peppers, cukes, tomatoes and lettuce in the later warm months. And the list goes on. I like to stay creative when filling my containers with different vegetable combinations

In the next BTFH I’m going to talk about selecting plants for containers. This is when the fun begins. So keep your imagination flowing when it comes to growin' in containers

Aloha from the desk, on Farmer Bubba's Farm.

AAsmallknifefork0311

Do you have a gardening question for Farmer Bubba or a photo of your garden you would like to share?  Email Bubba or add your question in the comment window below, and Bubba will try to reply as quickly as possible. Farmer Bubba is an all natural grower who sells seeds, plants, and produce in various N. Florida locations. Email Farmer Bubba for a location near you and to do whatever it takes to get you get your garden growing.

Last modified onTuesday, 02 October 2012 10:31

1 comment

  • depot bob
    depot bob Friday, 28 September 2012 04:21 Comment Link

    good article,keep growing

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