GrowLust

Growing an edible garden

   Nov 12

How to build a dirt cheap earth box from a 200 Liter plastic drum

We all know that earthboxes and other self-watering containers work great but are very expensive to purchase.
Fortunately many DIY alternatives are available for those gardening on a budget.
For me gardening is all about growing the healthiest food possible while spending the least amount of money.
This means saving money on containers, water, fertilizers, pest control and seedlings.

Good quality self-watering containers can be particularly expensive, especially if you intend to grow lots of food.
For growing the best quality and quantity, the big most expensive containers usually work best.

200 Liter (55 gallon) plastic drums are my favorite alternative to purchasing ready-made self-watering containers.
These drums are made from durable food grade plastic and can be purchased second hand for very little money.
Using them will also save them from going into landfills and they can rather serve a good purpose.

They are very easy to work with. Only a jigsaw and a drill is required to cut them to size.
I have made a few self-watering and standard containers out of them and I’m very satisfied with the results.

Building a standard container is super simple. Just drill a starter hole and cut them in half with an electric jigsaw. Then drill a few drainage holes into the bottom parts. Then you have two 25 Gallon (100 Liter) planters.
Or you could also cut them into three parts. The middle part wouldn’t have a bottom though and you would have to throw it away or use it for other purposes. The advantage of cutting them into three parts would be a more manageable size, in case you need to move the containers from time to time.

For a fancier and super effective container, you can convert them into an self-watering earthbox.
This is the best tutorial I have found to build an earthbox from a plastic drum: http://www.instructables.com/id/Earth-Box-from-a-Plastic-Barrel/

Those are the drums I have build and my veggies grow perfectly in them:

squash planted in self-watering plastic drum

tomatoes growing in self-watering plastic drum

cherry tomatoes in container made from plastic drum

beans and lettuce in 25 gallon half plastic drum container


   Nov 10

Fresh strawberry and blueberry porridge

What to do with a bowl of freshly harvested strawberries?
Why not make a great breakfast and use them as a porridge topping…

A freshly picked bowl of strawberries

Firstly I half or quarter the strawberries, depending on size and then I add a teaspoon or two of sugar and let them sit for a few minutes.
The sugar draws out some juice and somehow really enhances the strawberry flavor.

Meanwhile I prepare the porridge.

For two strawberry lovers I use:

  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of water

I mix those 3 ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, while constantly stirring to avoid burning.
Then I simmer the porridge for about 1 minute until it has a nice creamy consistency.

When this is done I add a handful of frozen or fresh blueberries and mix them into the porridge.
Then I transfer it into bowls and top it up with the sugared strawberries.

This is extremely delicious, nutritious and a pleasure to look at.

Strawberry and Blueberry gourmet porridge

What a fantastic quick and fresh breakfast to use up those nice strawberries.


   Nov 10

Wild rocket – best rocket to grow

Wild rocket has gotta be the best rocket one can possibly grow.

It ticks all the boxes:

  • its a perennial – rocket supply all year round
  • its called “wild rocket” – that’s possibly the coolest name for a vegetable
  • it is very hardy
  • it tastes so much better then standard annual rocket.
  • it produces nice edible yellow flowers that also attract beneficial insects
  • it grows in shade
  • its great for containers, vertical planters and wall planters
  • it can be used to enhance pretty much any dish and it’s great on sandwiches

It certainly is one of my all time garden favorites. I even planted it kinda vertically in a 40 liter grow bag.
I made a couple of holes in the side and planted a few plants around the sides and another few on top.
That way I could fit 10 plants in a very small spot. And I pretty much harvest and eat a handful every day.

Wild Rocket in Grow bag

Up close – the leaves are thinner than standard rocket and much more aromatic and spicy.

Tasty wild rocket leaves

The only problem is that leaf miners love rocket. Once it gets a bit warmer in spring I usually loose quite a few leaves to the leaf miners.
Nasty little bullies – eating leaves from the inside is just not fair.

But you’d get that pest problem with the standard rocket as well.
Fortunately the plants produce enough leaves for the leaf miners and us. So it’s a bit of a pain, but I can live with it.


   Nov 10

Growing beetroots in containers

My beetroots are doing really great in a 10 gallon (~30 liter) container.

I used some potting soil mixed with bokashi and planted the seedling nicely spaced into it.
The seedlings were started in a seed tray and I transplanted them shortly after they developed the first true leaves.

Beetroot don’t particularly seem to like transplanting and they always get a bit of a shock at first for a few days.
But once they get used to the new environment and the roots take hold, they start to look happy again and grow quite vigorously.

Every now and then I gave them an extra fertilizer boost with liquid blood and bone.
And that really seemed to increase the growth rate.

beetroot growing in small container

The leaves look very nice and green and are delicious in a salad.

beetroot spacing in container

This variety of beetroot is called red globe. And it looks very nice and tasty at this stage.
I’m going to harvest the biggest ones soon and roast them together with some potato wedges. Yummy!

red globe beetroot

 

Beetroots make a great vegetable to grow in a container garden, even on a balcony or in small spaces with partial shade.

The whole plant can be used.

The leaves are very tasty and make great salads or stir fries.
The roots can be grated and then mixed with some sugar, salt, pepper, vinegar and olive oil for a super healthy and delicious fresh salad.
They also taste fantastic when coated with olive oil, salt pepper and then roasted until soft.
Their dark red color really intensifies when roasted and they look and taste just stunning this way.
Especially when dipped into a freshly prepared sauce made from either greek yoghurt or mayonnaise mixed with fresh chopped garden herbs and a bit of lemon juice.

I think I have to go now and harvest some. Just writing about it made my mouth water…


   Nov 08

Don’t spray mint with baking soda

Yesterday I noticed a few white fungus spots on my indoor mint plants, probably some powdery mildew.

So I thought I’d give em a good spray with a mix of water, baking soda and a few drops vegetable oil.

Big mistake – they didn’t take it very good at all. This morning the mint leaves were all burned and turned black.

This is what the poor plant looks like, after I removed most of the bigger damaged leaves:

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lesson learned: don’t spray mint plants with baking soda and oil. Or use a very mild solution, test on one or two leaves first and wait until next day.


   Nov 07

Anthracnose on zucchinis and cucumber

Mid spring and my garden is already plagued with fungus. I think it might be anthracnose.
It’s gotten hold of my zucchini and cucumber, even after preventative weekly copper sprays.

Today I have tried to spray with milk after pruning all diseased leaves.

you cucumber with anthracnoseBaby cucumber plant with fungus - anthracnose or blight?

 

baby cucumber pant with brown spots

another young diseased cucumber diva – so young and so sick.

diseased zucchini leaf with brown spots - anthracnose?

an old zucchini leaf – diseased with brown spots

zucchini after pruning diseased leaves

zucchini plants after pruning off all diseased leaves and spaying with milk. They look very naked now and probably need to spend most of their energy regrowing new leaves, rather then producing flowers and more fruit.

boysen berry leaf with anthracnose or blight

Even my boysen berries have the fungus disease now.


   Nov 04

Baking soda and neem oil as organic fungicide

Is fungus and powdery mildew taking over your garden?
Want to keep the garden organic and avoid toxic chemical fungicides?

If I get problems with fungus my first line of defence is a spray of baking soda mixed with neem oil and water.
Sometimes I also add a few drops of Dr Bronner Mint soap, if pests are about to take over.

On plants that are highly suspectable to fungus and powdery mildew, such as cucumbers, squash and tomato it’s a good idea to apply the spray weekly as preventative.

image

 
Home made organic anti fungus spray and anti pest spray for vegetables and ornamentals

mix:

- 1 gallon water
- 10ml neem oil
- 10ml soap ( castille soap)
- 1-2t tsp baking soda

howto apply:

Remove infected leaves first and throw away (best into rubbish and off property ) then
spray top and underside of remaining healthy leaves. Reapply after rain or every 7 – 10 days.


   Nov 03

Starting seeds in small seed propagators

This weekend I bought myself a seed propagator. I normally start all my plants from seed and use whatever I have to keep the little
seed pots moist. Normally I just cover them up with some plastic foil.

But when I looked through the garden center I found a little seed propagator on special and couldn’t resist buying it.
It’s much more comfortable to use and hopefully will speed up the germination and give better results.

 

image

I filled it up with seed raising mix and planted spring onion, spinach and silver beet.
Previously I had difficulties and poor germination rate when starting silver beet and spinach from seed.
I hope this seed propagator will increase my success with these plants.

image

I used a little sticky note to keep track of what I planted and when.

 


   Nov 03

Kohlrabi in container with bokashi mix

I love kohlrabi. They are probably my favorite vegetable from the brassica family.
Especially eaten raw. I just peeled and eaten like an apple. Yummy stuff.

I have good success growing kohlrabi in containers.
This time I used a 40 liter container filled with old potting mix that I refreshed with bokashi.

It’s also getting warm and we’re heading into summer. So I placed the container in partial shade and so far the Kohlrabi are doing pretty well.
I started them from seed and they are about 4 weeks, since putting the seed in the ground.

The main problem with any brassicas at this time of the year are pests. I’m in battle with aphids, whiteflies, leaf miners and cabbage loopers.
My weapon of choice is a weekly spray of neem oil mixed with some dr. bronner mint soap. I also mixed some neem granules into the soil prior to planting.

This seems to keep the pests under control on these kohlrabi plants.
image


   Nov 03

Can you grow kuri squash in containers?

This year I’m trying to grow pumpkins vertically in containers. I choose red kuri squash, because I think they are the tastiest pumpkins around.
My preferred way of eating them is to cut them up, then toss them in olive oil, pepper and salt and roast them.

Pumpkin and squash normally require lots of space. Unfortunately I don’t have much space. I grow everything in my backyard and around my house.
The only way to grow more food is to grow vertically. Also I don’t have too much in ground space to grow vegetables.
I live in a rental property and must make use of what little space I have. That’s why I grow most of my food in containers.

The container I choose for the red kuri pumpkin is half of a 200 Liter (55 gallon) drum. These are pretty cheap to buy used.
It only costs me $10 to buy a drum. Then I cut them in half and put some drainage pipe into the bottom to make a super cheap self-watering container.

image

As a trellis I use a cheap roll of wire fence from the hardware store. It’s plastic coated and works great as trellis. It’s supported by three 2 meter long  bamboo sticks.
I decided to plant two pumpkins into this 100 Liter container. Even though I used new potting mix, I suspect I’ll need to fertilize them quite a bit.
Fortunately the nutrients wont leech away much, because the water reservoir of the self-watering container will prevent that and allow the pants to use everything.

I really hope the trellis will be enough to support two plants. They might grow out of proportion in no time.