Restrictions To Conventional Home Gardening requires High Yield From Less Resources. Typical restrictions involve city ordinances, limited space, shaded or Northern cold and South West arid climates. Container Gardening has been at the forefront to address these variables and is also a great option when dealing with physical limitations. There are also informal social influences that are pro and con, but those will not be addressed as they are voluntary, and you have a choice. Mt feelings are two fold. The first is that gardening is not an identity. Having said that, In face of any adversity, it is a good idea to choose between solving a problem VS having a problem. And in seeing the problem as an opportunity to grow, we will continue to the next opportunity on how, what and where to grow your vegetables.
High vegetable yields from less resources requires some planning. There is an abundance of information available on the internet that will give a solution to most challenges on small space gardening, pest control and types of plants, including nutrient content. Because we are focused on higher yields of nutrient dense vegetables, this article will use more natural processes that utilize space, resources and yield. For Nutritional and Medicinal content of vegetables, I would refer you back to the internet. The question that often asked is, Can you grow enough to make it worth while? To answer that question, three of Vincents “real food” bush beans have more nutrition than the contents of an entire can off the store shelf. Looking at it from that truth, what you see behind Vincent is an entire store shelf of nutrition. As you know, when it comes to kids and vegetables? If they grow them, they will eat them. So, you can cost effectively grow enough nutrition to make gardening worth the effort, and also introduce your child’s hypothalamus to the “Real Food” source for when they crave nutrition.
No concerns about trampling the plants with wee
ones weeding, because there is no weeding in container
gardening. Just give them a watering can and let them
have some fun.
Container Gardening is a very efficient way to utilize space and resources.
There are many to choose from. Some are ridiculous and expensive novelties and some are very innovative and worth consideration. You can go beyond the typical plot of garden pots with a few innovations and by paying attention to detail. For the money, garden pots, though labor-some will produce adequate yield of nutrition applying a little science via easy affordable upgrades. To begin, what is more important than the housing that contains your potting soil, is the potting soil. The key ingredient in a productive natural potting soil is free, at least for now. That key ingredient is air. We cannot talk about aeration without including drainage. The conventional approach to a good potting soil and container is having good drainage. And the most common problem in container gardening is over watering. This is because too much water and not enough drainage displaces air. There is an article by #TOMOGREN titled “the real dirt on potting soil’” that actually measures the time it should take for water to drip out of the bottom of a pot. It’s about 3 seconds. However, since that article, there are new soil-less growing mediums that provide a higher levels of hydration and aeration combined. There are also amendments that help to prevent over watering. The reason for balancing air and water in your soil is to encourage the friendly microbes and prevent bad bacteria. Excess moisture that displaces air causes an anaerobic condition. This will incubate anaerobic bacteria. Those are the “bad guys” that Toledo had to deal with in their water supply. That is another story, but is relevant if you want to contribute to clean water. You see, an aerated soil provides the oxygen that the microbes in your soil need to produce natural phosphorus and root growth hormones. In short, It was chemical phosphorus runoff that caused the algae bloom that sunk to the bottom of lake Erie where the good bacteria consumed all the oxygen when the algae decomposed. This created an anaerobic environment incubating the bad bacteria. Sorry about the long sentence, but the point is, plants do not absorb chemical phosphorus very well. They prefer the natural foods just like smart humans. Lets talk about what a good bio-intensive, aerated potting soil would look like and then we will move on to the variables of location, conditions and plant types.
Earlier mentioned, were new soil-less mediums and this is key. Not included in “NEW” is peat moss. Peat moss is OK as the readily affordable and available standby. Most potting soils are mostly peat moss. Here is something you should know. It comes from pristine natural environments and is not a sustainable medium. There are operations that farm it VS mine it. Mechanically, once dry, Peat Moss is hydrophobic. It repels water. Anyone who had a flowered pot dry out, knows it has to be replanted, or anchored to the “bottom of the well” until is wont float. The nature of combining high drainage through a hydrophobic growing medium is problematic, unless you have drip irrigation on a timer or find the time spent using the garden hose and watering can relaxing. That’s great, but for the efficient minded gardener getting the ‘biggest bang for the buck’, I prefer Premium Coir.
This block of coir (ground coconut shells) was the size of a big shoe box until it absorbed 9 gallons of water. Notice the center is still dry. Coir works like a sponge absorbing water while providing a non-compacting structure that prevents the displacement of air. Lets not stop there. If a bio-intensive soil will need to combine higher levels of air with water, here is another ‘jewel’, and it too is sustainable. Boiled Rice Hulls. It takes a little time, but notice that rice hulls sink. Not only do they retain their hull shape, which would provide aeration, they also retain water. And because it is an organic cellulose, it will decompose slowly over time. Make sure they are Boiled Rice Hulls as the non boiled have starch and sugar that will rob your soil of nitrogen known as #Nitrogenlockup. If I were going to get into the potting soil business, I would not try to profit from the cost of shipping soggy bags of peat moss. I would simply provide a kit of lightweight absorbent growing medium with amendments and instruction to “Just Add Water”.
This also applies to another of my favorites for hydration with aeration. Now getting into the other components of a good potting soil, I like Forest Compost. Key word here is compost. Forest compost has wood chips. If they do not crumble in your hand, they may rob your soil before they give back. A little chunk of decomposed wood in your soil also absorbs moisture and provides aeration. The other gift from nature in forest compost are the leaves. Leaves are the best compost material known to gardening. Think about how deep those tree roots go for clean water and nutrients before they send their colorful autumn canopy quilting to the forest floor, or to your yard if that be the case. Go from yard work to gathering compost materials changing one simple intention.
Having gone from providing information to being philosophical, I will give the % mixture of a good Professional Potting Soil to get back on the subject.
Professional Natural Bio-Intensive Potting Soil Formula
Given in percentages, the soil-less portion (coir, peat moss, or like) should be no less than 2/3rds or 66%. Forest compost should be 1/3 or 33%. Of that volume 10% top soil, 10% natural hardwood charcoal, 10% boiled rice hulls, pearl lite, or comparable. Last but not least, the soil amendments. Of these there are many, and the ones you choose and the amounts you use, will be determined by the type of plant per soil (pH) and soil culture. Following the directions on the packaging will work in general. This goes for the containers and growing medium as well but more on that later. The most common and most used would be bone meal, a microbial plant food, or worm castings, and blood meal. There are also fish and kelp pellets. Natural Liquid plant foods used for periodic feeding would be a fish emulsion, or something comparable. These would have to be a non burning type of nitrogen. There is a way to ‘kick start’ your microbial culture. It is called #Charcoalcharging. Simply mix your hardwood charcoal with the compost according to the articles about 10 days before mixing it into the potting soil. Note, hardwood charcoal is more affordable as a natural hardwood cooking / grilling product. But it is very messy to break up. You will have to trust me on this one. Unless you like to shower under a Garden hose, there are many sources of charcoal as a soil amendment, and a little bit goes a long way.
To give you an idea on how many vegetable you can grow from a lesser amount of potting soil, having a healthy aerated root zone, these are 25 Sweet Italian pepper plants producing abundance’s of ideas for my pasta palette, using only 7 to 8 cu ft / 4 typical bags of a “Tom Ogren” amended type of soil.
Vegetable, Container, Location, and potting Soil Compatibility
You may not see pictures like this in your seed catalog. Here is the reason.
Most gardening instructions will give you the general guidelines to grow most vegetables. However, to get high yields, you will want to cater to what the plant needs. Eggplants are hard to grow because they like a rich soil with frequent watering in a high drainage, if using a common potting soil. In a coir based potting soil, the drainage and watering are less. These Fairy Tale eggplants are located halfway down on a continual root zone in the Vertical Eco Garden. In that space, they have just the right amount of hydration, food and air. Above them would be beans and peppers as those do not need a lot of hydration and nitrogen. Lower on the rooting chamber would be the Broccoli, pickle bush cuke’s and Zuke’s. Cabbage and other vegetables that like rich soil and increased hydration are usually on the lower areas. To simulate this in a container, you can mix and test the pH of the soil culture per each plant specifications. A good tool to have in addition to a pH meter, is a seed catalog that will give the soil culture. Johnny’s Selected Seeds among others will provide this. Another great service that the seed catalogs provide are the Compact Bush Variety of Vegetable Plants. Available in both Heirlooms and hybrids, these were, and are being developed for the Urban and Suburban gardeners.
To give you more of an appreciation for getting higher yields from less resources, these are an Heirloom Compact Silvery Fir Tree bush tomato. They have a slender leave allowing more sun penetration so you can plant them close together or with other plants that like shade.
Tomatoes and peppers like abundant phosphorus. For example, in that pot or container, the soil will need more bone meal. Tomatoes have aggressive root systems and are hungry eaters. You will use a bigger pot or container and hold back on feeding until the fruit start to form, then feed every 7 to 10 days.
Get a pH meter. With the meter comes all the soil pH needs of each plant. To save time, make up a small batch or one gallon of your mix and test the soil. It is easier to formulate a small amount, and do the math before you mix bigger batches. OR, buy an ‘Off the shelf” potting soil and add the amendments mentioned.
To get more assurance that your soil will have aeration, you can line your pot with a couple of layers of Weed Guard material or use a product called Smart Pot. Some roots will grow into this material for more aeration if needed. Plants are smart. It’s called Plant Intelligentsia. Just provide some options, learn to be still, and observe.
Climbing vegetable plants are the original vertical gardening ruler. But there is a reason why commercial growers grow bush varieties. Fundamentally, climbers are indeterminate types and will produce for an entire season. Bush varieties, though produce over a shorter period, will put more energy into yield VS vines needed to climb. This is why commercial growers who are conscious of cost will go with bush varieties. My preference are the bush varieties as I usually grow and process a wider variety in a small space, in a short Michigan Season. For me, the best of both worlds was to grow the bush variety of vegetable vertically.
When, Where and What Vegetables to Grow
First of all, do not be discouraged if the seed catalog requires Full Sun. Not so, when your soil can give your garden the advantage of utilizing only 5 hours of sun instead of full sun. I find it questionable when full sun is required, yet plants will wilt in the mid summer mid day heat. So….. There are also shade tolerant types that do real good with less sun and partial shade. Even a Bell Pepper can grow in shade. In addition to having different soil cultures, another advantage of container gardening is to use plants with a bigger canopy to shade the ones that like less sun. As a rule, an open south exposure is best. With a south exposure, you can also start gardening earlier in the spring or later in the autumn if you use a vertical Gardening configuration or system. This is because a vertical surface, like a solar panel, will catch the sun lower on the horizon during the spring and fall season. If gardening in pots or other containers, these can also be stacked or shelved if there is a backing that will catch and store the suns warmth earlier and later in the day. For an east to west exposure, plants that require less sun, work great. There are many types of greens that grow in many types of conditions. Some are frost tolerant and great for early spring and autumn into early winter gardening. Swiss will “rock your world” if you want to harvest a few leaves at a time for a long season.