Ever think of creating an organic food garden in a self-watering container?
Yesterday I put together two self-watering container gardens on my back porch.
Here's how I did it:
1. I assembled each City Pickers Patio Garden kit. (I mail ordered the kits, but they're available in some Lowes or Home Depot stores.) The kit is a square plastic container with a plastic grid that sits a few inches above the container's bottom (perched above what will be a water reservoir). A black plastic watering tube sits in the corner and rises above the area where you will add the planting media.
There are four casters to place on the bottom of the container, but they weren't fitting into the holes. I called the company for help, and the phone woman said to heat the rod on each caster with a blow dryer, but I don't have one. I ran one of the caster rods under some hot water but that didn't seem to help much. I then hit the top of the container hard with my hand, to try and force the caster rod into the hole, but I wound up only hurting my hand.
2. The night before, I had soaked a "brick" of coconut coir in 2 gallons of water to hydrate it. The coir (which gets mixed with other media) helps to "wick" up the water from the reservoir, to nurture the plants or seeds. After assembling the two containers, I placed a thick layer of the hydrated coir atop the plastic grid in each one.
3. Into each container, I then placed about three alternating layers of the following (all of which I found in Lowes): Majestic Earth Sphagnum Peat Moss, Sta-Green Vermiculite, and Just Natural and Organic Mushroom Compost.
4. On top of those, I sprinkled two tablespoons of Omri Micronized Azomite on top. Wearing plastic gloves, I then mixed all of the media together with my hands.
5. I placed the black plastic mulch cover atop each container, poking holes for the watering tubes, and secured each one to the lip of the containers with the four tiny clips that came with each kit.
6. I then devised a plan for which seeds I would plant where in each container. I had bought organic seeds packets from Whole Foods Market a year ago. (I know, I was bad for procrastinating so long to finally assemble my gardens, but I felt intimidated about how and where to find the right ingredients for the planting media mix, and how to get them upstairs, as they were too heavy for me to budge from the back of my car.) I decided to hope for the best in using these now year-old seeds. I did purposely wait until Oct. 18 to plant the seeds, as that was a full moon, which is said to be the best time to plant vegetable seeds.
7. Seed packets usually say to plant rows of each vegetable or herb. But because there was so much space between the top of the soil and the mulch cover, it would have been hard to do that. So I simply poked a hole in the mulch cover in about six places per container and dropped maybe 5 seeds of each vegetable or herb into each hole. I then added a tablespoon of Omri Wiggleworm Soil Builder Earthworm Castings atop the seeds, and pressed them down (through the small holes I had made in the mulch covers), hopefully far enough down, ranging from 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch, depending on the seed variety. But I was very improv, figuring it works for my recipes, so why not my garden?
8. I then poured a small amount of water into each seed hole, and also filled the watering tubes (which took a lot of water).
9. Here's what I planted:
In one container, "Garden 1" (see photo at top): from left to right: Red Winter Kale, Cucumbers, Turnips, Basil, Parsley, and Spinach.
In the other container (which I will call "Garden 2"): also from left to right: Spinach, Turnips, Basil, Arugula, Summer Squash, Italian Lacinato Kale, and Cucumbers.
10. I also have a packet of lavender seeds, but they need to be started indoors. (Update: I planted the lavender seeds in tiny plant pots, the type that you can put right into the planting media, which I did after the seeds sprouted. I placed them on top of the barren parts where the seeds never sprouted. I also removed both mulch covers, because the seeds began sprouting in a very strange way, with extremely long stems, and some of them, like the cucumbers, just didn't make it. I don't know if that was due to the mulch covers or to the seeds being a year old.)
I had wanted to grow mint, collards, dandelion greens, rosemary, coriander, oregano, thyme and more, but didn't readily find seed packets for those in my travels. I probably should have mailed-ordered them. I do have non-organic mint growing in my kitchen window, and non-organic basil, plants I found at a market.
I'm sending friendly vibes to my newly planted seeds and looking forward to harvesting some wonderful greens, herbs and veggies in a few months! See a photo of Garden 2 below: