Sunday, April 26, 2009

SWC How To on the cheap....April 4, 2009

After reading about the wonders of self-watering containers I decided to try a few this year for myself, but didn't want to lay out over forty dollars apiece. Using information gleaned from various sites and an idea shared on a gardening list, I made a few changes and came up with the official Newstead El Cheapo SWC.

STEP ONE. Ask at your local grocery deli for empty frosting buckets - the largest they have (We were able to score them at Costco, Food Lion and Lowe's Food). Cut a 3-4 inch hole in the top.

STEP TWO. Buy or scrounge some 3 inch diameter PVC, drill holes all around and cut into 2-3 inch sections. Use one to measure up from the bottom of the bucket and drill a large hole in the bucket at the top of the PVC support.

STEP THREE. Try your local dollar store for plastic colanders. Cut the handles off, then cut out the bottom solid circle and drill two holes, one on each side of the central hole. Attach the PVC support to the colander using the holes drilled in each.

STEP FOUR. Place the colander in the bucket, resting on the PVC support. If you are concerned about soil falling through the holes (some do, some don't), you can use screening material or landscape fabric to hold the soil. Fill the hole in the colander first then continue up the bucket with soil, moistening as you go (use a good organic potting soil mixed with some compost or mix your own from compost, potting soil, peat, soil conditioner.

STEP FIVE. Fill the bucket all the way to the top with moist potting mix. Firm gently. Make a trench around the edge and fill with 1/4 cup or so of a good organic balanced fertilizer (I used Garden Tone). Plant your plant (here a squash) in the middle of the bucket, watering in well. Cut a 3-4 inch diameter hole in the top of the bucket and place the top carefully over the plant. Fill the bottom reservoir with water and voila! A self-watering container for about $1.25 plus the soil!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The planting is ON...April 25, 2009

What a difference a week makes~ Its in the high 80s here in the piedmont of NC so the race is on. Today 16 tomatoes went in a 4x8 bed covered with red plastic mulch. Going to see if it really does increase yields by 20% as claimed. Lots of different flavors expected - planted 4 bells of two varieties, three ancho/poblanos, four Rounds of Hungary (hopefully will be canning my own pimientos this year - tired of paying 1.60 for a tiny jar!), three Jalapenos and two Corno di Toros - they look absolutely fabulous in pictures. Started in earnest making the self-watering containers from free buckets gleaned from local delis/groceries. I am so out of room in the six raised beds I am trying squash, zucchini, cukes, eggplants and a few tomatoes in them. Oh, and of course more peppers - a jalapeno and two sweet banana peppers for pickling. My youngest is home for a time and he is already excited about the fresh veggies out growing... four months in Colorado with his older brother turned him into a parttime vegetarian and fulltime healthy eater. We harvested the last of the collards today - would be a sad event if they hadn't been so delicious with a poor man's dinner- pintos (flavored with vegetable bouillon and garlic) served with the last jar of green tomato relish, mashed potatoes and collards with balsamic rice wine vinegar - and since this is the south, cornbread of course! Still, we are already looking forward to a fall crop of collards. A wonderful woman on one of my garden email lists read my love paens to collards and mailed me a wonderful packet of heirloom yellow Cabbage Collard seeds - only found in one area of NC. Can't wait to try those this year.

If you have never heard of Seed Saver Exchange, get thee over to For 35 dollars a year you not only support their effort to preserve heirloom vegetables and animals but receive a phone book sized listing of member offerings in practically every heirloom seed out there (my only disapointment was - surprise - the few collards offerings) and several magazines a year. Well worth the expense to help support this type of preservation effort.

Looking forward to another day of planting and gardening tomorrow. The peonies are breathtaking now -for those short few weeks of spring they are such a rich delight. Hope to get some more pics up tomorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Loving the spring...April 2009 Pics

Pansies on the deck... just for enjoyment. They are such cheerful little guys!

My first Self-watering Container - homemade with a free food grade bucket from a local deli. Baby Marglobe tomato installed!

The end of driveway bed with the last of the collards, our spring broccoli, sugar snap peas and at the end spring spinach. Bush beans are being planted from the spinach down as we eat the collards - with balsamic vinegar and cornbread of course!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tomato planting - FINALLY...April 18, 2009

Weather has finally stabilized enough to plant tomatoes! Planted 4 Viva Italia, 3 Homestead, 2 Heinz 1439, 1 Rhoades Heirloom, 1 Costoluto Genovese, 1 Big Boy, 1 Better Boy, 1 Goji Faranji, 1 German Giant, 1 Campbell’s 1943, 1 Carolina Gold, 1 Mortgage Lifter, 1 Sun Gold, 1 Super Sweet 100. Very sad, though, that my Cherokee Purple seedlings did not make it... still have a dozen or more assorted seedlings that I will try to find room for in containers or family/friends' gardens.

The garlic is 18 inches or higher, the onion sets and transplants are a foot or more, several of the broccoli plants are forming heads and the sugar snap peas are over 6 inches! I love spring - the birds are outdoing themselves in song and a very pregnant squirrel is filling up at the sunflower feeder every day. Some little beggar, though, helped his or herself to every single beet seedling
:-( ... and didn't leave a trace behind. Caterpillars???

Friday, April 10, 2009

Global Weirding...April10, 2009

Global Warming? or as someone wittily rephrased it, Global Weirding? Tornados in Arkansas, storms across the southeast - normal for the spring, but where IS spring? So far this week we have had frost warnings, 75 degree days and now severe storms. If the storms come through this area with the large hail and winds the weather Channel is warning about, I am going to have a serious talk with someone. My collards are in full swing. Last week I pulled four plants to make way for some bush beans, and my husband and I had pintos with homemade chow chow, fresh collards with balsamic rice wine vinegar, and cornbread... pure ambrosia... Southern cooking is such comfort food -and such a cultural quilt from slave influence to Scotch Irish to Native American.

Tomato seedlings are literally dying to go outside... hopefully by Sunday. Potato plants are peeking out of the soil in the experimental bin we set up for them, the beets, turnips and carrots are all starting to show true leaves and the garlic and onions are more than a foot tall. We saw the first tiny head on one of the broccoli plants today. I love watching the birth of plants! Cucumber, squash and zucchini seeds went into their peat pots today - with the wildly swinging weather I waited to start them til it was almost time to get the tomatoes out - running out of room under the lights!

Has anyone else noticed the upswing in gardening this year? Definitely a sign of the bad economic times - hopefully one that more people will keep up with even after things turn around. There really is nothing like that first homegrown tomato sandwich....