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Real Earth Solutions

Try Container Gardens For Small Spaces

We always love watching the Amish as they get their fields going for the summer crops!

As we move into Spring and Summer, our thoughts turn to gardening and all things outdoors.  So I’m going to bring you a series of articles about container gardening, conventional gardening and other outdoor activities. There are so many fun things to do with your family that will help them be ready for any situation including camping, practice bug-outs, adding solar power to your home, and many others. Today we are going to look at container gardening.

I firmly believe that a country/rural home is a must for long term living in a crisis situation. But what if that’s not within your reach yet? There are many of you that live in an urban area with no or very small yards. Not a problem! What if I told you there is an easy way to grow a lot of fresh food with little to no space and a relatively small footprint? And what if I told you that you can do it with a very small investment? And best of all, you can take your garden with you when you move? Sound good? The answer is called container gardening.

This patio/balcony garden will put fresh produce on your table for an amazingly long time.

When you go to the garden center of your local home improvement store, you will be overwhelmed by the huge array of little kits that have everything you need to grow lots of different crops. Skip these gimmicky things! If you buy one of these kits you will find that the cost of one will wind up costing you way more than what the produce costs at the grocery store.

My mother is drawn to these kits like bugs to a streetlight! She bought one of those upside down tomato kits. It worked great, she had big beautiful tomato plants that produced lots of tomatoes. But when I divided the cost of the kit by the amount of fruit, we found that they cost a lot more than the grocery store would have. When I pointed this out to her, she scowled at me and stuck her nose in the air and said ” I like mine better!” Don’t mess with Mama!

OK, let’s start building our container garden. There are many different ways to go. One of the least expensive are those plastic 5 gallon buckets. They run about $3.00 to $5.00 at your local “W”. They are found in the paint department. You can also find them at home improvement stores for similar prices. If you expect to move at some point, then buy the lids for them as well-usually $1.00-$2.00 each. That way all you have to do is snap the lids on and move them. If they tip over accidently, the lids will keep them from spilling the soil.

Just buy a few at a time.

Another way to go is to buy some plastic 55 gallon barrels. Don’t buy them at the box store, instead look for them on places like Craigslist, the phone book, and those little free newspapers you find everywhere. Searching for them on the internet is also an option. The going rate is around $30.00 to $50.00 each. Make sure to ask if anything toxic was stored in them. Obviously skip those.

You can also use those large Rubbermaid totes. They work great for things like carrots, radishes, and even potatoes. In fact the options are almost unlimited. My wife has used old tractor tires, plywood boxes’, and even an old toilet. She had flowers in both the tank and the bowl. It got a lot of strange looks from friends and family visitors!

Ok, let’s prep our containers. For  the 5 gallon buckets we need to turn them upside down and either drill some holes in the bottom, or if you don’t have a drill, use some large nails and a hammer. Get the largest diameter that you think you can nail through the plastic. Don’t get carried away, just put 6 or so holes in a circle between the center and the edge of the bucket. Repeat on each of your buckets. If they don’t have drainage, the roots will rot, and your plants will die.

Drill holes for drainage

You can fit 2 buckets on each one of these sheets

If you live in an apartment or you need to make sure that water doesn’t get all over a balcony or patio, then go back to the home improvement store and buy some of those large pans used to mount woodstoves and heaters on. They look like giant baking sheets. A clerk should have no problem showing them to you. Lets move on to larger containers now.

I’ve had the best luck with blue barrels like this. They last for many years. Avoid white or clear drums, the sun will ruin them in only one or two years.

55 gallon barrels are my favorite if you have the room. You will need a Sharpie,  a tape measure, and a “Sawzall”. They can be found at all home improvement stores, and at specialty stores such as Harbor Freight. If you plan on moving to the country and building or remodeling a home then buy the best one you can afford. Otherwise go to Harbor Freight and buy the cheap one, usually around $20.00. For light duty use they will be fine.

If you’re afraid you can’t do it by yourself, then enlist the help of a friend, neighbor, or a family member you consider to be a “handyman (or handy woman to be P.C.)” They will probably have all the tools needed as well! Using the tape measure and the Sharpie mark a line around the barrel lengthwise.

You want to wind up with 2 long 1/2 barrels that sit horizontally, not 2  short vertical standing barrels. Cut the barrel lengthwise with the “Sawzall’. Next turn the long planters over with curved side up ( they’re not barrels anymore!) Take your drill or hammer and nail and punch a series of holes down the length of the planter. Again, don’t go overboard, about 8-10 hole spaced along the bottom will suffice. For a firm footing nail  some 2by4’s at each end. You can also buy 4 ft. 2by4’s and just wedge one on each side of the planters.

Next we have the large totes. Make sure to buy the premium ones such as Rubbermaid because they are much heaver duty. Let your budget decide. Take the totes and flip them over. Punch (or drill) a series of holes down the center of the bottom. again, 6 or 8 will suffice. Too many holes will weaken the totes, so in this case “less is more.” Remember that all you’re trying to do is allow there to be drainage. That’s it, all of your containers are ready for the soil ( fancy books call it growing medium, but it’s just dirt!)

Several points to make:

  1. You don’t have to buy everything for gardening at once. I recommend going at a steady pace.
  2. Depending on your climate you can plant all summer long. Fall gardens are good in many locations! All you need to remember is to plant things that ripen slowly first. We’ll be learning about that in the upcoming articles.
  3. The next article will be about how to create “super soil.” Before you buy the “ready-to-go” stuff, wait. I’ve been container gardening for years, and I promise you that if you follow my directions exactly you will wind up with plants and produce that will amaze all who see it.
  4. Plus pay back your gardening investment entirely in the first year!
  5. The soil we will create will last for years of gardening without having to buy more each year (unlike the store bought junk!)”

You’ve made a great start, now start looking around your yard or balcony to figure out where to place your containers. Generally speaking, vegetables such as beans, peas, and bell peppers, as well as tomatoes like lots of sun while things like lettuce and cauliflower prefer partially shaded areas. We will be going to cover all of this in the next few weeks.  You don’t want to miss this information about my methods as I’m only going to leave it posted for a short time. After that it’s going into my next book.

I Need Your Help!

One last thing. Whenever I mention a product by it’s brand name, it’s because it is what works. I don’t get any type of compensation from those companies. Everything I talk about I’ve done and learned the right way to do it. Usually by having failures and learning from them. I have a large investment in this blog and spend my money to keep it going. As I add more content the cost of maintaining this webpage increases.

At some point I will have to either start accepting advertising, or look at some other ways to help me keep this going. If you have any ideas on how to do that please let me know. No matter what happens, I will never limit access to any of this site to paying followers only.

If this is your first visit here, I suggest you look through the archives to get a feel about what this blog is about. Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter. It’s free and will let you know what’s coming up here next. Visit my Facebook page as well.Your comments are actively sought, and all will be posted ( except for vulgar or hate speech) I consider all of you my extended family, no matter what your race, orientation, political beliefs, or anything else. Like everyone I have my own views and I’m not ashamed of them. I served proudly in the U.S. Army so each of you are free to have your own beliefs. In fact I will fight with every bone in my body to protect you and your rights!

As true today as it was then!

The next article will be out next weekend. God Bless You, and God Bless The United States Of America!


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