Thursday, September 16, 2010

Global Buckets: With Modifications

I finished building my global bucket system, and so far, I've had really good results. I decided, for experimental purposes, to build my bucket with a 3:1 ratio of potting soil to compost, keeping the ratio large just in case wicking would be a problem. Furthermore, I had an idea which I included to see if it would solve any wicking problem for good.

The cotton wicks
Oil lamps have used braided cord to wick oil to flame since time immemorial. Water should, theoretically, work the same. I used an old t-shirt, cut it into strips, and braided them until they were about 1.5 times the height of my bucket.  I tested them, and they wick water slowly but constantly. I started by burying the ends in the red plastic cup with slits. They were longer than my bucket primarily by chance, so I twisted them as I filled the bucket, letting them spiral around each other until they reached about where the top of the plant's roots would be. I planted Fred in the middle of the spiral, covered him with dirt, popped on a black plastic bag like the site suggested, and filled him with water.

Fred v.1, a little too warm and wet
Happy Fred, v.2
So far, I have had two problems with the system, both minor. Fred started to wilt about two weeks in, and his leaves went yellow. I did two changes, so I'm not sure how much to attribute to each, but here's what happened. One is that it's summer and black plastic gets very hot, 80 degrees +. It was hotter in the bag than on the patio! I switched out the black plastic for a plastic grocery bag and there is a definite difference inside the bucket. The second problem was what I think caused the yellowing. Tomatoes need drainage, and when I filled up the bucket I filled it VERY full, halfway up the bucket by accident. It was actually going through my drainage holes! Since it wasn't draining, I dumped out half the water and he's seemingly perked up.

So far, this couldn't have been easier. I haven't watered Fred but the first time. He still has water, and it's sort of brewed into compost tea. I check it every week or so to see if he still has enough and that it's not stale or moldy. Fred seems to be thriving! I went outside after not paying attention to him for two weeks (about a month after potting him) and noticed that he'd suddenly doubled in size. Now this is a lazy gardener's dream! I neglect, he grows. So far, no weeds and minimal water.

More to come! If he grows nicely, I'll be starting another container plant to see if I can get some winter crops. The climate here is mild and rarely frosts, so I should be able to manage something, especially if I rely on black plastic to keep it warm.

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