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Hello fellow ladies of the best circle (don't let the others know!) I come seeking advice! Help!

I am getting keys to my forever home next week. It's a beautiful 1920's house I can give lots of love and wull own outright. I'm needless to say: extra excited and feeling very liberated.

The garden needs a lot of love and soil remediation, and I'll surely be begging for your wisdom on it soon but I want to start with outdoor food containers. I would like them to be elevated as chronic pain makes kneeling / stooping very painful.

Questions:

  1. I would like to grow chard, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and small potatoes (the finger sort). Ideas on depth of the raised planter? I was thinking two feet but I can't find any root length information for food crops....
  2. Since I live in a desert and will be moving from a zone 13 to zone 9b/10a am I going overboard in having the containers under a cover? I'll have a long side deck off my kitchen I would like to use. This should provide shade. FYI my UV index rating at my new home will be an 8 (I am in a 10 to 10+ area now).
  3. Has anyone ever "plumbed" their containers? I want to put in a drain at the bottom of each and then let that water drain off onto the ground where I can plant a fruit bearing tree that can use the excess. Any particular angling needed to ensure gravity "works" and they can all drain together?
  4. The community In moving to is very small and has cooperative food gardening, any high yield container crops I may be missing that might allow me to contribute extra crop and is nutritionally dense?

I've been collecting seeds and starting research but sometimes exposure to those with experience is best so I'm hoping some of you have ideas on how to help make my crazy plan work.

Thank you in advance!

Hello fellow ladies of the best circle (don't let the others know!) I come seeking advice! Help! I am getting keys to my forever home next week. It's a beautiful 1920's house I can give lots of love and wull own outright. I'm needless to say: extra excited and feeling very liberated. The garden needs a lot of love and soil remediation, and I'll surely be begging for your wisdom on it soon but I want to start with outdoor food containers. I would like them to be elevated as chronic pain makes kneeling / stooping very painful. Questions: 1. I would like to grow chard, carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, and small potatoes (the finger sort). Ideas on depth of the raised planter? I was thinking two feet but I can't find any root length information for food crops.... 2. Since I live in a desert and will be moving from a zone 13 to zone 9b/10a am I going overboard in having the containers under a cover? I'll have a long side deck off my kitchen I would like to use. This should provide shade. FYI my UV index rating at my new home will be an 8 (I am in a 10 to 10+ area now). 3. Has anyone ever "plumbed" their containers? I want to put in a drain at the bottom of each and then let that water drain off onto the ground where I can plant a fruit bearing tree that can use the excess. Any particular angling needed to ensure gravity "works" and they can all drain together? 4. The community In moving to is very small and has cooperative food gardening, any high yield container crops I may be missing that might allow me to contribute extra crop and is nutritionally dense? I've been collecting seeds and starting research but sometimes exposure to those with experience is best so I'm hoping some of you have ideas on how to help make my crazy plan work. Thank you in advance!

9 comments

[–] Researcher1536 8 points (+8|-0)

I've grown chard, carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash in containers. More like boxes I constructed that are maybe 2-3 feet deep. In my experience, most roots don't go super deep anyway. I'm in a place that has a lot of clay, so I do some container gardening for certain crops that don't do well in my soil without a lot of added organic materials.

Congrats on your home!!

[–] LepistaNuda 5 points (+5|-0) Edited

What I have done as a workaround to the cost of containers and to improve my soil and soil depth in a rocky spot is to take up straw bale gardening for the first year or 2 in the space.There is info online, but basically, you get a couple of bales, wet them down good, fertilize, then put about 4" soil on them and plant. I've improved the soil nicely over the spots this has been done and I no longer need to put bales there. I've expanded my garden this year so I have a bunch of new bales in the space opposite. I'd try the shade cover too if I were in your shoes, but up here in the PNW we need every drop of sun we got, LOL. I'll probably just mulch with straw to keep moisture in this summer.

edit to add: Congratulations on the new home!

[–] gold_bee 4 points (+4|-0)

I've never heard about straw bale gardening before - what a cool idea! Thanks for sharing :)

[–] HollaHollaRa 3 points (+3|-0)

(You can also look up lasagna or hugelkultur gardening. I probably won't ever dig another garden bed. There are a few options that improve the soil at the same time.)

[–] onelightbulb 2 points (+2|-0)

Yes! Lasagna method within large wooden boxes would be my recommendation for OP if it’s possible.

[–] gold_bee 2 points (+2|-0)

I just love the name lasagna gardening! I'm basically living on a pile of rocks with dirt packed in between the rocks so I appreciate all these clever techniques to create and improve soil.

[–] ThisReality 5 points (+5|-0)

My growing zone is different from yours, but I've had great luck with arugula and chard in spring and cucumbers, zucchini, and pole beans/bush beans in summer. Also good luck with tomatoes but they're weird sometimes. Can take a while to get going and then I get them all at once. I've also been growing potatoes, but they don't get very big, which might suit you if you're growing the "finger" type. I grow them from sprouts on store-bought potatoes.

I'm so envious that you have not only your own house, but a 1920s beauty as well. Congrats!

[–] onelightbulb 5 points (+5|-0) Edited

CONGRATS on the house, it sounds lovely! I successfully gardened in containers for years before getting my own house. You can grow almost anything in a container if it's large enough. My recommendation for the water situation would be to plant flowers underneath the food planters (to attract pollinators) and simply drill holes in the bottom of each. You can also make your planters large raised beds instead, without a floor, just open to the soil on the bottom (as the other poster said, boxes 2-3' tall) this helps provide more root space and prevents the soil from drying out and getting too warm). Fruit trees are great, but you probably want a little more control over the amount of water and nutrients it will receive, plus they can be picky about their location.

You probably will not need shade cloth except when you have exceptionally blistering days, or new seedlings you protect until established. When established, all vegetable plants need at least 4-6 hours of direct light, fruiting ones need more than that if possible. If you have areas that get shade during the hottest part of the day, plant your herbs and greens there.

Here are some other thoughts!

  • Potatoes need large containers or grow bags, small potatoes are just baby potatoes; if you want them smaller, harvest earlier. Read up on "earthing" or hilling potatoes in containers. Carrots can do alright in smaller containers, but are choosy about soil type.
  • As I mentioned, containers get dry faster. In the summer, here in zone 7b, my tomatoes in 5-10 gallon buckets needed water twice a day. This is the biggest downside to containers. In your zone, they will also get hot, I'm not talking about sunburning the plants but rather increasing the temperature of your soil. Plants are more sensitive to soil temp than air temp, and when you lose the insulating power of the earth, your plants' roots are subject to more dramatic temperature swings. Mulch helps keep soil temps down.
  • Fill the bottom 6-8 inches of your large planters with organic materials like grass clippings, leaves, small twigs. Then fill the rest with your soil mixture of choice (probably mostly compost). It will break down over time. Soil is expensive, with planter boxes as large as you are building, buy in bulk. There should be companies near you that sell by the yard.
  • Peppers are good for your zone and are high in vitamins, if you don't like spicy things you can get them in sweet varieties or stuff large bell peppers with sausage and rice! They love containers (for their previously mentioned warm and dry characteristics!) and in your zone would probably produce from May to November.
  • Your other crops are great too, but consider planting a winter squash type, like acorn or butternut, alongside your summer squash. Summer squashes are prone to the highly invasive squash vine borer and everyone I know faces serious problems with them. You can still get summer squash to produce, but it's nice to have options, cuz once SVB is in your squash patch it can take them out quick.
  • Green beans, the bush type, would also work in your containers and they love the heat. Strawberries also love containers and are perennials.

I might be back with more thoughts; your house and garden sound super charming and I'm excited for you!

Good for you, it's so wonderful that you have a little place to call your own.

I've grown chard in 50L (13 gallon) pots with no issues. Just be careful that you don't put them in a position to get sunburnt.

Potatoes also do very well in the same size container but grow bags instead of pots, when I harvested mine in summer I got a heap of really little one and they were so yummy. This year I'm doing some heirlooms as well as some standard varieties, I'm hoping that I get a bigger harvest if I leave them a few more weeks.

Anything from the squash family has to be hand pollinated unless you have a lot of bees around, I have a native bee hive so I don't ever need to worry about plants that need hand pollination. It's pretty easy to create a bee friendly garden https://www.agrifutures.com.au/wp-content/uploads/publications/12-014.pdf here's a 300 page free book that has so many plants that bees love. It's set up for Australia but you can find many of the same plants all over the world. No matter what more bees are good, you will always have a some kind of native bee population as well so bee hotels will go a long way.

The only problem with using run off is disease transfer but if you have healthy plants there shouldn't be an issue. It's very much worth the time to have a look at your local agriculture body to see it there are any serious plant diseases in your area such as Banana blight.

I have both a compost bin and a worm farm, if you eat a lot of vegetables and fruits it's a great way to reduce your waste, it takes a while but you will have gardening gold. Worms can be a bit tricky but the result is so worth is. It also cuts down on paper waste especially in summer when the organic matter is breaking down like crazy.

Consider having a small water tank as well, I have 2 100L tanks and they've been invaluable, I put the waste water from my fish tank in, water from heating up the shower, water from washing vegetables (as long as the water doesn't have any organic matter in it) and grey water.