Thursday, May 9, 2019

Bucket gardening for your edibles

Wes and his self-watering bucket garden
Two years ago, I was in Maryland and when I visited friends Wes and Tammy for a gathering at their house, I was intrigued with the self-watering bucket garden that Wes had set up.

Advantages to a self-watering bucket garden

This self-watering bucket garden has a number of important advantages;
- Protects crops from damage by animals such as rabbits, chickens, ground hogs, armadillos, and pets.
- Because of the water storage in the lower bucket, your soil stays evenly moist for a week or so depending on heat and humidity before you need to refill the bottom bucket.
- Reduces water usage because all the water is right in the bucket, it does not drain away and no water is lost due to irrigation onto non-growing areas.
- Eliminates weeds and soil-based pests, such as root knot nematodes, cutworms, slugs, and others, if you use purchased or sterilized soil.
- No bending over once everything is set up for the season. Everthing is waist high.
- No plowing or other soil disturbance, so your soil can continue to sequester carbon.

Disadvantages to a self-watering bucket garden

- If you purchase new soil every year and buy seedlings from the store, this system would need to produce a lot of vegetables to offset the cost. (You could reduce the cost by making your own compost to use as soil and grow some of the veggies from seed.)
- The crop selection is limited by size.
- From a climate perspective, there is a lot of plastic used, but it will last for a good number of seasons.

All in all, depending upon your situation, the advantages may outweigh the disadvantages.

The double buckets with the one on the bottom being screwed solidly to the 4"x4" cross beam
 and sealed so that it's water tight.
Lifting off the top bucket reveals the irrigation pipe and the cup, which acts as a wick.

Bush cucumber Peppers.

Inside view of the top bucket shows the hole
for the cup, the perforated bottom, and built-in
irrigation pipe for filling the bottom bucket. 

Setting up a self-watering bucket garden

So when I was there two years ago, everything had been planted. This year, my son Dana sent photos of the process of getting ready for this year's season.

Okay, now we get to see the inside of the top bucket. The tube for filling the water reservoir in the bottom bucket is strapped to one side and fits tightly into a hole in the bucket bottom.

In the center of the bottom is a hole sized just so the hard rim of the solo cup will not slide through. The cup will need some perforations so it can act as a wick. Plus there are small perforations scattered all over the bottom.

Then the cup is put in place and the soil is loaded into the bucket and finally black plastic covers the top of the soil with slices where the seedlings will be planted.

The purchased soil is added to the top buckets. Plastic is added to warm the soil, keep down
the weeds and to slow down evaporation.

However you set up your gardens, I hope you are growing some of your food. It's good for you, your family, your pocketbook, and for our only planet, because every pound of food you grow offsets up to two pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Just do it!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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