Help with container vegetable gardening

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I built four container garden plots out of recycled pallets. I'm having a bit of difficulty getting vegetables to grow well. I lined the 4 by 4 foot and 4 by 6 foot by 12 inches high wooden containers with 3 mil plastic sheeting and drilled holes about every 10 inches. There is at least 8 inches of soil in the containers. More in the container for Zucchini so that I can make mounds. I used Lowes container soil (which may have been my main mistake???). I can't get salads or hot peppers to grow very well. Zucchini plants start out well, but then get destroyed by vine borers. Sweet peas did well, and so did tomatoes, but carrots and herbs would not grow properly.

Do I need to provide for better drainage? What should I do to improve the soil? I will rotate all of the different vegetables to different containers this year as well. I would like to learn how to grow vegetables well, my two youngest children are also avid gardens (especially my little girl).

Any advice would be welcome.

Thanks in advance, Harold
 
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Hi Harold! I think we're in the same zone. (6b) We don't start to put our plants in the raised beds until the last week in April. Tomatoes & Peppers around Mother's Day. (too cold)
If you're using seed, it's too cold, right now, for most plants to germinate well outside
Hope this helps..
 
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This will be my third year attempt. The soil is Lowes generic container soil with fertilizer. I used water soluble 24-8-16 sta-green (also Lowes generic) fertilizer. Last year, the second, I added black cow manure to the container beds as well.
 

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When you start seeds, when you move them to larger pots or to the soil, a moment to observe root lengths occurs. I am always amazed at how long of a root peppers have. In a raised bed conditions are manufactured and are probably suitable for one type of veggie or another, but this idea of all things in one pot is hard to buy. Another thing is that plants suffer when organic matter exceeds 30%. In nature that number is much lower. As in 2-5%. Organic is what can be burned to ash in a soil test and the before and after difference weighed. Anecdotes abound, and I see plants grow on my own compost piles, but full life cycles and maturity may not be possible for all plants in such overly organic conditions, just certain plants. Peppers again for example, and carrots too, can be peculiar about too much moisture and too much ferilizer.
 
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A couple things that jump out at me: plastic underneath a raised bed is not something I'd do, even with a proper soil depth and more importantly in your case there's nowhere near enough soil in those beds. You'll need a minimum of 6" of depth with an open bottom, 8"-12" is better.

Remove the plastic from the bottom and fill the beds within an inch or so of the top with soil. Don't use bagged soil if you can help it, good bagged soil is very expensive and even the cheap stuff is way too costly to fill a raised bed with. Call some landscape companies about having some soil/compost mix delivered, the delivery fee is usually fixed (my area is $60 deliver + $27/yard) so consider ordering extra and adding a new bed or two, or maybe topping off any ornamental beds.

There's just way too little soil there to support the stuff your growing, the plastic I'd suspect is doing you no favors either.
 
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If you've only lined the bottom, drainage will not be a problem: I have previously built raised beds for onions & garlic which I had to isolate from the soil because of onion white rot.
If you do not have enough holes in your membreane, it's not a difficult job to puncture it some more, if enough doesn't seep out the sides.
 
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A couple things that jump out at me: plastic underneath a raised bed is not something I'd do, even with a proper soil depth and more importantly in your case there's nowhere near enough soil in those beds. You'll need a minimum of 6" of depth with an open bottom, 8"-12" is better.

Remove the plastic from the bottom and fill the beds within an inch or so of the top with soil. Don't use bagged soil if you can help it, good bagged soil is very expensive and even the cheap stuff is way too costly to fill a raised bed with. Call some landscape companies about having some soil/compost mix delivered, the delivery fee is usually fixed (my area is $60 deliver + $27/yard) so consider ordering extra and adding a new bed or two, or maybe topping off any ornamental beds.

There's just way too little soil there to support the stuff your growing, the plastic I'd suspect is doing you no favors either.
Thanks
 

mvona

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I'm wary of putting down plastic in a raised bed also but I have another problem I'm dealing with at my location. Next to my garden is a large row of older pine trees. (not my trees) I am battling the roots of these trees. So, I'm thinking perhaps raised beds with some sort (what material?) or barrier to block their roots but I am worried I'll be creating some other problem. Ideas and comments are welcome.
 
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I'm wary of putting down plastic in a raised bed also but I have another problem I'm dealing with at my location. Next to my garden is a large row of older pine trees. (not my trees) I am battling the roots of these trees. So, I'm thinking perhaps raised beds with some sort (what material?) or barrier to block their roots but I am worried I'll be creating some other problem. Ideas and comments are welcome.

It may not really be necessary to block out those roots. If you do want to take steps to keep them out of your beds I'd just put down some sort of water-permeable material like landscape fabric, it might not totally stop roots but would slow them down. If you do that in combination with relatively deep beds (10"+ of soil) you should be good. Take it a step further by tilling up the ground under where you place the raised beds and try to break up as many of the near-surface roots as you have the patience and energy for.
 

mvona

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TY all for the ideas. I'm planning to build new and increase the depth of soil in the boxes, putting down a water permeable barrier at the base only. I'll probably use contractor grade landscape paper. Hope fully I'll get 4 or five years out of this type of material and setup.
p.s. Dear Phillygardner, good luck with your setup. I have the same problem with all my curcubits. Once those bugs are present its almost impossible to bet rid of. I have not grown zukes, cukes, pumpkin in 3 years. I'm hoping to try again this year.
 
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Plants like stability, when they are in the ground the proportion of surface area to mass is tiny by comparison to a container, and it is the surface you will lose heat and moisture through. Four foot square is quite good, but less than a foot deep and you can see moisture and temperature levels can vary quite a bit. What is under the base? If it is on the ground you wouldn't need the plastic, if it is on some sort of hardstanding like concrete, or if it is lifted up, I would be tempted to put a few layers of cardboard underneath, any bum sleeping under bridges will tell you what good insulation it is.
 
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When you start seeds, when you move them to larger pots or to the soil, a moment to observe root lengths occurs. I am always amazed at how long of a root peppers have. In a raised bed conditions are manufactured and are probably suitable for one type of veggie or another, but this idea of all things in one pot is hard to buy. Another thing is that plants suffer when organic matter exceeds 30%. In nature that number is much lower. As in 2-5%. Organic is what can be burned to ash in a soil test and the before and after difference weighed. Anecdotes abound, and I see plants grow on my own compost piles, but full life cycles and maturity may not be possible for all plants in such overly organic conditions, just certain plants. Peppers again for example, and carrots too, can be peculiar about too much moisture and too much ferilizer.
What do you suggest amending the soil with? I've been having similar problems with my raised beds - seeds sprout fine but then never develop much past that stage. I've tried fixing the problem with money by buying manure, compost, and raised bed mix (which have all worked for me in the past with the same veggies) but nothing is working. I wonder if I would be better suited adding something with no organic material, based on your comment.
 
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What do you suggest amending the soil with? I've been having similar problems with my raised beds - seeds sprout fine but then never develop much past that stage. I've tried fixing the problem with money by buying manure, compost, and raised bed mix (which have all worked for me in the past with the same veggies) but nothing is working. I wonder if I would be better suited adding something with no organic material, based on your comment.
I don't know what they put in raised bed mix but I would not want an entirely peat/coco or whatever based mix in a raised bed just for how fast it dries out besides anything else. Anecdotally, I'd want sand and some cheap heavy topsoil to make up maybe 50% or so of the mix.
 

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