How to Cheaply Fill Large Containers for Growing Squash and Beans?


Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Feb 13, 2021
Messages
1,678
Reaction score
1,045
Country
United Kingdom
She has to be an Aquarian for the stream to have brought it. Every gardener should have an engine hoist for hauling large trees out of streams before another flood comes, and similar operations.
 
Joined
Jun 29, 2022
Messages
276
Reaction score
66
Location
Ayrshire
Hardiness Zone
9b
Country
United Kingdom
She has to be an Aquarian for the stream to have brought it. Every gardener should have an engine hoist for hauling large trees out of streams before another flood comes, and similar operations.
Hubby was out there for about 5 hours solid trying to cut it free. He came in exhausted but triumphant!! And we have a good sized pile of firewood and plenty of rotten wood for our containers. A 'damn' of big branches etc had built up behind it.


It was rotten around the outside but hard as nails in the middle. It had wedged one end of itself between the two 'forks' of a hawthorn tree on our bank. The rear end had swung around and embedded itself in the opposite bank. He couldn't get access with a chain saw so it was a little manual saw and an axe.

It's still there - it'll take quite a big flood to float it away, but it's cut free of our tree so hopefully won't do damage when it goes.
 
Joined
Jun 10, 2021
Messages
23
Reaction score
11
Location
Kamiah, Idaho
Country
United States
. Also, it is NOT something to help me garden as I get older.

Rather, it is a valuable tool which I will employ to grow selected veggies for our veggie supply. As with any tool, it can always use sharpening...optimizing for production....and that is what I'm working on now.

Wondering why you say it isn't something to help you garden as you get older...?? Are you saying it will become harder to do as you get older? Or are you saying it's not JUST something to help you garden as you get older (since you go on to say it's a valuable tool).

I just started a hugelkulture bed this year in my garden, and it was quite a lot of work. I haven't applied the concept to containers yet although I want to try it in my new 3'x8' raised bed for next year.
 
Joined
Jun 10, 2021
Messages
23
Reaction score
11
Location
Kamiah, Idaho
Country
United States
My initial approach to sustaining HK containers will be to always rotate crops and replace part of the soil with my garden soil after each harvest...free and easy and high probability of success. Time will tell.

I'm somewhat surprised that you are using your garden soil in your containers. I've had very poor results using garden soil in my raised beds (3' x8' x 2') I think it's because my soil is very high in clay and very low in organic material. I started out with 2 beds - one that I filled with garden soil and then added tons and tons of organic material. The other I used commercial raised bed mix. That was 4 years ago. The one that started out with garden soil is STILL problematic, even though I continue to add organic material every year. It gets so hard. I wouldn't dare to try to grow root crops in it.

What is your normal garden soil like?
 

Meadowlark

Gardner, Angler, Adjunct Professor, and Rancher
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
Messages
1,330
Reaction score
1,032
Location
East Texas
Hardiness Zone
8
Country
United States
What is your normal garden soil like?
I have outstanding garden soil...IMO as good as there exists anywhere. It is sandy loam built up over many years with special cover crops. I strive for and generally receive soil test results which say, "No N-P-K required" and a nutrient density score well in excess of 90%. I do not use any synthetic fertilizers, any non-organic pesticides, or any fungicides in my garden soil.

It has taken me many years to achieve this garden soil. It would be foolish indeed for me to procure commercial raised bed mix when my soil is far superior to anything on the commercial market. Better still, my garden soil is completely sustainable for the foreseeable future.
 
Last edited:
Ad

Advertisements

Meadowlark

Gardner, Angler, Adjunct Professor, and Rancher
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
Messages
1,330
Reaction score
1,032
Location
East Texas
Hardiness Zone
8
Country
United States
Wondering why you say it isn't something to help you garden as you get older...?? Are you saying it will become harder to do as you get older? Or are you saying it's not JUST something to help you garden as you get older (since you go on to say it's a valuable tool).

I just started a hugelkulture bed this year in my garden, and it was quite a lot of work. I haven't applied the concept to containers yet although I want to try it in my new 3'x8' raised bed for next year.

I stated (kind of kiddingly) that because the original intent behind my experiment was exactly that...find a way I can continue to garden as I get older.

What I found instead was a tool that I absolutely need to use right now, every day in my garden technique. It is that productive to me.

Yes, it will definitely help me garden in my "Golden years" but more importantly it has opened up growing certain veggies that we love that otherwise I couldn't grow to the extent desired.

Thank you for your questions...and I encourage you to jump over to the thread "An experiment in Hugelkulture in containers" for the "back story" and for future updates which will be forthcoming. Also, the thread, "Lettuce in East Texas in 100 deg F weather?" might give you some ideas why I'm eager to use this tool now.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jun 10, 2021
Messages
23
Reaction score
11
Location
Kamiah, Idaho
Country
United States
I have outstanding garden soil...IMO as good as there exists anywhere. It is sandy loam built up over many years with special cover crops. I strive for and generally receive soil test results which say, "No N-P-K required" and a nutrient density score well in excess of 90%. I do not use any synthetic fertilizers, any non-organic pesticides, or any fungicides in my garden soil.

It has taken me many years to achieve this garden soil. It would be foolish indeed for me to procure commercial raised bed mix when my soil is far superior to anything on the commercial market. Better still, my garden soil is completely sustainable for the foreseeable future.
thanks so much for your response. I wish my garden soil were that good! We moved here 6 years ago and I've been working hard to improve the soil, which is mostly clay, some silt, and tons of basalt! Each year I improve a small area - small is all I can hope for since it's so very difficult to do. In the meantime, I've built raised beds. It's so discouraging, since I had created wonderful soil in the home I previously had.
 
Joined
Jun 10, 2021
Messages
23
Reaction score
11
Location
Kamiah, Idaho
Country
United States
I stated (kind of kiddingly) that because the original intent behind my experiment was exactly that...find a way I can continue to garden as I get older.

What I found instead was a tool that I absolutely need to use right now, every day in my garden technique. It is that productive to me.

Yes, it will definitely help me garden in my "Golden years" but more importantly it has opened up growing certain veggies that we love that otherwise I couldn't grow to the extent desired.

Thank you for your questions...and I encourage you to jump over to the thread "An experiment in Hugelkulture in containers" for the "back story" and for future updates which will be forthcoming. Also, the thread, "Lettuce in East Texas in 100 deg F weather?" might give you some ideas why I'm eager to use this tool now.
got it! thanks!
 

Meadowlark

Gardner, Angler, Adjunct Professor, and Rancher
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
Messages
1,330
Reaction score
1,032
Location
East Texas
Hardiness Zone
8
Country
United States
...I just started a hugelkulture bed this year in my garden, and it was quite a lot of work. I haven't applied the concept to containers yet although I want to try it in my new 3'x8' raised bed for next year.
I think you will find the use of HK containers to be much easier...assuming you use large enough containers. It takes me about 30 minutes to build one HK container. I started with one, then seven, and now about twenty and still need a couple more.

But, rather than sidetrack this thread....jump over to the original "An experiment in Hugelkulture in containers" and ask any questions or make any comments you may have. Both are welcomed.
 
Joined
Mar 26, 2013
Messages
3,243
Reaction score
1,365
Location
Port William
Showcase(s):
1
Country
United Kingdom
I have outstanding garden soil...IMO as good as there exists anywhere. It is sandy loam built up over many years with special cover crops. I strive for and generally receive soil test results which say, "No N-P-K required" and a nutrient density score well in excess of 90%. I do not use any synthetic fertilizers, any non-organic pesticides, or any fungicides in my garden soil.

It has taken me many years to achieve this garden soil. It would be foolish indeed for me to procure commercial raised bed mix when my soil is far superior to anything on the commercial market. Better still, my garden soil is completely sustainable for the foreseeable future.
I try to leave the soil better than I find it every year, even though most of the land I grow on isn't my own.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Jun 29, 2022
Messages
276
Reaction score
66
Location
Ayrshire
Hardiness Zone
9b
Country
United Kingdom
I have outstanding garden soil...IMO as good as there exists anywhere. It is sandy loam built up over many years with special cover crops. I strive for and generally receive soil test results which say, "No N-P-K required" and a nutrient density score well in excess of 90%. I do not use any synthetic fertilizers, any non-organic pesticides, or any fungicides in my garden soil.

It has taken me many years to achieve this garden soil. It would be foolish indeed for me to procure commercial raised bed mix when my soil is far superior to anything on the commercial market. Better still, my garden soil is completely sustainable for the foreseeable future.
Don't take this the wrong way - I'm not challenging your claim. This is about me trying to understand all the pieces of the puzzle....

My understanding (and experience) is that soil works in the ground because the soil life (worms etc) work away constantly allowing air to get in (among other things). However, in a container you can't rely on that soil-life - a container is too small and varies in temperature and humidity levels too rapidly. It's not a nice environment for soil life so you need a very different kind of growing medium. In pots, you're typically just wanting a medium that keeps moisture levels correct, allows drainage, allows air pockets etc. You can't rely on the soil life to produce the food - you need to feed the plants with fertilizers (natural or otherwise).

The above seems to be the accepted wisdom (in the UK climate at least). This makes container growing expensive. So a big challenge for me is to get my containers working more like my beds - so sustainable.

Now, I am 100% open to the idea that the accepted wisdom is paid for by manufacturers of potting soil and fertilizer. And maybe there's a difference in hotter, drier countries?
 
Joined
Mar 26, 2013
Messages
3,243
Reaction score
1,365
Location
Port William
Showcase(s):
1
Country
United Kingdom
Since you did get such good results, meadowlark, I wonder if you'd just recapitulate your experiences of the season:
the sizes & volumes & depth of your hugelkultur containers
How much of this and hoe much of that, & at what depths, & what you found reacted best to the set up?
 

Meadowlark

Gardner, Angler, Adjunct Professor, and Rancher
Joined
Feb 5, 2019
Messages
1,330
Reaction score
1,032
Location
East Texas
Hardiness Zone
8
Country
United States
Since you did get such good results, meadowlark, I wonder if you'd just recapitulate your experiences of the season:
the sizes & volumes & depth of your hugelkultur containers

An experiment in Hugelkulture in containers


Thank you for your interest. Several of your questions are addressed in the main thread referenced above. Also, I'll be posting a full update on the experiment results after first frost expected in early November including the 30 something new veggies being tested this fall.

For now, take a look at the interesting results I'm seeing for leafy veggies. I have been totally surprised by these. The HK container leafy veggies are outproducing the in-garden counterparts by an incredible amount. The data is in ounces and planting dates also shown.


Type
HK Pro​
Gar Pro​
Ratio​
Malabar spinach 8-8
14.1​
2.8​
5.04​
collards 9-2
7.1​
4.9​
1.45​
Swiss Chard 8-20
4.8​
2.5​
1.92​
Turnips 8-21
0.6​
0.4​
1.50​
Bok Choy 8-20
45.3​
0​
#DIV/0!​
ButterCrunch lettuce 8-21
37.4​
15.2​
2.46​
Sylyestra lettuce 8-21
33.4​
13.3​
2.51​
Radish 8-22
13.5​
12.1​
1.12​
Green ice lettuce 8-22
35.2​
15.4​
2.29​
Little gem lettuce 8-22
31.9​
12.8​
2.49​
Romain lettuce 8-22
6.8​
3.2​
2.13​



I certainly never expected those results. I'm also seeing HK brassicas (cabbage,broc,brussels,cauliflower) that are averaging 150% larger than the in-garden plants. Also, did not expect that. Specific measurements are posted in the main thread referenced. Also, current pictures of brassicas and leafy veggies are posted there.

I'm planning a fairly complete study of potatoes in HK containers, focusing on white potatoes, but have had to put that aspect on temporary hold because seed potatoes are in dormancy here now and basically unavailable until about Dec.

The fall results have been most interesting...and have convinced me to incorporate HK containers into my mainline garden tool set. No need to wait until later.

At some point, later this year or early next year I will try to summarize my findings across the thirty something new veggies and all seasons.

In the meantime, feel free to ask any specific questions...and/or offer possible explanations of some of these incredible results.
 
Joined
Jun 29, 2022
Messages
276
Reaction score
66
Location
Ayrshire
Hardiness Zone
9b
Country
United Kingdom
Since you did get such good results, meadowlark, I wonder if you'd just recapitulate your experiences of the season:
the sizes & volumes & depth of your hugelkultur containers
How much of this and hoe much of that, & at what depths, & what you found reacted best to the set up?
Your climate is similar to mine. What are your thoughts on this working in the West of Scotland?

I'm planning on making up my containers today and still haven't decided how to proceed.

I'm thinking that rotting wood probably provides a source of water at the bottom of the container that can be wicked up as needed. This would keep moisture levels constant without the roots sitting in water. That would help keep soil life in the containers alive. It's going to save on compost etc. Even in our climate I find it hard work to keep containers constantly moist.

I guess the negatives are that by holding water in the bottom of the pot over wet winters, winter frosts could expand it and split the pots.

We're planning on using slug nematodes so I'm not overly concerned about creating slug habitat.

Maybe the solution for me is to nip around to the farm and get enough manure to half fill all my containers. The pop some compost on top to grow my winter pansies and wallflowers in. By late spring that manure will be nicely rotted down. I can tip it out, then re-build my containers with rotten wood at the bottom then a mix of manure and compost on top - along with some worm castings etc.

Or are my concerns about the wet wood splitting my tubs in winter silly? My tubs are fairly strong looking plastic.
 
Joined
Feb 13, 2021
Messages
1,678
Reaction score
1,045
Country
United Kingdom
Or are my concerns about the wet wood splitting my tubs in winter silly? My tubs are fairly strong looking plastic.
Firstly note Meadowlark started by drilling ample drainage holes in the bottom of his tubs, so there will not be an actual pool of water to freeze, only the water in the wood and earth. Also The containers are plastic, which gives a little. I have several things in large pots, some go in for winter, but things like my lavender stay out and have for a number of years without splitting. The only problem I have ever had with splitting pots is with things like large flowerpots which are made from terracotta, which is water absorbent, then the water inside the material causes bits to flake off.
So long as you have enough depth the plants don't come up against raw manure, which might or might not be bad for them, I don't know, the idea of a colourful display whilst making your topsoil sounds attractive.

Reading elsewhere about the technique they talk about mounds five or six feet tall that need no watering, even in the driest summers. I am not going that tall, but after last summer with 9% of average rainfall I am seriously considering putting something together.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Mar 26, 2013
Messages
3,243
Reaction score
1,365
Location
Port William
Showcase(s):
1
Country
United Kingdom
Your climate is similar to mine. What are your thoughts on this working in the West of Scotland?

I'm planning on making up my containers today and still haven't decided how to proceed.

I'm thinking that rotting wood probably provides a source of water at the bottom of the container that can be wicked up as needed. This would keep moisture levels constant without the roots sitting in water. That would help keep soil life in the containers alive. It's going to save on compost etc. Even in our climate I find it hard work to keep containers constantly moist.

I guess the negatives are that by holding water in the bottom of the pot over wet winters, winter frosts could expand it and split the pots.

We're planning on using slug nematodes so I'm not overly concerned about creating slug habitat.

Maybe the solution for me is to nip around to the farm and get enough manure to half fill all my containers. The pop some compost on top to grow my winter pansies and wallflowers in. By late spring that manure will be nicely rotted down. I can tip it out, then re-build my containers with rotten wood at the bottom then a mix of manure and compost on top - along with some worm castings etc.

Or are my concerns about the wet wood splitting my tubs in winter silly? My tubs are fairly strong looking plastic.
I'm thinking that rotting wood may soak up water when it's available, but release it as required, giving a far more even availability of water without overwatering.
Avoiding much of the watering equals sluicing out far fewer minerals, so giving a better, more even, nutrient level for the plants.
It is also the case that containers warm better in our climate than the soil, so there's a potential for even more benefit there.
There is also the nitrogen released by the rotting wood, which would help explain the excellent brassicas.
I don't think your concerns about your pots splitting are silly, wet wood does expand. Just don't pack it in.
It may be the case that because our climate is considerably cooler than Texas we see a bit less benefit, but although to a lesser extent, the same rules apply.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jun 29, 2022
Messages
276
Reaction score
66
Location
Ayrshire
Hardiness Zone
9b
Country
United Kingdom
Thanks both. And yes, thinking about it only terracotta pots have split over winter - I hadn't considered that it's the water in the actual pot that expands.

I have 8 big 50 cm wide, deep containers. I'm going to try 4 one way and 4 another and see what works and what doesn't. All the pots will stand on a gravel area at the south facing, very sheltered front of my house. I plan to rake away the gravel under the pots, break up the soil a bit. pour down some sugar solution and compost tea and a bit of manure from the farm and stand the pots (with big drainage holes) on top of that. Ideally I'd cut the bottoms right off the pots, but I want to be able to move them for house maintenance.

I have a lean-to portable greenhouse and some cloches that I can protect my pots with in May/June to make sure they aren't held back by cooler weather early in the season.

First 4 Containers:
  • 3/4 filled with partially rotted cow manure (with a bit of bedding straw mixed in)
  • 1/4 topped with store bought all purpose compost.
Second 4 Containers:
  • 1/4 filled with rotten wood
  • 1/4 filled with manure
  • 1/4 filled with garden compost
  • 1/4 filled with store bought all purpose compost

In spring when I plant my beans and squashes I can add some bits and bobs like worm castings etc.

In future years, all being well, my plan would be to treat them like raised beds and simply add a couple of inches of garden compost to the top each year - or perhaps a bit of rotted manure, worm castings etc. My thinking is I won't mix stuff in - treat it 100% like no dig.

Any criticisms or ideas to improve on this?
 
Joined
Mar 26, 2013
Messages
3,243
Reaction score
1,365
Location
Port William
Showcase(s):
1
Country
United Kingdom
I'm somewhat surprised that you are using your garden soil in your containers. I've had very poor results using garden soil in my raised beds (3' x8' x 2') I think it's because my soil is very high in clay and very low in organic material. I started out with 2 beds - one that I filled with garden soil and then added tons and tons of organic material. The other I used commercial raised bed mix. That was 4 years ago. The one that started out with garden soil is STILL problematic, even though I continue to add organic material every year. It gets so hard. I wouldn't dare to try to grow root crops in it.

What is your normal garden soil like?
Clay soil holds minerals & nutrients well, & is excellent for growing brassicas, because it gives the plants support.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Feb 13, 2021
Messages
1,678
Reaction score
1,045
Country
United Kingdom
Clay soil holds minerals & nutrients well, & is excellent for growing brassicas, because it gives the plants support.
I was going to add runner beans, they appreciate lots of organic and clay, I think it is the continuous moisture. Then I wondered if they would suit the climate in Idaho? And remembered they are not called that in American English, I think it is lima bean.
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top