Potatoes in the Ground vs Container

Had a very small garden this year, mostly in containers. The tomatoes and cucumbers did okay in the “Earth Box” made from a Rubbermaid Roughneck 18 gallon container, and the potatoes were an interesting experiment.

I had taken a 50 gallon plastic water drum and cut it into thirds, the intention being to fill each third as the plants grew with compost and grass clippings, doing the same with the potatoes on the ground.  The potatoes in the ground died back in early September, while the potatoes in the barrel continued until the frost.

With a warm early November weekend and a few moments to spare, I was able to go and harvest the potatoes. From each “plot” of five plants, here are the findings:

  • The ones in the ground took about twenty minutes to harvest an yielded 2.71 lbs. with many immature potatoes.
  • Many roots from the invading blackberry plants made difficult digging.
  • Easy to damage the potatoes with the pitchfork
  • The barrel potato planter took five minutes to harvest and yielded 3.56 lbs.  with mostly full size potatoes.
  • No invading roots
  • easy to harvest
  • most potatoes full size

The barrel was at a little over 1/3 filled with compost/grass clippings which makes me think adding more compost and less grass clippings I may be able to create three potato “rings” by laying down several layers of newspaper for the bottom layer, putting the potato seeds on the newspaper then covering with good garden soil, adding materials as they grow to the top, then topping off with grass clippings.

Sadly this is all I was able to do this year, but a couple of more warm days may allow me to set up the beds for next year with some well rotted manure and a good layer of grass/leaf clippings from the last mowing of the year.

Potato "plot" on the ground.  Many roots from neighboring blackberries made for difficult harvest.

Potato “plot” on the ground. Many roots from neighboring blackberries and “creeping charlie”.

plastic barrel cut in thirds, only 2/3 used.

Potato barrel with second “ring”.

Second third of the potato barrel removed - only three inches of material above the bottom.

Potato barrel second third removed – only three inches above the top. Could have done without it.

Potato barrel dumped on the ground with the potatoes visible.

Potato barrel dumped onto the ground with spuds exposed.

Posted in Container

Indoor Salad Garden – Cukes Climb to the Rafters

Cucumber growing indoors under grow ightCucumbers climbing onto the grow lightsWe’ve ignored the cucumber in the cellar for the last several weeks with the exception of watering them once.  The L.E.D. lights are on for ten hours per day, and total 25 watts of power, or 1KW every four days, or about $0.30 of electricity per week.  They are starting to set fruit, have climbed over their tube and are heading for the rafters.  I’ve rerouted them up a stiff wire and a chain, and readjusted the lights and the reflective material to offer them more room, as shown in the pictures below.  They should be ready to pick in about two weeks!

Lights adjusted and cucumbers growing up a chain connected to the rafters with reflective material behind it.

Posted in Container, Light, Uncategorized, urban, Wicking Bed

Steamer Salad Update

Spinach in the steamer - only 1" of soil.

Spinach in the steamer – only 1″ of soil.


The lettuce has been doing well, but seems to have “lost it’s steam” – so to speak.  Each “steamer salad makes about one garden salad with the addition of some tomatoes and some chives, making it a viable option if you like “baby salad greens”.

They have grown up to about two and one-half inches, but seem to have stalled.  We’re starting a new experiment to see if – despite the popular belief – that lettuce is a shallow-rooted plant.  Indeed it may be, but how shallow? The spinach seems to be trying to bolt as well – at least some of them.  I’m letting them continue to grow, and have transplanted some of them into a six inch pot as well to see if it helps.

Transplanted spinach now in a six inch pot.

Transplanted spinach now in a six inch pot.

We have planted five “salanova” lettuce plants into a steamer tray, and five into a six inch pot to see which type it likes better.  The pictures would be of bare soil, so I have spared you the download time by not including the pics.  Stay tuned.


Posted in Container

Spinach Steamer Indoor Garden

baby spinach growing in a "Healthy Choice" steamer tray

Popeye would be proud. These are after about two weeks, and the main leaves are starting in. In the background are the lettuce plants I over planted figuring I’d eat the thinnings, which I have – though I find thinning a bit annoying. Next set of lettuce I plant I’ll plop myself down at the kitchen table and carefully plant the lettuce so there’ll be less fussing with them.

baby spinach growing in a "Healthy Choice" steamer tray

Most spinach leaves you get from the store seem to go after a week or less if they’re not handled delicately. A couple of bruised leaves and they start to smell and go bad shortly afterward. It will be interesting to see how much of a yield we get. One of the downsides of the shallow planting is the frequent watering. Think we’ll go with a three inch depth on the potting mix next time so the watering can be less frequent.

Posted in Container, urban

Indoor Salad Garden – Steamer Salad

Lettuce in the steamer sitting on the snow


Steamer portion filled with potting mix - gardenhacker.comHealthy Choice Cafe Steamer Container

Don’t recycle those fancy microwave steamers just yet – they make a great starter container for just about everything you can transplant as well as for salads from start to finish. Healthy Choice (available at your favorite supermarket in the frozen food section) makes an inexpensive meal and gives you a great seed starting container too!   Read more ›

Posted in Container, urban

It’s Time to Start Planning


One of the best ways to have a successful garden is to look over the fence:  what have your neighbors successfully grown?  If your passion is figs and you’re in the USA Zone 5, you will have a hard time creating a fig grove (there is a man who is growing fig trees, but he is packing the trees with hay to insulate them over the winter – high maintenance!).  What are your neighbors growing?  You don’t have to trump through their garden, you can use google!  Check out the video below, and check out this link to an interesting online garden planner.

Check out the GroVeg Garden Planner here.

Posted in FYI

Lettuce in the Silos 3/16/2013 – Cut and Come, Mow and Grow, Plow and Chow

A nice garden salad from the cellar weighed in at 0.75 oz on a Dymo digital scale.
Lettuce Growth as of 2013-03-16 before picking.

Lettuce Growth as of 2013-03-16 before picking.

The lettuce continues to grow, and the one on the right is doing so well, I decided to pick a salad now.  Picked 0.75 oz or a small garden salad’s worth from the one on the right, and it’s still got plenty of leaves.  On the left, the lettuce has gotten larger without getting leggy.  This is good to see, but it’s time to start growing a salad garden in earnest – so another grow box is in the works for a true indoor salad garden.  A grow box is just a pot and saucer on steroids.  Using a thermally insulated box like the one pictured here or a storage container, you make a reservoir, a “wicking” area or “wicking agent” – basically a small area where the soil can reach the bottom of the reservoir without filling the reservoir with soil, a drain hole on the side so your plants have no chance of standing in water and rotting, and a soil area where your plants will grow.  Water will wick up to one foot in most potting mixes, and sometimes more, depending on the mix.  We will be creating a quick and easy grow box in a coming post.


Lettuce after picking - still a lot of leaves!

Lettuce after picking – still a lot of leaves!



Posted in Container, urban

Potted Carrots

circle of carrots

Over three pounds of carrots from a single pot!

Here they are using an “autopot” which is meant for hydroponics, but they find that rooted plants do better in soil.  After four months, 3.3 lbs (1.5 kilos) of carrots of all different sizes emerge! They planted densely, and thinned as the plants got bigger, so it’s not maintenance free, but for patio gardens, growing in the winter, growing indoors, it seems a pretty good arrangement, especially since you know what went into and onto the plants – probably nothing toxic…

Another way to have your carrots and eat it’s neighbors is to plant carrots and radishes, harvesting the radishes when they are ready.  As stated in Indoor Salad Gardening: “…radishes will be ready before the carrots, and the carrots will appreciate the extra room when their neighbors are invited to dinner!

Posted in Container, urban

Indoor Salad Gardening

Indoor Salad Garden Cover

Learn how you can take a small space and create a salad garden indoors without the threat of bugs, varmints, or inclement weather!  You can grow most if not all of your favorite salad fixings right inside your home and not have to trudge through mud, rain, snow or the aisles of the grocery store.  Enjoy the freshest salad knowing there are no pesticide or herbicide residue!

Kindle Edition Also available in paperback from CreateSpace – an Amazon company!

Posted in Container, FYI Tagged with: , , , ,

Tomato Planters for Gardeners on the Go

Tomato Trellis1Snowy Sundays always give me a little time to poke around on the net, and we found a couple of interesting tomato planters that could also be used for cucumbers and other tall plants.  The first one that caught my eye was the “Tomato Trellis Garden on Wheels” by Hydrofarm.  Large enough to grow at least three tomato plants, possibly more (or companion plant some other edibles), this one is big enough to need wheels.  Expandable with drop-in trellis, this would work great on a patio in just about any setting.  Self-watering, too!

tomato barrelThe next one is the smaller round “cousin” to the Tomato Trellis Garden on Wheels: the “Tomato Barrel“. Enough space for one plant, it can be moved easier and can fit in the corner of a sunny room to provide tomatoes without the need for bug sprays or worrying about critters from snagging your summer treats.

At $54.99 and $23.00 respectively, the Tomato Trellis and the Tomato Barrel are great containers for the apartment/condo gardener, as well as those who may want to extend the season by bringing the plants inside before the first frost.

Posted in Container