Potted garden questions

Bchristy4(5)May 26, 2013

Good morning everyone,

I have very stubbornly started a potted vegetable garden after my landlord changed what I am and am not allowed to do with my yard.
However, I am starting to regret it.....my tomatillos look very sad. They have grown very tall, but are not branching out. Then this morning, I found a mushroom growing in one of the pots.
So I guess my question(s) is; do I need to add some ferterlizer, put my beloved plants in the ground, or do I just need to be patient?

I have always had great experiences growing a garden the traditional way, but this potted gardening has me running in circles!
Your help is greatly appreciated!
Happy Memorial Weekend.

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Growing veggies in containers is very possible.....and can be quite efficient as well. What you need for this to be successful is the properly sized containers with the proper potting soil, lots of sun and careful attention to water and fertilizer.

Tell us what kind of conditions you are growing these plants in (is this a covered space?) and what kind of soil, etc. and we will be more able to help with specifics.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 4:46PM
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Thanks for the reply gardengal,

My veggies are in a varriety of pots, from recycled kids toy tubs (18 gallon rubbermaid tubs) old coolers, old nursery giveaways, and even a few old bunny boxes cleaned out for strawberries. I have had to be creative to get my garden going in the first place. :)
Everything I have used does have drainage holes, and I have attempted to give things appropriate room, tomatoes are in 5-7 gallon containers and my tomatillos are paired up in 18 gallon containers. (which after finding much needed info I see those may not be big enough)

At first I tried buying cheap potting soil, but even the cheap stuff got expensive so I did some research and decided to make my own.
I have been combining approx.
1 part sphagnum peat,
1 part soil conditioner,
1/2-1/3 part coco coir,
1/8 perlite,
1/8 vermiculite,
and 1/16 or so of coffee grounds.

I am not sure what is in the soil conditioner,(no ingredients list) but after reading some of Al's post on soil, I think I got lucky enough to buy the right stuff. I know one thing, it smells like the best parts of earth, as if it came straight from a fairy tale, almost good enough to eat.

As for conditions, I am in Colorado, on the far west side. It has not been nearly as hot as last year but we have been averaging 75-80 degree days so far and about 55 at night. Eventually it will reach over 100 during the day and 80 at night. My yard is not the most ideal either, there are many elm trees surrounding the garden area so I have to fight the shade. They probaby see around 6-7 hours of light each day, maybe more when I am fanatically moving them around chasing the sun. I have not been watering often, maybe every 3-4 days, but it seams like they are still a little too wet after that much time? Especially the pots in the cheap soil, the others are using up their water a bit more efficiantly.

I am probably being impatient, I had an in ground garden last year (at a different location) and I had no problems, everything came natural and I had so much amazing produce my friends are still talking about it ;) But this year is different, all the different opinions and options are making my head spin.

So I came here, after reading a few post that came up from my searches I realized there were a lot of nice people here willing to help, with a lot of useful knowledge. I am determined to do the right thing for my plants, nothing feels better than a healthy, thriving, happy garden :)

I have also not added any sort of fertilizer yet, I purchased some worm casting and worm tea from a local gentleman on craigslist. He said the tea would last for a long time as long as I left the lids off.....Well, now it stinks like weird poo and when I went to add the castings to my soil mixture it was crawling with spider mites, so I have not been able to use either product.
I read some info on the stinky tea, but there was so much conflicting info I gave up and decide it was best not to use it. Such a bummer for it to go to waste.

I hope this is helpfull info about what I have going, I could also take some pics if that will help.
I greatly appreciate the help! And my veggies do too :)

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 8:51PM
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Sounds like you are doing pretty much the right things :-)

You do need to fertilize though and rather frequently. Potting soil - even homemade stuff - has minimal nutrient content to begin with and every time you water, you leach more nutrients out of the soil. With containerized plants, if you want to stay organic you need a water soluble fertilizer - fish or seaweed emulsion, compost or worm tea or a few, very limited other liquid organics. Otherwise, any other liquid fertilizer should work for you. When using a synthetic fert, I recommend "weekly, weakly" :-)

I wouldn't necessarily toss the worm tea. Smell is not a reliable indicator of problems with this stuff and I seriously doubt spider mites have taken it over. First, these mites are microscopic - too small to be seen easily with the naked eye - and they prefer hot and very dry conditions...... hardly what would be encountered with the worm tea. Covering the tea would tend to make it anaerobic and even smellier but that's typically of no concern either. I would use it rather than throwing it away.

You can make your own worm tea. You can purchase castings, sometimes at your local nursery/garden center or certainly by mail order, and then just steep them in a large bucket of water overnight or upto 24 hours (1# of castings to 5G of water). The sooner used, the more value they add to your plants. If you want to get sophisticated, look into using an aquarium pump to aerate the brew. In that case you may need to add some molasses and kelp meal to feed the microorganisms.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2013 at 7:06PM
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Thank you!

Your information has been very helpfull, I will definatley be keeping the worm tea, and I guess will need to learn more about spider mites. When I dug into the bag of castings it was crawling with tiny red spiders? I just assumed spider mites because they were tiny and I had never seen that may spiders in one place?

Any-who I will be sure to start a fertalizing program for my plants, and will be getting worms soon to do my own vermiposting :) I am very excited to get started on them.

Again, thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2013 at 1:10PM
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