Friday, February 18, 2011

Addition to Dirt, Glorious Dirt

Good Morning Everyone,

I hope that everyone is getting ready for the weekend, I hope some of you can get into your gardens.  I am afraid that I am doomed for  about a week or so with winter coming back, making an appearance to let us know that its not going to throw in the towel just yet.

I want to thank all of you who sent wonderful comments about the containers I use.  I didn't think something so simple could make statements, but again, I am an old fart who is new to the blogging world and something that I think is crappy and very poorly thought of, could make a statement in the gardening world.  I unfortunately have to use what I have or find in the garbage bins or in someones alley, which I sometimes am pretty lucky at finding things that people throw away.  I am a true die hard dumpster diver and general pack rat.

I had several email from newbies about the garlic scapes.  Now, please understand that I am not a college educated gardener, just someone who observes and experiments with organic matter and seeds.  I go where angels fear to tread, I do not read the instructions or follow the rules, which sometimes, get me into trouble, literally.
Several years ago, when I was trying to figure out this lot that I am currently living on, figuring out how to make the best of the area, and do what I could possibly do with it. Please realize that I didn't have internet access, so I could not look up information, all I had was a few books and good old Mother Earth News magazines.   The soil here is very heavy and stinky river bottom clay, and I am surrounded by utility cables, gas line pipes and other assorted things that you do not want to slam a shovel in or a pick ax into, lest bring about the apocalypse, for which they would surely throw you into a federal prison and toss the key away. I have been here now into the start of my seventh year here.  And let me tell you, it changes yearly.  I have had for the most of my time here, a hoard of tenants who have destroyed what beds I did have, especially up toward the front of my trailer, on the south side, where I had anti-freeze, motor oil, and a variety of herbicides poured on to my herbs, for which is one of the reason I went to the containers, one, to be able to pull them around and protect them from hail and storms and two, to get them to another part of the tiny yard to protect them from the hoards. I also installed a make shift fence with snow fencing to create a buffer zone and this stopped the theiving and the stealing and malicious acts.  This for me was the start of the container brigade, as I call it.

Anyway,  I accidentally threw some garlic scapes I cut off from the garlic, and threw them into my herb bed, and come spring, I was starting to clean the bed out and was greeted by very lovely, garlic-y shoots like chives, and they were very aromatic and I trimmed some and put them on a baked potato and yum.  I also tried the following year, the actual garlic scapes, which were sprouting in a jar, and cooked them in a tomato sauce for a spaghetti pie, and they were just delicious.  Then, I was talking to a neighbor, and he told me that they were poisonous to eat.  So I ended up talking to UNL (University of Nebraska @ Lincoln) at the home economics dept and a UNL extension dept at our State Farm that we have outside of town, and they told me they were perfectly ok to cook and eat with.  They were just milder and really punch up flavor in a dish. The scapes you can also grow garlic from, except that they will take several years to mature to use.  So if you are not in a hurry to get garlic, do it,   I have a few in the herb bed and will see how they have done through the winter. 
This year, I was going to try the scapes in one of the blue containers on the east side and cover them and see if they give me a chive like shoot that I can cut and use.  I will keep you posted on this as it hopefully comes about.

Also, I had several emails asking about the blue containers.  Well, I am not sure if I will get into trouble mentioning where I got them, but.... I got them from our Dollar General stores we have here.  I have also been told that WalMart carries them.  They are used for storage for toys and such, the college kids use them for what ever, I been told they use them for beer and ice buckets.  They ran me $5 bucks a piece, and when I get them home, I use a small hand punch and a small hand saw you use on dry wall, and about 5 inches from the bottom, I trim a small triangle for drainage, I usually put 3 drains in.  Now, when I fill these buggers up, it takes (2) 1 cu. ft of topsoil or potting soil to fill 1 bucket.  And when you do this, they are heavy.  I try to mix my soil mix with what ever I have on hand here. I used to use soil bags to grow my gardens in, just cut the bags with a small triangle and plant directly into the bag, as I just didn't have money to even buy a container.  But as I could afford it, I would buy a few containers and add to my lot of containers.  I usually go get a few loads of compost from the city and wood chips for paths, and I am going to try this year a bed on the north side of my trailer for mushrooms, like Winecaps.  So, we'll see how far I get with that.  Last year, I tried Shiitake, and they did very well for me.  I splurged on a tabletop Shiitake block and put them in a large container you use for storage of stuff with a lid, and put them under my carport on a table and they really sprouted up.  I dried these for my kitchen use.  They are also medicinal.  The place where I purchased the tabletop farm is from
The company is called Field and Forest Products and they are located in Wisconsin.  They have a wonderful catalog.  I am sure there are other companies who have mushrooming supplies.  But this is where I got mine at.

Another thing I do with the buckets for my soil is I just mix compost and the garden soil together and fill.  I do not dump the soil out.  Just the next year, I mix fresh compost and leftovers from potting soil and refresh the buckets. I also try to move the buckets close for winter because of snow and freezing.  Sometimes they will break, and I am careful how I pull them, as they are brittle when its cold.  I generally cover them with tarp for winter, but this fall/winter, I did not get around to covering them. But they seems to take the weather pretty good.
If you do not like the color, you can get spray paint, particularly from the Rustoleum company, that makes a plastic spray you can use on these buckets.  I have never tried it, but I think that I am, for the front and use a terra cotta color.  There is also a spray that looks like granite and I bought some spray and I am going to try this to see if I can make a container look like a large granite container.  I will  post on this when it gets warmer to spray.

Anyway, I thought I would comment on these funny containers I use.  I will attest that they do grow good, and I find I have a somewhat less bug problem. And I didn't have squash bugs like I did a few years ago, so it may be because they are up off the ground and better protected.  I had some squash bugs but I was able to squish them and get them under control where I didn't loose any squash plants.

Well, I hope that I answered some questions about the buckets and the garlic scapes.  Again, this is my experiences and successes and what has worked for me.  Again, living where I don't have access to a normal ground area, I've had to make something work for me.  Now, maybe this year, something I plant will not work, which I have had happened.  It just depends on the weather,  what I do like about these is I can move them, and I can cover them if I get a freak change in the weather here, which will be coming during March and April and May.  Last year, it did not warm up until the first week in July, I had to keep my cucumbers and tomatoes covered with plastic and it worked and I only lost a couple of tomatoes and cucumbers, so they are handy for unexpected weather changes.  I also like the fact that if we have a bad hail storm, I can drag some of my containers I use for my herbs, under the car port to protect them.  I am working on an idea for a simple frame cover, with hardware cloth to place over pots for hail protection.  This is one of my goals this year.

Well, I think that I talked enough.  I need to get a few things done in the house, and run a few errands and then who know what else.  Never know in this house.

Anyway, take care all, have a great weekend in what ever you are doing, or just relax and enjoy the days.



  1. What a great post Denim. That was a really good deal on those blue containers, and I'm glad they've done well for you. I look forward to seeing your containers full of veggies come spring/summer. You are doing a great job and I know you are feeling good about getting your hands dirty and getting things planted.

    Hurray for you!


  2. What a good price on those blue tubs. It pays to ask.

    I have heard some who fill the bottom of large tubs with something bulky so it doesn't take so much potting soil. Most plants just need around 6 inches to grow well. Just a thought.

    I like the idea of a frame for protection.

    We are still having some nice weather here too...loving it.

  3. I've built things with rebar and bailing wire. A length of rebar is not all that expensive (a 20 foot length of 3/8 inch rebar is only about $7). It comes in different lengths (2', 4', 8', etc) at a building supply place. I made a great trellis for my honeysuckle out of two 8-foot lengths and four 4-foot lengths, and wired them together with bailing wire. Only cost me $10 -- the trick is having a way to bend it, which I did using a small metal stake driven into the ground to hold the end, and bent it around the pole of my clothesline. You could make a frame for your tarp/plastic with rebar pretty easily, which would be very sturdy, yet wouldn't be all that heavy -- maybe 10 lbs. You could use a hammer to drive it into the soil so it wouldn't blow over. It would be "permanent" since it could be left in place, and you could throw a tarp over it very quickly in a weather emergency. You could bend the long pieces into a U shape, and then tie the shortpieces one on each side and one across the top like an awning frame. Another thought, if you could pick up some wire mesh like chicken wire (a roll 2-feet wide and 50 feet long is about $8 -- I think you can get shorter lengths too)-you could stake those over several pots that you grow squash or melons in, or even tomatoes in, let the vines grow up through the mesh so the squash would grow on top of the mesh and not lie in the dirt. You could get more vines per pot that way since you could extend the mesh over the side of the pot -- wire it to your rebar frame for support for example -- giving plenty of room for the squash or zucinnis or whatever to spread out on the mesh. You could reuse the mesh year after year, since the metal is galvanized. Likewise the rebar. Of course, if they've demolished a building in your area, you might be able to scrounge some rebar for free.