The garden did very well with the rain gutter grow system. The tomatoes I found I had better growth with a soil mixture containing more manure. We battled some yellowing leaves but got some decent production out of the Romas. The heirlooms really did not do that much for me but then again.. a better soil mix and also some regular feeding I think would have made a huge difference. I also did not get the float valves hooked up to a water barrel so I had to add water to the gutters every day and night. The row of tomatoes would completely drain the gutters dry so a more consistent water supply would also help to increase the harvest. All in all I think they did well and I have plans to be better prepared for their needs next season.
What really took off and did well were the herbs. I bought several Basils, Oregano, Stevia and Catnip from my grocery store and potted them up in pails I got for a dollar. I cut two parallel slits in bottom of the pails and took about an inch wide piece of old dish towel and put the ends down through the slits so they would sit in the gutter and wick up the water. Most herbs do not like to be really wet so I was careful about the amount of peat I used. I made sure to have some manure and also a soil that had various sized particles in it. I also added some lime and some Osmocote slow release fertilizer. It did not take long for the herbs to go crazy and put out some growth. The top photo is Thai Basil and the one here to the right is another smaller leafed Basil. We have already cut them back several times and dehydrated the leaves and they are sill coming back with a vengeance. I have found I enjoy the flavor the fresh dried herbs are bringing to my meals.
I also cut the stevia back and have dehydrate the leaves, but also have allowed a few branches to remain as it is going to seed. I bought one plant from the grocery and the other is one I started from seed. The seeds were expensive, difficult to find and even more difficult to grow. I want to collect and save some seeds to make sure if I ever need to start some again I have the seeds handy. I have co-workers wanting some stevia plants so need to do some research and experimenting to determine the best way to propagate the plant.
On my to-do list over the next few days is see if we got any potatoes. I tried to lift up the plastic tote so I could set it on the ground and tip it over to look for the potatoes and the tote started to shatter in my hands. Seems the relentless beating down of the suns UV rays pretty much destroyed the plastic. So.. note to self.. figure out something else to grow the potatoes and some other things like peanuts in before next spring. I am leaning towards some 30 or 55 gallon plastic barrels cut in half if I can get them for a decent price.
The parsley is struggling. I had it in another container and transplanted the small plants into these tubs. The leaves are green and the plants are growing but they are staying pretty short and stocky. I have another gutter that will be out by the chicken coop that will get a lot of sun.. but not as much as this location. Hopefully with a move I will get some better growth. I will also be adding some seeds to these containers to get a little growth before winter hits. These plants should go through the winter and I want a good crop next year. I love Tabouleh so want lots of parsley growing.
I received notice that my order of garlic has shipped. That means it is the right time of year to get that planted. I was hoping to grow them in the tubs I have the parsley in but may have to evaluate if they will have enough room for proper growth. I will also need to consider the suns rays possibly destroying anything I use and try to purchase containers I will get several seasons out of. I also need to get some onion seeds planted to grow through the winter for next seasons crop. I will get them started then thin them next year to finish their growing.
With the cooling temps I am going to get some lettuce and radishes planted. After paying almost a dollar a bag for small bags of radishes I am looking forward to getting those growing and harvested in another month. I may also throw out some carrot seeds just to see if I can get a fall crop from them as well.
What I really like about this gutter system is the ability to make a custom soil mix for each plant and the no weeds aspect of it. I have been doing research on what I want to grow and making notes of what each plant likes in terms of ph, fertility and moisture retention. What I need to do is start keeping some better notes on what I try for the soil and what works and does not work. I also need to get a good supply of the soil components, the fertilizers and containers ready so I am always ready to go.
I want to get several 55 gallon barrels to hold water. I want one to collect rain water off the chicken coop that will feed their water system. I want two to collect the rain that pours down from the peaked roof over my front door and lastly the one to supply water to the gutter garden. I think everything will do much better with a consistent water supply and we will also try adding compost tea to the water to provide fertilizer to everything growing. I think I went through about 60 gallons a day keeping three gutters filled with water. Though that did not impact my water bill that much, I think I am headed to at least a dozen gutters to grow my vegetables in, so having some water provided free of charge from Mother Nature is going to help me keep the water bill within reason.
I plan on sitting down after I get my Fall stuff planted with all my seeds and determining a planting chart based on our average temps and days to harvest. Then I will need to determine how many gutters I will need to grow everything and how to rotate plants through the system. Having a plan and everything in place and ready to go should make next years harvest much better that this years. Since I have been adding a gutter here and there we have kinda been behind on getting things planted and finances did not always allow me to have everything I needed at the time I needed it. So winter will be a time of getting everything bought and ready to go come spring. Though not a complete success, the gutter garden is proving it has a lot of potential and I am excited to perfect it over the coming years.