With a few days off from work we have done some work in the garden. With the coop pretty much done and the chicks out it was time to get the garden ready for fall. I have placed a gutter in front of the coop that gets full sun but for not as long a period as the gutters in the drive way. I will have another one to the left of the gate [this is to the right] and also one on the left or west side of the coop. I plan on having my herbs in this area around the coop.
Since I have a wire “skirt” around the entire coop that is attached to the wire sides to keep things from being able to dig into the coop, I am going to put a wood mulch down around the coop to cover the wire. I am going to kill off what little grass/weeds are growing in the area with some vinegar then take the landscape timbers you see and create a boundary around the coop to keep the mulch contained. But that is another days project.. today I planted some seeds, garlic and also re-potted some herbs. With the gutter garden you have water in the gutter and need a way to wick up the water into the containers. Most use the net cups used in hydroponics systems in the bottom of their containers. I like them in the taller buckets or kitty litter containers as they pull up a lot of water, especially when filled with a mixture that contains a lot of peat. But for the smaller containers and tubs I am using I find the soil mixture gets a bit too wet. Nice to keep in mind for something that likes wet feet.. but not what I needed. So I got to thinking about how to wick water up into the containers and came up with using old dish towels.
To set up a pail to wick water I carefully drill a small hole in the bottom of the plastic pails I am using. I get them at the grocery for $1 so they are pretty cheap and will crack if you try to stick a knife or a scissor point into them. I use my Dremmel and kinda waller out a hole. I have also used my drill and a screw to drill a few holes close together then taken a pair of scissors and inserted them down into one of the holes then carefully twisted them around and into the hole so it connected the small screw holes. Pre-drilling the holes seems to work best for me.
I the cut about a 2″ wide strip of a cotton dish towel across the narrow end of the towel. I tie a knot where I will have enough towel to hang down into the gutter and push the end down through the hole and pull the towel so the knot is on top of the hole. I would say the knot is about 4″ from the end that goes down into the gutter.
Since I want the wicking to be pretty uniform I add about a half-inch of peat to the bottom of the pail and add water to completely soak and wet the peat. The peat can tend to resist water until it is wet down. So I add the water and then mix it around with my hand until it is all wet and the clumps are broken up. I add enough water in the pot bottom to make the peat soupy. The tail on the wick I keep up above the peat.
Then I start to fill the pot with my soil mixture. I am using about 1/3 peat, 1/3 manure and 1/3 garden soil that looks like it has been composted mulch. I add a handful of epsom salt and also a large handful of garden lime. For fertilizer I add a good vegetable Osmocote and mix it all together. For plants that prefer a richer soil they get more of the manure and less of the soil. If I need to make sure the soil stays well-drained then can add some perlite or more of the garden soil as it has larger particles and should allow more air. Reducing the peat content will also give a drier mix.
Once the pail is half way full I take a piece of 2×4 scrap I have that is about 12″ long and use the end to tamp down the soil. I also add water at this point to dampen the mix. I continue to fill with dirt till I can set the root ball of the plant I am potting on the soil and have the crown of the plant slightly lower than the edge of the pail. Then I start to fill around the root ball using the 2×4 to tamp as I go.
Once re-potted the plants are placed on the gutter making sure the tail is in the water. I have had great success with all the herbs in these pails. I have several different Basils, some catnip that is really coming on now, Oregano, Stevia and a couple of varieties of Thyme. I plan I adding to my herb collection as we go forward as I am really enjoying the taste of the fresh herbs in my cooking.
For the onion, garlic and parsley I am growing them in tubs. Once again I got the containers for $1 from my local grocery. For the tubs I used the Dremmel to cut two slits in the tote on the bottom. I then put the ends through each slit to create a band that will bring the water up and into the soil above. As in the pails, I added a layer of peat and soaked it until completely wet. Then the potting mix was added and tamped down when we got to the half way point. I continued to fill, tamp and watered until I got about an inch from the top for the containers I wanted to put seeds in. I used these totes to plant onion seeds, radishes and some lettuce. The radishes and lettuce will be harvestable in about a month and I will try to get one more crop or so in before it gets too cold to grow them any more. The onions I hope to get germinated and grown through the winter. Come spring they will be replanted into a container to finish growing out for harvest.
The garlic tubs I filled with the soil to almost the top. Then I pushed the garlic cloves down into to the soil. I got 9 clove in each of the tubs.. three across and three down. We will see how these do for growing the garlic. I think I would like a slightly larger container but since we are still experimenting these tubs are cheap and will allow me to see how successful we will be.
This was my work area. My son cleaned out an old building for someone and brought me that table. It is plastic and almost the right height for a planting table. I will get some cinder blocks to go under the legs and it will be perfect. The area is under the shade of a Mesquite and I think will be a nice work area for my garden projects. In time the compost piles will be enclosed with hardware cloth, have hinged doors on the front and also on the top. Then I will create an access door from the run so the chickens can get into the compost and scratch around. With their scratching and contributions to the piles I hope to produce compost quickly. Once the compost piles are up and producing it will make everything I need handy and in the same area.
It was really nice to be outside with the temps a bit cooler. I also thoroughly enjoyed watching the chicks experience their first day outdoors. Watching them scratch around and chase bugs while working on the garden made for a most enjoyable day. The gutter garden is producing though not as abundantly as expected. I skimped on the soil and did not fertilize regularly. I also do not have the gutters set up to a water barrel to keep the water supply constant. The tomatoes really suffered because of all of that. So we are taking some notes and next season we will try a few things different. In the mean time we are taking the lessons learned into the fall garden so hopefully we will have a much better harvest.