Since the soil in the self-watering containers stayed too wet last year, i've decided to add more perlite to the homemade mixture. There are lots of differing opinions on the internet about what the best soil mixture for swc's might be, and it seems like everyone is searching for the correct combination. Well, here's my theory on it - whether it be right or wrong. We all know that roots sitting in waterlogged soil will eventually begin to rot, because most fine - textured soils have what is called a perched water table. That is - even though water drains out of it, a portion of the soil will remain completely saturated. This phenomenon happens from the bottom up, and is not a desirable thing to have when using containers for growing tomatoes in. With the addition of enough perlite to a soil mixture ( which increases drainage ), a perched water table can effectively be lowered - even completely eliminated if desired. Here's a photo of my 2 big bags for amending with. My local farmer's cooperative orders anything I need, and they just plain rock!. Yay! Along with the wicking basket orifice reduction, this tomato growing season should be much better than last year.
Photo below - Here's a few buckets of saved soil from the swc's used last year, which were left out in the sun for a couple of days to dry out a bit. This particular mixture is 7 parts peat moss, 2 parts vermiculite, and 1 part perlite. It does well for most veggies, but pretty bad for growing tomatoes in a humid climate. I plan on altering it to a combination that is 6 parts peat, 3 parts perlite, and 1 part vermiculite. That should work much better, and hopefully keep my tomatoes from cracking when hot weather arrives.
Photo below - Even though previous attempts at growing potatoes have not been successful, i'll be trying them again this year - but in containers this time around. Most of the soil for these came from the saved swc soil, as I wanted to remove some of it from the 5 gallon buckets anyway to allow room for altering it. I laid down some leftover roof shingles from a few years back, then sat the pots on top of them. This keeps weeds from growing up into them later. It seems that me and ribbit had the same idea with potatoes this year....hehe.
I'll also be putting some perlite in the main garden bed, which should help the squash get the much needed drainage that it likes to have. The current mixture of "mel's mix" isn't ideal for squash, and they are stressed each time a heavy rain is experienced. As I found out last year on GW, that's why squash is planted in hills - to promote good drainage.
The weekend was very productive for me, and I even built a swc from the 16 gallon red bucket that was sitting at the edge of the property. It'll be used to grow honeydew melons in - 'cause we love those things! It's very likely that only 1 plant will be put in it, because I want to give the roots plenty of soil to grow in. If you've never tried the "cool green" variety, you're in for a real treat! No pumpkins this year, as they just take up way too much room (although the squashbugs that they attract can be quite entertaining for me, hehe) You know how I love beheading squashbugs!.....
In other news, things are happening so fast around here, I can't blog about them fast enough! My tomato seeds have germinated in 3 days (at least 400 of them), and they'll go into soil tomorrow after work. I started around 500, just in case some didn't make it. If any of you are interested in my quick germination method, i'll be glad to post about it.
I'd also like to thank Shawn and his wife from Trussville, Alabama for following the blog.
Take care, and happy gardening!