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Building a planter for tomatoes

Building a planter for tomatoes

It’s been a while, but I wanted to post about the planter I have just built to grow tomatoes in.

I designed and built this myself and hoped to be able to save a lot of money, but be able to get fresh produce at the end of all this. The total cost of everything that I spent money on is $61.60 (AUD). Here’s a bit of a break down…

Timber – $18.57 – 3 x 3.6m lengths of 150x25mm treated pine @$6.19 each

Hardware -$0 – I already had spare decking screws

Soil and rocks – $11.37 – 2 bags of potting mix and 1 bag of compost soil additive – also some rocks and dirt from the garden

Plants – $31.66 – Heirloom Tomatoes $3.79 x 2, Mini Roma $6.17 x 2, Butter Beans $4.36 x 1, Marigolds $3.02 x 1, Nasturtiums $4.36 x 1.

Grand Total = $61.60

Having said that I did buy established seedlings which is always more expensive, but I wanted to get started straight away. A lot of money could be saved by growing from seed. I also had a lot of screws left over from a previous decking project (https://myriadprojects.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/adding-the-boards/) so that could increase costs for others. (I used stainless steel ones with square drive heads)

Anyway to get to the details, I started with 3 lengths of 3.6 – which I cut to 1.8 lengths with a drop saw. I then cut one of the lengths up into smaller sections. This was for the sides and dividers. Each of the smaller lengths were 275mm long (the width of two boards on top of each other, minus the height of the bottom board). I also cut three equal length sections with the remaining timber to use as feet. I didn’t end up doing that, but it would be good if you needed to have better drainage.

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The next thing I did was line it all up on the deck to make sure if fit together. A very important step – it’s good to find out problems before you start screwing things together.

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Then I needed to drill some pilot holes for the screws holding the ends on. I used the timber I would be putting on the side as a guide, lined it up and then drilled. I also used a larger bit after the first one as a counter sink. I then found it easier to stand it up like a bench with the bottom up in the air. The three screws in each side gave it enough strength to hold it together.

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Once I was happy with the bottom and ends, I attached the two boards on the one side. These then matched up with the ends to keep it all square.

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After that the dividers needed to go in for both strength and to separate the plants. I measured the board in thirds and then drilled and screwed from the bottom first, then from the side.

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I then attached the last two boards in the same way, starting with the two ends first and then the dividers.

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Once they were done, the box was complete. I just put some drainage holes in the bottom with a hole drilling bit away from the dividers.

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It fitted perfectly in the area I wanted it – you can see the full sunlight above. 🙂

I then put some rocks in the bottom to help with drainage, and some rocky soil mixed with potting mix for a base. I later put another bag of potting mix and also organic compost in there as well. All up, I think I used about 100 litres of soil.

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Then the final result.

I planted two plants of heirloom tomatoes (big juicy ones) on the left, with mini romas on the right (they grow in clusters, almost like grapes). In the middle I put in Butter Beans for something different. All of these can be tied to the fence to help with their growth. Once they start to grow, I’ll tie them up with old pantyhose (because it’s flexible) or wire if needed. Around the front and side I planted Nasturtiums and Marigolds because they not only look nice, but help keep pests away from my tomatoes without using pesticides. The more organic the better.

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It will still take a few months before I see fruit, but at least they’re in and growing. 🙂

 

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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 4

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 4

Last week we looked at growing an onion in a two litre coke bottle.

Exactly one week after planting the onion, I took a photo of it’s progress. I continued to take a photo each week to show the progress. Be aware, though, that there was a lot of growth and it had to be trimmed many times. We actually used the onion leaves as a herb in cooking.

Unfortunately I discovered a downside to Terrace Plants… bugs. I’m working on trying to find a solution, but our kitchen got infested with tiny bugs and I had to get rid of the (egg infested) plant. However it did give me an opportunity to see how much it had grown over a month or so.

One week after being potted:

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Two weeks after being potted :

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Three weeks after potting :

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Four weeks after potting – the end…

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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday

 

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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 3

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 3

 

 

 

I once read somewhere that you can cut the bottom off an onion and grow a new one. I thought I’d give it a go.

I found an onion that had started to sprout a few roots in the fridge and cut the bottom off it. I then suspended the onion bottom with toothpicks over a glass of water. I topped the water up as needed and left it in there until there was a decent amount of green growth. You can see below when I thought it might be time to repot it.

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Since I don’t have a garden, I decided to use an empty two litre soft drink bottle as the pot for the onion. I can keep it on my window sill and see how it grows.

 

 

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I removed the label and cut the top part off, giving me heaps of room to pot the plant.

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The next step was to drill holes in the bottom to give the soil drainage. Pooling water will rot the roots!

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To further help with drainage, I filled the very bottom with small rocks. This will ensure that the water happily flows through and out of the holes.

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Once the drainage is established, the next step is to put the soil in. I just used potting mix, but you can also use the soil I have spoken about previously on my blog. I also threw in some slow release fertiliser to feed the plant.

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The slow release stuff works best right at the roots, so it’s good to put some extra soil in on top of it. Make it into a kind of funnel so that you can just pop the plant in and add more soil.

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Here’s the “funnel” being filled by the plant. Try to get all the roots to go in to the middle of the dirt and then you can add more dirt around it…

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Once you’ve filled the container up with soil and there is a little poking out the top to encourage growth, it’s time to water the plant. Since it can be a little traumatic for the plant to be repotted, it’s a good idea to water the plant gently. Do this by placing it into the sink with a plug in and slowly filling the sink with water until it’s at the same level as the dirt. This will allow the water to soak through and water the plant without displacing the roots.

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Then remove the plant from the water, allow it to drain and then place it on the window sill and watch it grow! I’ll revisit the progress of the plant next week.

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Posted by on August 15, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday

 

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Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 1

Terrace Plant Thursday – Issue 1

Welcome to the first edition of Terrace Plant Thursday!

Over the next few months (or as long as I have material), I’m dedicating Thursday blog posts to gardening tips. The gardening tips that I’ll be focusing on will revolve around stuff that you can do if you very little space. From a window sill to a balcony or terrace/courtyard, these tips will let you be able to do gardening without needing a garden to do it in. Of course if you have more room you can always just do more of it!

To start the whole thing off I want to talk about the soil that I use the whole way through this series, and in fact all the time. When you pot a plant, the soil is only one small part of the whole thing – you need fertiliser, water, the plant, etc. But, if the soil is nice and rich and the plant likes it, it really helps the growth.

This is the secret to my special soil mix.

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What you see above is the key ingredients – egg, coffee and tea. Sounds weird, right? It’s not only great for the soil and the plant, but also for the environment.

Egg

So everyone knows that eggs are high in protein and nutrients and that they help living things grow up to be big and strong. Plants are living things!

I came to a point where I got sick of throwing away so many egg shells and wondered if I could do something else with them. I researched a bit on the net and found that throwing them in the compost is great. However, I can’t have a compost bin because my flat has nowhere to put it.

Then I remembered that a friend of mine throws his egg shells into a pestle and grinds them up with a mortar to get them to almost a powdery state. I looked this up and apparently this is a great way for the egg shells to deposit their rich nutrients into the soil and into the growing plants.

You have to make sure that you rinse out all of the white yolk and skin from inside the shells and then leave them to dry before grinding them up, though. Otherwise you end up with a papery type of skin in there and it doesn’t crush.

Coffee

I love my coffee and I have a great coffee machine at home that makes great drip filter coffee. Again, I got sick of throwing out all of the coffee grinds and wondered if there was something else I could do with them.

I got really inspired by a bunch of guys in the US who are using spent coffee grinds to grow mushrooms and decided to dry my used grinds out and see how they go. (http://store.backtotheroots.com/MushroomKit_p/mushroom-kit.htm)

Because I don’t need that much for my plants, I just occasionally tip the filter contents onto some paper towel and leave it sit in the sun to dry out. Then when it’s dry, I put it into a container and save it for later.

In my experience, I found that mixing coffee into the soil makes for a great rich nutrient meal for plants. Seeds also love starting off in coffee – it’s easy to grow in, has nutrients and makes them shoot up really quickly!

Tea

Okay, pretty much the same story as the above, but I hate throwing out the tea bags. I just open up the tea bags (black tea, not herbal stuff) and lay the contents out to dry like I do with the coffee.

I haven’t really seen if this makes a huge difference, but it doesn’t seem to hurt and it’s recycling a tea bag here and there.

The Soil

So, once you have saved up a bunch of these ingredients (the coffee and egg will do, the tea is a bonus), put them into a bowl and mix it all up. I usually put in a tablespoon of coffee, a tablespoon of egg “powder” and a cup of soil. It seems to be a nice mix.

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In the spirit of keeping gardening cheap, I use the cheapest potting mix I can find. The extra stuff makes it great, but I really don’t think it matters too much what sort of soil you use. If you are potting seeds or bonsai, I would also suggest a tablespoon of sand, but it isn’t that necessary.

I will be using this soil mix for all of my planting and potting through this series, so I wanted to get this out there first.

Thanks for reading – next issue will be about how to make your herbs tastier.

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2013 in Terrace Plant Thursday

 

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Planting Clivias

Planting Clivias

Now that all the boards are finished it’s time to pretty up the backyard a bit, starting with adding a little bit of greenery.

When I first cleared out the gardens (way before construction of the frame for the deck) I kept all the plants I removed and put them in pots. This turned out to be a great idea as I had a lot of plants available to green up the place without having to buy any! Besides, the ones that survived in pots for a long time turned out to be the most hardy.

One of the plants that I had a lot of was clivias. They are a fairly small plant with large green leaves and pretty orange flowers. They also have berry looking seeds that add to the colour and appearance. You can find out more about them at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clivia

Before planting them I had to get the garden bed ready. As you may have noticed from my previous post, I had a half buried coppers log (treated pine log) to form the border of the pavers. I wanted to freshen this up a little so I removed the log and cast it aside here’s a picture of what it looks like (and where it ended up is a secret…)

Anyway, with that gone I decided to put a spare length of decking board as the border to hold the pavers and to hold the dirt back. You’ll see it in future photos, but here’s a close up of how it worked out. I also had a lot of containers holding dirt and used the dirt to fill in the area a bit.

A word about keeping dirt. Worms are awesome natural ways to add fertilizer and to aerate the soil, making it a fantastic start for replanted plants. To encourage worms going through the soil, I filled old pots with dirt that had various bits of natural detritus (like leaves and roots and sticks). The worms enter through the drainage holes of the pot and move through the soil eating the debris and adding fertilizer. It’s a good idea to put a layer of leaves and sticks on top of the pots to keep the moisture in and to provide extra food for the worms.

Once the bed was bordered and topped up with soil, it was time to plant the clivias. I didn’t have much room (width-wise) and wanted to make it look as full as possible. I therefore opted for a trench-style planting. Basically I dug a trench through the middle of the garden bed and then placed the clivias in the middle of the trench.

To explain the best way to plant clivias, I’ll go through step by step how to remove them from the pots. The best thing about clivias is that if you put one in a pot, it will grow other shoots which then grow into mature plants in the same pot. I ended up having sometimes 5 or 6 clivias in the one pot! So because I had left these in pots for some time, they looked pretty haggard due to leaves and sticks falling from them out of a nearby tree as well as weeds taking root in the pot.

The first step was to remove all of the unwanted stuff in the pot to clean it up a bit. The leaves and weeds can be kept aside and either used in compost or use it to make a nice leaf litter for a mulch.

Much better! Now the next step is to remove it from the pot. For this step you can’t be gentle, you’ve just got to shake the pot until the whole thing falls out. Ideally, shake it in a horizontal way so the plant comes out without damaging the leaves too much. If it’s hard to come out, tap the bottom of the pot to loosen it away from the pot.

You can see that the plants were becoming quite root bound – that is filling the pot with roots instead of dirt. The best thing you can do to prepare for replanting it to remove a lot of the roots. They will grow back quickly, though so don’t worry too much. My theory is that plants distribute energy in growth equally to their leaves and roots. If the roots are damaged or if there isn’t enough water, the plant concentrates on the roots more than the leaves. When you replant, you want the clivia to concentrate on building new roots to become more solid in the ground. Therefore, if you get rid of some of the roots, the plant will put all it’s energy into making itself more solid in it’s new environment. To do this, just grab a shovel and chop at it. Keep the excess roots and dirt and put them in a pot to let the worms do their magic. They love clivia roots, by the way.

Although this looks butchered, the root ball size here is more than enough to start the planting. I guess the root ball itself is about the size of your fist. If there are multiple plants in the one pot, just get the blade of the shovel in there and separate them at the roots. Then cut each one back to a similar sized root ball and plant them as individual plants. You can then put them straight into the trench we dug earlier and then cover them with dirt.

Just continue doing this until the trench if filled. As I said earlier, I planted them quite close together to give it a bushy look. If you plant them further apart, they will grow over time to fill up the bed. Don’t forget that once you have put them all in to give them a really good water and then stand back and admire your handy work. You can sprinkle some slow release fertilizer through the bed if you wish (like Osmocote) but in my case, the worms helped me with that for free!

 

All that’s left now is to clean up and move onto the next section of the garden (to the left in this picture), but that’s another blog post. 🙂

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Decking [COMPLETE]

 

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