Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thanks blogging buddies!

I really appreciare your links and advice :) I'm still debating how on earth to make this the best garden ever without breaking my very pitiful budget. Priced out wood at home depot, redwood is 3-4 times the price of untreated fir. We could probably build a 4 x 8 foot, 12 ft deep fir raised bed for around $25, not including the screws, anchors, pvc for hoops, floating row cover or the hardward fabric to line it with. I'm still researching the cheapest way of buying those.

I'm excited to report that my new lights came in! They are some cheap plug in play shop lights from amazon.com . I was a bit worried since the reviews warned that they are shipped in flimsy boxes and the units almost always get damaged- but for the price ( and my impatience) I tok a chance. The boxes looked like shit to be true, but both lights fired up ok. I got some cheap T12 40 watt bulbs at Home Depot, a 6700k and a 4100 K- I don't remember what the 'best' bulbs were for growing plants, but since its a short term thing anyway, I just grabbed one of each. I had been hoping to have more help from Mr.Sun himself, but apparently hes been on vacation the last few weeks with all the rain and clouds, so I needed to do something other then switch trays from the 1 shelf with lighting every day. Now for sure anyone who walked by the window would think I'm growing 'stuff' LMAO. Heres my nice new setup:

I'll probably turn the trays on the top shelf to squeeze 1 more tray I want to get started with some more lettuce and some of the seeds I got at the swap.

Grow my tomato/pepper/eggplant babies!
onions, swiss chard, and pak choi.
I'm also in a quandry about what potting mix to use in my planned SWCs. I was going to do a DIY potting soil mix ( 1/3 coir, 1/3 compost, 1/4 vermiculite or perlite) using coconut coir instad of peat moss, but I was outside checking on a bin on pure coir that got rained on, and even tho it looks light and fluffy, you can take a handful and wring out a good amount of water out. Like, almost equal to its volume in water. Thats good news in that it holds water, really, really well- but now I'm worried that in a SWC design it may hold TOO much water and lead to waggerlogging issues with the plants. Adding perlite or vermiculite may help, I dont know till I've made a few 'mixes' on a smaller scale to see how they compare. Spring frost date is this week, ahhh! I'm so not ready, and with the ground still soaked from todays rains not much I can do out there but plan and obsess.

So now I'm debating how to make a new mix for the SWCs, or if I should just skip the water resivoir part of the SWC altogether, and basically just drill holes at the bottom of these rubbermaid bins for drainage, plant in them, and just top water as needed. I could even make some of those watering stake bottles with 2 L cola bottles if the mix starts to dry out too much.

I have to consider tomatoes, esp indeterminates are heavy drinkers, plus our summers are over 100 easy, very low humidity, and oftentimes windy. All very drying factors. Its a big scale in my head...too much water in the soil....too many factors that can dry the plants out to a crisp in a container. Luckily both areas I am planning for SWCS get morning sun from sunup to around 2-3pm then are shaded partially by the house, so I'm hoping that will help prevent blossom drop and poor fruit set in the hottest part of the year.

Gah, why do I do this? I have this idea I'm all confident with and then I read so much of other peoples opionions and experiences I get nervous, panic and lose all confidence in what I thought I had figurd out! LOL Its what I love about the "blogosphere" its this huge everchanging library of information at my fingertips whenever I escape to the computer and want to learn something.

Or drive myself nutts from an information overload!


ChristyACB said...

I hear you on the coir, I finally decided not to risk it. It stayed pretty soggy. I figured my hint was that they used coir here in my wetlands as boundary because it can soak up so much water and remain in shape. Hmm..probably not what a tomato wants! LOL.

I went with Mel's Mix in some of my areas, which is just an equal mix of compost, peat and vermiculite. It is a very light soil mix so if it is windy I wouldn't use it for tall things but it sure does provide a good drink of water yet wick well.

For your long hot summers, I think you just have to get used to providing a drink more often. I sure did in my raised beds. We get a very similar temp profile, but we do have high humidity and I still wound up watering almost daily. Used straw as mulch and that worked a bit.

Good luck and let us know what you decided!

Sinfonian said...

Cynthia, for your beds, check out pressure treated construction grade wood. It's cheaper than dirt and will hold up for a decade. Untreated fir should last about half that in our area. Not sure in yours.

Great lights. Those are the same ones I got for the same price at Lowes, but if you got free shipping, great. hehe. And yes, mine came in flimsy boxes. Not shipping grade by any means.

Oh, I hope you raised the lights to take a picture. The lights are supposed to be no farther than 2 inches above the tops of the plants.

My SWCs all have Mel's mix in them because that's what I had. Peat or Coir, same difference for the most part. And you want water retainage for a SWC. It has a tiny air reservoir to keep roots from becoming waterlogged. And shame on you for thinking not to go SWCs, the no waste feature alone should make them mandatory for the drought you all will have this summer. hehe. Of course, do whatever you want.

Oh, instead of the 2 liter bottle trick, look at EG's blog post. Defintely worth it for your hedge of tomatoes...


You're doing great. You're just overwhelmed with the huge task of building a garden from scratch on a shoestring budget. I would love to help you figure out the cheapest way. It's a passion of mine to help folks garden for next to no money in these economic times...

Cindy said...

hmmm, looks like I need to raise the seed trays with shoeboxes again. I had hoped the lights would be strong enough to work without being so close, esp since the tomato seedlings are growing so darn fast.

stacy on FG found a local guy that rototills your garden for only .23 a sq foot and free composted horse manure (you pay him to haul it or haul it yourself) and for my 625 sq ft area its like $180 for his time and labor. Def sounds tempting since I can't do squat with 2 toddlers underfoot and hubby is getting worked to death before they can him. Or rent a rototiller from home depot for $60 and try to do it all myself. bleh.

Sinfonian said...

Too bad we're not closer. I've got a rototiller. I don't use it often because I've got raised beds, but it helped to clear the area fast enough.

I hear you on the toddler thing. Too bad you don't have extended family close to watch them and help. hehe. I hope your hubby either gets a new job soon or they keep him and give him some normal hours. Grrr.

The composted HM sounds like a good idea. If I were you I'd start a hot compost pile ASAP to add to whatever you do. Free home compost is amazing stuff. Just a suggestion.

Good luck!