Creating a planting container from an old stump

In my quest to build a homestead on a budget I’m always looking to re-purpose stuff. Several months ago on our way home from dinner we saw the remains of a tree our neighbors had cut down. The tree was hollowed out at the base and I thought it would make an awesome flower pot. So we tossed the stump into our trunk and took it home.

The next day after inspecting it I noticed that the insides were filled with some nasty gik. So I filled it with wood and dry leaves and set it on fire. The inside of the stump burned for a couple of hours which hopefully killed whatever disease was resident. The stump was then rolled into the orchard and filled with soil. Here’s what it looks like now:

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We added a few ice plants to the front and attempted to grow butterfly weed in the back. The butterfly weed never took but the ice plants thrived in the pot. This spring we will keep an eye out for some drought tolerant perennials on the discount rack to finish it off.

An update on my hugul pot experiment

I previously discussed my hugul pot experiment. Well it’s been a few months since my seeds went in and I’m finally starting to see some results. We’ve been picking approximately one squash a week from each hugul pot, though we have been getting roughly the same production from the non-hugul pot as well. Here is one of the yellow squash pots:

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I have definitely noticed that the hugul pots have more yellow leaves than the pot that contains just planting mix. This is most likely caused by the wood taking up the available nitrogen as it decays, and supplementing this with fertilizer hasn’t really made a difference. I’m starting to think that hugul pots may take some time to get established, so I’m not fretting things quite yet. It’s great to be able to pick squash, and hopefully we will see our production pick up in the years to come!

Growing vegetables in hugul pots (hugulkulture-derived container gardening)

I recently came across an interesting container gardening idea while reading through the Permies hugulkulture forum. The blogger talked about how he experimented with hugul pots, which consist of a pot, a chunk of wood and enough compost and soil to cover the wood. This is the application of hugulkulture concepts, so being a curious gardener I had to try this out!

I started with 6 plastic pots. I like plastic pots since they keep moisture in during the warm summers and they aren’t as big and bulky as terra cotta pots. To make sure this was a valid test I isolated one pot as a test pot. This pot contains soil and no wood. The other five pots have an inch of compost on the bottom, a chunk of wood in the center and were filled with garden soil. I also added 8 – 10 additional drain holes to make sure excess water was able to drain out. Here are the beginnings of the hugul pots:

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After I added the wood I made sure to soak it really well with water. All six pots were then filled with soil, topped with 1/2 cup of azomite, a 1/4 cup of organic fertilizer and then mulched heavily with wood chips. Here is a picture of the finished product:

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I planted zuccini in the test pot as well as one of the hugul pots. I just planted my seeds last weekend and will keep this blog updated with my progress. Super curious to see if this works.

Growing garlic is easy!

Being a new gardener, I have been trying to experiment with growing just about everything I can get my hands on. I’ve had success so far with cucumbers, lettuce and most recently garlic. Garlic is amazingly easy to grow, and I learned some useful tips in a gardening class I took a few weeks back. To get started growing garlic you will first need to grab a bulb of organic garlic from your favorite organic grocery store (you can also buy garlic bulbs online). I get my garlic from Whole Foods, but any organic store should do.

To plant your bulbs you will need to split apart the individual cloves. Each clove can be planted independently, and will produce a bulb just like the one you bought at the grocery store! Once you have your cloves broken apart you will need to dig a small hole for each clove you wish to plant. Each clove can be placed in a hole, but they need to be oriented so the pointy end of the garlic is facing up. I planted 12 cloves 4 weeks ago, and I now have 12 garlic bulbs coming up. Here is one of the garlic containers I planted:

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While this may not look like much, this container will produce 6 garlic bulbs. While not a ton of garlic, at least I will know where my garlic came from, and more importantly that it wasn’t drenched with a bunch of pesticides and nasty fertilizers. It was fertilized with worm tea, which came from the worm bin sitting 10 feet away from me. Can’t wait to harvest my first garlic bulbs in a few months!!!

How to produce lots of lettuce in an Earthbox

I am no doubt a fan of the amazing Earthbox. I had amazing success growing tomatoes, cucumbers and basil in the boxes I purchased, but after producing a mountain of food this summer my plants eventually died out. When I was removing the roots from the boxes I started to wonder what else I could grow in the soil that was left over. I eat a lot of salads so I figured I would give lettuce a shot. I don’t know much about lettuce, so after salivating over the pictures and reading the lettuce descriptions at Baker Creek, Botanical Interest and Territorial I decided to grow butterhead, buttercrunch, red sails and a mixed seed variety from Johnny’s select seeds.

To prep the soil in the Earthbox I removed the old fertilizer strip and then dumped the dirt out on a plastic tarp. I washed out the container, fluffed the dirt and poured it back in. I wasn’t planning to use the sub irrigation feature of the Earthbox for this go around, just the soil and container. When all the dirt was back in the box I mixed some water and worm tea from my worm factory and poured that over the top of the soil. Then every inch or so I made a small indentation and added 7 – 8 lettuce seeds. This turned out to be WAY TOO MANY seeds, so the next time around I will plant 2 – 3 seeds per hole. To ensure that each seed had the right nutrients to germinate, I sprinkled a little bit of the worm tea mixture in each hole and then put some 6mil plastic over the container. Then I sat back and waited.

It took about 3-days for the first seeds to show life, but after only a month both Earthboxes are FULL of delicious lettuce. We’ve been able to harvest a 5 – 6 salads worth of lettuce every 3 – 4 days. Here is a picture of our last harvest!:

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In addition to giving us all the greens we need the Earthboxes also look amazing:

Picture 1:
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Picture 2:
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This has been an amazing experience, and I can’t believe how much lettuce we are getting from just two Earthboxes! There is little to no maintenance (I only have to water every 3 – 4 days since the plastic keeps the moisture in), and the cut and come again approach is working very well for us. If you are a salad green connoisseur I would highly recommend picking up a container and some lettuce seeds. You will have fresh, healthy and tasty greens in no time flat, and you will have a blast watching them grow.