Paul Nickerson

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

One Gallon Vertical Grow Containers

In Alternative Agriculture on June 1, 2011 at 8:17 pm

We assembled these containers by first planting the seeds in trays. When the seedlings grew their first sets of true leaves, we removed them from the trays and fed their roots through the hole in the container. We used a small amount of newspaper as a collar to protect the stem of the plant from the sharp edge of the plastic, and filled the container with potting mix.

The herbs were grown on top of the containers from seed, and seem to be doing very well. The herbs seem to aid in water retention inside the containers. This has helped us to utilize the maximum amount of available space.

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The Potato Tower: Bigger and (Hopefully) Better!

In Alternative Agriculture on June 1, 2011 at 10:13 am

Outdoor Potato Tower

After the problems with Fire Safety, who apparently were under the impression I had a heat lamp in my room, I reconstructed my Indoor Potato Tower in my basement to continue seeing how that would turn out.

In an effort to upscale the Potato Tower project, I have also constructed this larger tower in the garden at the school. It is currently six feet tall, and about four feet across. To maximize space, I planted it with Red Pontiac potatoes. As a filling media I am using a compost-soil mix that will provide a high amount of nutrients for the plants.

For those of you who are confused as to why we are burying beautiful plants, potatoes grow along the buried stem of the plant. By increasing the amount of stem we are able to bury, we can drastically increase yield per unit ground space.

Trellises ‘On The Up and Up’

In Gardening on June 1, 2011 at 10:06 am

In the garden this year, we are utilizing three different methods of constructing trellises, each with their pros and cons. As the season is progressing and plants are growing, I figured it would be useful to look at these different methods and discuss the details surrounding each.

Net Trellis

The first two methods are very similar, and are typically used for climbing vegetables such as sugar snap peas. Down the middles of two of the rows, frames were constructed using 3/4 inch PVC and fittings. Each frame consists of four uprights, about 6 feet tall, and sections of piping that form a backbone along the top. Trellis netting was hung, attached using bits of string and strips of plastic bags, to the frame. It is important to pull the netting tight so that it can effectively support the weight of the plants, as they will be planted along both sides of the trellis.

While this system is very easy to set up, a large biomass of plants may weight the netting down, causing the plants to be less supported. Also, while netting can be very inexpensive, it can be difficult to remove the plants and store the netting for the following season without tangling it beyond repair. We found it more effective to throw away last years netting and buy new netting for this year as it was not stored properly.

There are two main materials from which the nets are constructed, a slick, polyester like string, and a material not unlike kite string. The later has a tendency to become tangled and form knots, while the more plastic style netting slips loose of knots, and is much more user friendly! (We found this out the hard way as well!)

Chicken Wire Trellis

The second method we used is very similar, except that it is constructed from metal rods and chicken wire. Three tall, metal rods were hammered into the ground. One on each end, and one in the middle of the row, for support. A long section of chicken wire was then stretched along the length of the row, and attached using hardware wire. The plants again are planted along both sides of the trellis.

This style trellis can be a little more expensive to construct, but it can hold a great deal more weight than the netting. Furthermore, the plants can be easily pulled from the chicken wire and it can be rolled up, and stored away for the following season. While the initial investment might be more, such trellises can be reused year after year.

The last trellis we constructed is less of a trellis, as the plants are not climbing, but rather is more of a support system. We use this method to support our tomatoes as they grow, allowing for a more organized row, and easier harvesting. We placed a wooden stake between each tomato plant, and one on each end of the row.

Twine Wrapped Around Stake

About eight inches off the ground, you start your first support line. To do this, we tied the end of a ball of garden twine to the end stake. Running the twine parallel to the ground, pull it tight against the next stake in the row. Wrap it once around the stake, and continue on down the row, wrapping the twine once, tightly, around each stake. When you get to the end of the row, wrap the twine tightly around the last stake, then in a similar manner as before, move from one stake to the next, wrapping the twine around each stake, and continuing on to the first stake. Pull the twine tight, and tie it off.

Threading Tomatoes

This process will form a set of tight, parallel lines that run the entire length of the row. The tomato plants will then be trained between these lines, giving them proper support as they mature. This process can be continued up the stakes as is needed to properly support the plants. Although this method of trellising tomatoes is almost impossible to reuse, I think it looks a lot cleaner, and more natural than metal cages.

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