Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Raised Pots - A new science experiment

I've been thinking about doing this for a while.

7 years of pots—a solution looking for a problem
I really want more raised beds for my veggies, after moles killed my snow peas by lifting them out of the ground, and almost did the same to half my spring broccolis. BUT—as everyone knows, raised beds cost $$$$—far more than a year's supply of frozen broccoli. Meanwhile, I have a large pile of pots just waiting for me to recycle them. So I took my six baby winter brocs this morning and gave each one a mole-free and hopefully vole-free home in a 2-gallon pot.

2-gallon pots, fiberglass mesh, and a baby broc
I started with 1-gallon pots, but then I remembered how big my spring broccolis got, and how thick those stems were. I don't want to crowd their roots. The drain holes in the 2-gallon pots are big enough to let a vole or a baby mole through, if it were lucky enough to find it, so I lined the bottom of each pot with 1/8" fiberglass mesh, the same stuff I used under the strawberry raised bed. I really can't see any critter wanting to chew through fiberglass, it's inert, and little roots can get through it if they want to.

Buried in the soil, ready for insulation
I mixed in store-bought compost with the soil, just for a bit of extra tilth and drainage, and then dug a hole and buried about 4" of the pot in the soil. I didn't want to bury them all the way, which would help keep the roots from freezing, because that would make it easy for voles to climb into them, but I didn't want to leave them completely exposed, because that would make the soil more likely to freeze during the freezing spells. If we do have an extended freeze—like the ten-day one we had a few years ago—then I may lose them anyway. As the soil warms up and they start to grow in the early spring, I'm hoping the slight elevation will help the upper soil drain well and maybe warm up a bit earlier than the surrounding soil, which is one of the major benefits of raised beds.

Just need a few more leaves
After I planted each one, I filled the top 1" of each pot with a mat of the decaying hay from this year, and then I'm filling in leaves around and over the pots, which will help insulate them and block weed growth. I'm hoping that the only difference they'll notice from being in the ground is that they have a little better view.

So, now we sit back and see how they do. I really should have planted them a month or two ago, but I blew off a lot of my garden chores this fall while the weather was nice in favor of painting outside in my garden, which was one of the most fun things I've done in years.

As I dug the holes I found some subway tunnels, and lots of small, really deep, or half-eaten potatoes that I missed when I did the big dig. No wonder I always get so many volunteers every year. I'm shifting my potato culture to the west half of the garden next year; I've been growing them in the same rows for three years, and although I didn't see any disease, I'll rotate them for a year or two.