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Help! How to tackle large containers?

Discussion in 'Container Gardening' started by JordanLou86, Mar 15, 2018.

  1. JordanLou86

    JordanLou86 Apprentice Gardener

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    Hello everyone, newbie here

    I have a number of large inherited concrete containers and recently got green fingers for growing foods.

    I am a fairly inexperienced grower / gardener but read and watch a lot of videos and keen. I already have chillis, yellow and red tomatoes, Cape gooseberry, and sweet peppers underway indoors in a mini greenhouse under T5 which are ready to start hardening off to move outside from April, with a number of other seeds ready to start soon; carrots, lettuces ,chard, etc

    However, can't quite find answers to some questions and thus thought I should join a forum.

    So I have these large containers approx 1.5ft x 1.5ft x 3ft. They had two Thuja / conifer trees growing in each of them. I've uprooted the trees but the pots are rootbound with woody roots.

    How do I best prepare these containers for vegetables / fruit gardening or am I doomed from the start?

    Do I need to get rid of all this soil? Is the best method hard work? Recommended tools?

    The containers have drainage holes. I can get new soil and aware I'd need a lot. I already have lots of perlite and clay pebbles for soil aeration. I'm assuming I can apply Sq ft gardening principle, 3 patches per container. I was thinking I'd pack out the bsse of some containers to save on soil needed.

    So, if you wanted to grow your own veg in these concrete containers rooted up with coniferous soil, what would you do?
     

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    • Gail_68

      Gail_68 Guest

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      :sign0016: @JordanLou86,

      Nice to have you with us on GC...we're a friendly bunch and there's many members who specialise in what your asking...so you'll get many replies :dbgrtmb:

      I'm unable to help as i never grown these things :)
       
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      • NigelJ

        NigelJ Total Gardener

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        I would remove the soil and refill with good soil, depending on what soil you have you may want to mix some compost with it to lighten it. I'd probably use a good trowel although a boarder fork could be useful as these are quite narrow.
        Sqfoot principles should work well.
         
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        • JordanLou86

          JordanLou86 Apprentice Gardener

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          Thanks for the welcome and replies.

          OK so looks like I'm going to have to get digging :-D

          Is it worth me keeping the soil and chopped conifer to make a compost pile ,was thinking of getting a big turning barrel?
           
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          • Gail_68

            Gail_68 Guest

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            Hi @JordanLou86

            I've added your discussion to the growing thread :thumbsup:

            THE GROWING THREAD 2018
             
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              Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2018
            • silu

              silu gardening easy...hmmm

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              Personally I wouldn't. Conifer is not the best for composting and the soil won't "compost". To add on from the good advice Nigel gave you, a layer of gravel/small stones old broken earthenware pots in the bottom of the containers would be a good idea to improve drainage.
              Not to dampen your enthusiasm to grow lots of things:) if these containers are the only growing spaces you have you may have to be a bit selective in what you grow. I have a few containers of similar size and to give you an idea I grow 5 lettuce in 1 container. 1 of your containers would at a pinch be enough for 3 cordon tomato plants, I'd only grow 2. You will get better results by giving your plants room to "breath" rather than jamming them full.
               
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              • Logan

                Logan Total Gardener

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                Hi @JordanLou86 Welcome to the forum.My advice as well as the others, I'd use a all purpose compost. You don't say where you live but I live in the UK and I wouldn't put chillies, tomatoes out until end of may. Here chillies do better indoors.
                 
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                • JordanLou86

                  JordanLou86 Apprentice Gardener

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                  Thanks very much for your reply.

                  Yeah I was thinking to pad out the bottom with broken pots or heard polystyrene is good, just wasn't sure how much depth is needed / more depth better? In an effort to save on new soil / compost. I guess that depends what one grows. Part of this thinking is I live in an awkward place to carry heavy loads / receive deliveries. (middle of 300 steps)

                  Haha, yeah I know, to a certain degree I'm sure a welcome reality check or two will hit me on how much I can grow and what. But I have 10 containers in total, and lots of space (65 Sq m terrace that gets lots of sun ) so can add more.

                  I actually live in Switzerland, Zurich, but from the UK. Yes we get proper hard winters here but also lovely spring and summer and more consistent than the UK, mostly.
                   
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                  • Logan

                    Logan Total Gardener

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                    @JordanLou86. Yes pad it out, as you said it all depends on what you want to grow. For root veg,tomatoes,chillies and salad crops it could be about 15in depth. Especially if you want to grow carrots and parsnips.
                     
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                    • Selleri

                      Selleri Gardener

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                      Geoff Hamilton recommended mini varieties for urban growing. It makes sense, they require less root run, mature quicker and can be delicious. I have grown round carrots in a washing up bowl :biggrin: This year we'll try small gherkins. Mini plum tomatoes are a must, and as we grow them in a pot it can be taken in before frosts to ripen the last fruit indoors.

                      Agree with everybody, it's best to start with new compost. Next years you can probably get away by adding some new, a lot of something strong like rotted manure, and some coarse stuff if needed.

                      Raspberries are really worth it in a large (50cm) container. If you buy early, middle and late fruiting plants and plant them together you can pick a handful a day for 5-6 months. Not enough for jam making, but so lovely fresh from the plant, warm from the sun... :SUNsmile:

                      Personally I wouldn't bother with cheap, heavy stuff like potatoes or cabbages. You have a lot of growing space, but not endless... and it's probably cheaper to pay a teenager to carry a load from the (super)market than grow your own especially if you put a price on your time. A small batch in a bucket is always welcome, but bigger scale growing of the bog standard stuff might not be worth it.

                      Your terrace will be an oasis when everything is growing... please post some photos! :)
                       
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                      • Mike Allen

                        Mike Allen Gardener

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                        As a 'Fellow' mad scientist. I agree.
                         
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