Friday, January 30, 2015

Bucket Tests

Without launching into something that might bore you, let me just explain that I love to get my hands dirty. I love to work the in the soil, to plant seeds, and to watch the miraculous. Gardens are where I can go to be quiet, where I can be alone with the Lord, where I can speak about whatever might be a burden to my heart. God loves gardens too, and I know this to be a fact simply because He saw fit to start us all out in the Garden. If God loves it, I should think it’s ok for me to love them too.
That said, I’ve been running several tests this year, gardening out of buckets.
I’ve employed several methods, maybe these will be useful for someone down the road, maybe they’ll just serve as notes for me. At any rate, here’s my findings.
single bucket, global bucket (double bucket), half buckets, holey buckets (for air pruning), and holey buckets with screen to help retain the soil. I used local soil mixed with some compost, and some bamboo that we cut nearby for support, with rock on the bottom for weight and to keep the drainage holes free from sediment blockage.
The Global bucket (double bucket) plants have grown much taller and have produced bigger, better fruit than any other method, while taking less water. We live next to an artesian well, so water really isn’t an issue, but the rest of Haiti would benefit from these because the water doesn’t evaporate so easily or just run away. It’s almost all used up by the plant. I planted 2 tomatoes per bucket, and we’ve been enjoying large tomatoes. I added some fertilizer about 4 weeks in. I did not run a test with just 1 tomato plant but I can only assume the yield would be better. With this method, the bottom bucket becomes a closed reservoir of water that is wicked up in the soil from the top bucket. There is a hole between the two with a perforated plastic cup. Through osmosis the water is sucked up by the roots. In some case I think the roots have even grown into the bottom bucket, giving them constant fresh supply to the water.
These methods universally seemed better at repelling viruses and disease, but the Global bucket plants resisted virus better than any other method.
I tested air pruning vs air pruning with screen to withhold the soil, and saw virtually no change between the methods. Between a single bucket plant compared to a single bucket air prune bucket however, the plants in the air pruned bucket are almost a foot taller, producing their fruit later but also seeming to be more healthier in the stalks.
Plants that have grown exceptionally well: peppers, tomatoes, cucumber.
Plants that have had some difficulty: melons and broccoli. Broccoli needs more space, and melons want to crawl everywhere.
SWEET PEAS! This one gets me excited because they are almost impossible to grow in Haiti, but with a bucket method, they actually “held hands” with one another as they grew, tangling up in each other and producing almost identical branches until they finally reached some chicken wire that I provided for them to climb. They are currently flowered and producing sweet peas!
There is a calcium deficiency in the soil here, and the virus is either airborne or in the soil itself. Ground up egg shells with a bit of ash seems to balance the soil easily, and watering only the base of the plants and not the leaves seems to really help the plant to control the virus and overcome. I pruned any leaves with the virus, and also made sure to prune any branches below 6 inches from the earth. Last year the virus hit our crops and while we still produced a good harvest, the fruit was smaller and less tasty.
Bugs almost completely ignore plants in the buckets. We only had 1 infestation. I sprayed only 2 times a very light pesticide. In Haiti pests are so common you can lose entire crops, because hardly anyone sprays for them. This was a big note, because I don’t like spraying pesticide chemicals. I’m fairly certain we could have just used neem (a natural deterrent) from the local plants, but I already had some pesticide and decided to just use it up.
One of the biggest advantages, we can let the fruit ripen on the stem. This is almost impossible in Haiti. Most fruits and vegetables must be picked early, partly because the bugs will eat them, partly because they can’t withstand the heat, and the birds and chickens will come along and peck them, destroying them. In the buckets, they are left alone and can ripen naturally.
You still have to water when it rains. If you think because it rained you don’t need to worry, you’re wrong. Because the plants are contained, they quickly lap up what little rain (even from a downpour) that makes it into the bucket. Best method I use, collect the rainwater or overflow water in a bucket to conserve the water.
The plants are portable! Awesome point. I can move them when they get too cluttered and turn them to get more light.
While I put holes in all the buckets to allow for drainage, the Global Bucket was best. The plants never get too waterlogged and there is less chance for disease.
After the garden is finished I will break open the root system, but I’m thinking the air prune method gives the most roots. Maybe I can combine this with the Global Bucket method and marry the two ideas?
I pruned most of the suckers from the tomato plants and went on to plant them in our other gardens as well as in the fields. It’s a great way to keep the garden perpetuating younger generations. I also started several seeds in the buckets and used them as a kind of ‘protected’ seed bed, as an alternative from the Haitian seed beds. In Haiti, it’s very difficult to just plant your seeds in the rows. The elements, rain and sun, are too harsh for feeble young plants, and what survives is usually eaten by chickens or wild birds, and sometimes goats. The occasional pig or cow on the loose can destroy the crop. It’s best to grow seeds in protected seed beds, and then propagate or transplant. The bucket methods allow for this in a more secure environment.
(global bucket toms)
air prune method, no screen

air prune method with screen

single bucket

Global Bucket


sweat peas walking eachother up the buckets

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