Gardening Diaries: Lessons Learned

I finally finished working on my big planters and cleaning off my balcony last night. I'm sure my neighbors were looking at me funny as I was working yesterday. We'll see who has the last laugh when it's harvest time, though. I'm still figuring out the best way to plant my herbs and lettuces. To SIP or not to SIP, that is the question...

Anyway, it took me almost 4 hours to build and plant 3 SIPs on Saturday. There was a lot of trial and error going on. Yes, even with directions. I had read them plenty of times before and figured I wouldn't need to reference them again. WRONG! Lots of time wasted, but very important lessons learned. So, maybe it wasn't wasted time after all. By Sunday, I had finally gotten the hang of things and was able to build and plant 6 more SIPs in under 2 hours. Still slow, but it's progress.

Here's what I learned:
  • Read through all directions thoroughly BEFORE you begin any project. Even if you think you have the particulars down, it never hurts to review them again.
  • Potting Soil is NOT the same as Potting Mix. I planted my Sweet 100 in a 5-gallon bucket full of potting soil and had to replant it in mix. Potting soil is heavy, sucks up and retains a lot of water, and looks like mud when wet. It is not ideal for container planting - I don't care what the bag claims. The "looks like mud" portion is what alerted me to the fact that I might have been doing something incorrectly. Potting mix, on the other hand, is light, and is less constricting when wet so it allows the roots of plants to breathe. If you're still not sure what you're purchasing when you go to a store, look at the measurements on the bag. Potting soil is measured in pounds. Potting mix is measured in quarts or cubic feet.
  • If you're using a utility knife to cut out your buckets, letting the blade warm up in the sun might make this a bit easier to do. Or, at least, that was my experience yesterday.
  • Don't pay for buckets! There are plenty of people willing to give them away for $Free.99. Spend your money on better things like potting mix, seeds, plants, ibuprofen, and a cold beverage (you'll need those last two after all of that work). I found this one out the hard way. After purchasing 8 5-gallon buckets for myself, I decided to go around town asking folks to donate buckets for the community garden. Check out bakeries (stand-alones or those in your local supermarket). Their icing comes in 3.5- and 5-gallon buckets. For 7-gallons, ask your local deli for their empty pickle buckets. Also, your wicking chambers can be made out of recycled soda/pop bottles, plastic cups, or yogurt containers. Wash them out thoroughly before use.
  • And, lastly, because this is still a hair blog... If you have locs, wrap them up as you work on your garden. My hair was so dusty and smelled like whatever was in the donated buckets I cleaned (dirt, BBQ sauce, garlic, pickles, and icing) because I didn't do this. Save yourself the trouble and tuck your babies away.

Up next on Gardening Diaries... Balcony Garden Video Tour

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