Having fun with your food crops

Tom Therrien grew up on a farm in Illinois. He’s married to a farm girl whose family raised vegetables. So, although he spent his career as an electrical engineer, it stands to reason that he would innovate new ways to grow his vegetables in his North Texas backyard.

There’s a lot of recycling going on in this photo. And some good, old-fashioned vegetable gardening to boot.

Tom chuckled as he told me, “I’m basically a cheapskate.”

And then he told me how he’d put all this together:

Cat litter containers with holes drilled into the bottoms.

Topsoil scraped up from a construction site.

Organic matter compost from his county’s recycle center.

Salvaged iron.

All plants grown from seed he and his wife started indoors.

His main cost was in the drip irrigation system he rigged up for the containers.

He spray-painted the pots for a better appearance. He’s concerned about heat – that the black paint may absorb too much sunlight as we head into the summer. He said he may try painting some of the pots white to see if it helps them.

Beets, onions and peppers. Tom told me he’s already harvested his first jalapeno pepper!

Tom’s crops so far are beets, peppers, spinach and onions. He had a bad experience with hydroponic tomatoes last summer. I’m going to try to talk him into giving tomatoes another chance, advising him to stick with small-fruiting types (because they do so much better in Texas) that also stay relatively short as they mature.

Bucket o’ beets shows it all. Bucket. Beets. Support system. Drip irrigation. Only thing missing is Tom.

He’s concerned about the weight of the pots against his fence. That’s why he’s used the iron bracing. He’s taken all that into account.

Tom is feeding his plants with Miracle-Gro regularly, and side-dressing with 10-10-10. I’m concerned that his planting mix may allow the plants to run a bit on the “hungry” side. He may want to fertilize them fairly often.

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He might also find that an encapsulated, timed-release plant food such as Osmocote would serve him better than the granular 10-10-10. Many commercial growers use it in tandem with their water-soluble plant foods.

As I spoke with Tom I told him that those of us in horticulture admire the precise work of electrical engineers. This garden was built by a craftsman.

Thanks for some great ideas, Tom!

And welcome to Texas!

Posted by Neil Sperry
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