Dateline: 28 July 2016
|Tri-Grown carrots in an 18" Tire Sidewall Bed.|
(click for enlarged view)
Longtime readers here will recall two years ago when I told you about Tom Doyle's Plant-And-Pick Vegetable Gardening System. And you will recall that I decided to experiment with the system in my garden (My Gardening Without Cultivation Experiment).
After two seasons of growing some vegetables in the plastic, this year I was less enthusiastic about the idea. In fact, I have removed one large sheet of the plastic in my garden.
The problem is not the plastic. I like the idea of a large sheet of plastic as a mulch. And the plantings grew well enough. But I just don't like the little planting holes.
So, in the two large sheets of plastic I still have in my garden, I'm trying something a little different. You can see the concept in the picture above. Here's an explanation...
I have decided to Make 18" diameter holes in the plastic. I can place a tire sidewall over an 18" hole and it will hold the plastic in place without billowing up in a wind.
The 18" holes are, essentially, small planting beds. They are large enough for me to sink a digging fork into and lever it a few inches so the soil is loosened and aerated. It does the same thing that a broad fork is designed to do in a larger garden. So, the soil is never lifted and turned. it doesn't need to be.
These 18" holes are 24" apart. That seems a good distance. If I want to plant summer squash or cucumbers in the round mini-beds, I will plant in every other hole. The ones I don't plant in will get a 24" cardboard disc for the season. The tire sidewall will hold the cardboard in place just fine.
If the growing year is dry, each round bed can be easily deep-watered once a week using my Whizbang Bucket Irrigation idea.
These round beds can be easily covered with a Whizbang tire-sidewall clouche if need be to get the plants off to a great start. The tire sidewall couches are explained in my Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners (that one idea alone is worth the cost of the book).
I'm currently working on some ideas for season-long netting covers to protect these small circular beds from insects—the cabbage butterfly in particular.
The 18" beds can be used to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables. I'm experimenting with some now. I'll be experimenting with more next year.
An 18" circular bed can be easily cultivated with a Whizbang Pocket Cultivator (another idea from my idea book). You can see a pocket cultivator in the picture above.
The sidewall bed in the picture above has five carrot tri-plantings. Fifteen large Bolero storage carrots will grow in that space. I used my Whizbang shade disc idea for getting the carrots seeds off to a quick start. That idea is also featured in my book, and in my now-famous Four-Day Carrots videos (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4!) on YouTube.
Yes, I know I could have planted more carrots than that in the space, but they would end up being smaller and harder to cultivate between. You'll see the beauty of spacing carrots a bit further apart if you watch Four-Day Carrots: Part 3, where I harvest some tri-planted carrots.
The new gardening concept that is emerging here is still a work in progress. But I'm liking it a whole lot better than growing in 3" diameter holes. It's impossible to loosen and aerate soil in a 3" circle. It's also hard to amend the soil. Or to reach under the plastic and bring additional soil up around a young seedling that needs some extra support.
The psychological advantage to this idea is that you are not planting and caring for large beds. Tire sidewall beds are smaller and easier to care for. In fact, they're fun to care for.
Obviously, this idea is not suited to growing a very large garden. But I think it holds promise for small to medium home gardens.
Next year I plan to test this on a larger scale. I may get a 6-mil sheet of inexpensive black plastic from the local home center and create a small experimental tire sidewall garden. I'll see what kind of yield I can get from, for example a 12' by 20' sidewall garden. Small spaces, properly cared for, and continually re-planted through the growing season, can be surprisingly productive.