Rain Gutter Gardening: Part 2

Reader Contribution by Nebraska Dave
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Here is the next part of the rain gutter growing system, but first an update with the great potato experiment. Five out of the eight planted potatoes are up, and three are growing strong. Maybe in another couple weeks, I can plant the next level. I’m not quite sure at this time if I’ll have enough growing season to actually plant the four levels that I originally wanted to do. We’ll have to see how that works out.

The first thing that must be found is food-grade buckets. I found a practically unlimited supply of buckets for a buck each at the local Fareway bakery department.

I’m not sure what this would be used for and the ingredients don’t sound too much like food, but apparently it is considered a food-grade bucket.

The next step is to cut a 2 7/8-inch hole in the bottom of the bucket. This will be where the net cup sets and protrudes out the bottom of the bucket.

Here’s a photo of the net cup extended out the bottom of the bucket. The net cup is filled with a mixture of growing medium that’s not just dirt, but a mixture of two 5-gallon buckets of compost, one bucket of peat, a coffee can full of Perlite, a cup of garden lime, and a couple handfuls of Epsom salts, and two buckets of soil. I mix it up in a compost tumbler and pack it tight in the net cup and a little looser but firm in the rest of the bucket. The bottom of the bucket bowed upward to the inside of the bucket so with a little heat from a plumber’s torch the bow can be reversed to get maximum use from the wicking action of the net cup. The cup will then set down into the rain gutter at a full depth. The net cup sets down into the water and wicks water up into the bucket growing medium to keep it moist. I’ve had it up and working for about three weeks. It all seems to be working so far.

Here you can see the buckets setting on the water-filled rain gutters. The buckets are planted with tomatoes and bell peppers. The multilevel growing of cabbages in the actual raised bed under the rain gutters is working so far. I figure once the tomatoes grow up, they will shade the cabbages during the hot part of the summer.

Along one side of the raised bed, under the gutters, radishes and lettuce are growing. The radishes are almost ready as well as the lettuce. Once they are eaten, other warm weather root crops such as carrots will be planted.

Onions are planted in the raised beds on the opposite side. These were all started from seed. Some are doing quite well and others not so much. I may just replant those that are not doing well with plants from a local nursery. This set-up, with the automatic watering from the last post, is working extremely well so far. We will see if this set-up works as well or better than the traditional method. I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time to set up another bed for cucumbers, but I’m hoping so.

We just went through a night of severe weather. We didn’t get any tornadoes, but the winds of 80 mph and rainstorms were toying with the idea. All together we got about 1 3/4 inches of rain. It filled my water storage tank you see in the background of a couple of the post’s photos. The blue barrels are additional storage for water. This last rain filled the large tank and two of the blue barrels. The third barrel has a leak and needs to be sealed before it can be used for water storage. All together, I have an estimated 500 gallons of water stored from the spring rains. I’m hoping to be able to water the garden most of the summer with collected water.

I hope all your garden plans are starting to come together for the year. Until the next time, keep your hands in the dirt and mind thinking toward harvest.

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