As we were looking for ways to get around the deer, I did a lot of daydreaming and searching. I stumbled on a couple of things.
1. Grow bags. Apparently these bags allow more air in than regular hard-sided pots, which helps the plants to breathe and to “air prune,” which helps the roots not to wither, as I understand it. You can buy grow bags quite inexpensively, and it’s a great idea for certain sizes (a friend has a couple of huge ones that she’s using for sweet potatoes and carrots).
2. Then I found Global Buckets, a site where a couple of brothers (starting from when they were in high school) document their experiments with sustainable growing practices, especially for areas of the world where there isn’t a lot of soil or water. And they demonstrate their results with using reusable grocery bags, made out of similar material to the grow bags, and dirt cheap (ha, ha). I went to the thrift store and found a whole pile for about $.25/each.
3. I thought about putting the bags into larger containers, so I did another search and found suggestions for using large bins as “self-watering” containers. Basically, the fabric of the bag can wick up water as the plants need it.
So, we planted several tomato (a couple kinds of cherry, and a patio tomato) and zucchini plants, a pepper plant, a couple of strawberries (we’re thinking it was too late in the season for those), and some green onions, Asian long beans, and carrots from seed.
Now–the system isn’t perfect, I’m still experimenting with it. We had a few weeks of torrential downpours, which led to a lot of water-dumping. And now it’s beastly hot, so it’s not so much self-watering as much as checking a couple of times a day to make sure there’s still water in the reservoir. But so far, it seems successful.
Here’s when we first set it up in the middle of May
And here it is in June. Our tomato plants are covered in green tomatoes, and we have some small peppers and zucchini coming in.