A guest post by Gary Pilarchik
In early May, I was fortunate enough to attend Garden2Grow 2016 at Moss Mountain Farm in Little Rock, and I had a wonderful time. I never would have thought my experiences there would lead me to grow an entire cucumber and tomato salad garden in a single container. The greatest issue with container vegetables is water or more specifically, watering. Once the soil in a container completely dries out, a lot of harm is done to the plants. Months of work can be lost by accidently missing a single day of watering. I have been there too many times while battling our 100-degree summers in Maryland (Zone 7).
During the event, teams of five competed to build a fairy container garden, and the winners got their choice of a Crescent Garden container. Before the contest started, we were introduced to Crescent’s TruDrop® self-watering system. I was intrigued at the size of some of the plants in the containers. Well, a bit of luck fell our way, and my team won the contest! That little, yet exciting, victory, led to the experiment I am starting in my container garden today. Maybe now I can beat the heat.
This is a demanding experiment, so I did some research on the TruDrop containers. The one I looked at was 26 inches wide and 26 inches tall, a solid design for growing larger vegetables. The watering system is self-contained and sealed. No insects will find shelter in the water. The TruDrop container’s reservoir holds 12.8 gallons of water, and it has a simple visual display that tells you where the water level sits; making it extremely easy to know when water needs to be added. The container is double walled, which helps with temperature regulation. It is made from food safe material and it is recyclable.
I then had the idea to grow a complete tomato and cucumber salad garden in one container. The 26-inch containers were the perfect size. I typically grow single tomato plants in 5-gallon containers which can be a challenge as they generally need to be watered twice a day in July. Vacation is almost not an option during the heat of the summer. When I saw the TruDrop container holding large plants, I really wondered how vegetables would fare in that type of self-watering system. Now I can find out and come late July I will have the results! And I have to say the brail design and color is so much more attractive than my gray 5-gallon containers.
The system evenly waters from the bottom, which is the best way to water plants. It cuts down on waste and decreases the chances of fungus and other diseases that can occur from overhead watering. The soil stays evenly moist at root level and this promotes a strong well-developed root system. I will be mixing a water soluble fertilizer in the reservoir to keep the plants evenly fed. With this size container, I will only need to fill it about every 10-14 days when the plants are up to size, maybe less. I could honestly take a vacation and not worry about watering.
All of the needed vegetables will be planted in a growing area with 19.5 gallons of soil capacity. That space will hold both a dwarf determinate tomato that delivers pink, 12-16 ounce fruits and an indeterminate compact cherry tomato for sweet cherry tomatoes all summer long. A bush variety cucumber will be joining the bunch. Nothing beats the scent and sweetness of a freshly sliced cucumber picked straight from the vine. I’ll add a jalapeno pepper plant to spice the salads up occasionally, onions of some sort, some basil and maybe some cilantro into the Crescent container. Like I said, not an easy test for any self-watering system, but I think this one can handle it. Stay posted for updates here or on my channel.
Gary Pilarchik’s Rusted Garden YouTube channel has more than 75,000 subscribers and 600 quick, focused vegetable garden videos. A video update on this tomato and cucumber salad container will be featured at the end of July. The channel is a culmination of more than 20 years of gardening experience, and he hopes to help you with your gardens and teach children that vegetables don’t come from a grocery store!