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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

KNOL: How to Build a Sunken Vegetable Container Garden: In Pictures

Transfered from my Google Knols to be stored on my blog.


The benefits of sunken containers are similar to raised beds. They will warm faster and you won't be stepping on the plants root systems. They also allow you to concentrate resources and grow a variety of crops. The space between the containers gets filled with mulch. You can let vines grow over the mulch while the weeds stay under control. The keys to success are sinking the containers and opening holes in the bottoms. The plants roots will grow through the container's holes and into the ground. This provides some security from watering issues. I use recycled black nursery containers. They are easy to cut, cheap, and black to absorb the sun.

How to Build a Sunken Vegetable Container Garden

Part 1 of 3: Using Sunken Containers in Your Vegetable Beds
 
By Gary Pilarchik LCSW-C
 

Visit my garden blog for more information and pictures of this years events: The Rusted Vegetable Garden

 

Step One: Pick Out the Space

 
The Empty Space to Become a Sunken Container Garden.

I chose a space connected to my vegetable garden that was only getting walked on and cut. A wasted space. It was also away to get more growing space without discussing "another box!" with my wife.  After you find the spot, get an idea of what you want to grow and how big the containers should be to hold the vegetables. This isn't science so do your best. I create my garden as if it is a canvas. I rarely have a plan. Some ideas work and some don't but in the end it all works out. Plants just want to grow. You don't need a new space. You can put sunken containers right in your prepared beds.

 

 

Step Two: Place the Containers and Cut Holes

The containers should be laid where you wish. You will notice the steps I used to mark the ground and cut the containers. The holes just have to be cut out in a similar manner and size. Good enough for roots to grow through. I cut lines in the bottoms too. The roots can fit through anything. If you trace the containers with peat moss or soil, you will know where to dig.



Turned Over Where I Want Them. Holes Cut Out. Traced in Peat Moss.

Containers Removed. General Circle Traced in Peat Moss.


 

Step Three: Remove the Base Soil and Amend (if needed)

If you are putting them in a prepared bed you just need to move some soil out so you can sink the container.
 
If you are using a new space, remove the circle of grass to a depth of 3 to 6 inches. Less for smaller containers and more for larger containers.
 
These containers might have been sunk 8 inches deep. You can really go as deep as you want. If you don't want to see them... bury the containers by 1/2 their size.  Put the removed grass to the side. You will be doing four main things to prepare the base for the containers.


  • Removing the grass
  • Loosening the soil remaining in the circle (ground)
  • Amending the soil in the circle (ground)
  • Setting the container and returning the grass to it (only do this for large containers)
  • *Toss the grass for smaller containers. You don't want it growing up if it isn't smothered.

Remove the Grass to 3 to 6 inches Deep. Or Deeper if You Wish.


Loosen the Soil to a Depth of 8 to 12 inches. Nothing Fancy.

That is the Hole on the Right. It is Amended with Peat Moss. 
 
 

Step Four: Sink the Containers and Begin Filling

I am using a very large container. Smaller containers don't need this much preparation. I amended the soil in the hole where the container will be placed. It is loosened to a depth of 8-12 inches. Feel free to boost the base soil with what you have available as fertilizer. I also placed some soil to the side (left above). That will go back in the container and around the container. This doesn't have to be perfect. You aren't following a recipe. The goal is to fill it with pretty good soil. I alway use peat moss as a way to amend and add a moisture holding element to my containers.
 
The Container is in the Hole. The Grass is Placed in the Bottom as Chunks.
 
For large containers you can place the soil with the grass roots right in the bottom. The depth of soil placed in the container and on the grass with prevent growth. It is in chunks. The vegetable roots will grow through it and into the loosen soil beneath the container.
 
The Set Container and Fill the Sides.
 
The gaps are filled with the soil I kept to the side. I added peat moss and soil to the bottom and a hand full of vegetable fertilizer.
 

Step Five: Completely Fill Your Containers

 
The next step is completely filling your container. I used a CHEAP bag of top soil. You can buy a bag of moisture control garden soil and use that if you wish. It costs a little more but it is very convienent. 
 
I used peat moss and cheap bags of top soil I typically tell people not to buy. I bought a bag and opened it. It turned out to be sandy and that is what I wanted. My soil is mostly clay. You never know where the soil in the cheap bags come from. This batch happened to meet my needs.
 
I used my large 18 gallon blue container (there on left) to make the planting material. I used peat moss and cheap bags of top soil to about a 1 to 1 ratio. Lots of peat moss was used for moisture control. I also added in all the soil in the picture that I removed. It is a good idea to add in some of your standard soil.

The Amended Soil Placed in the Sunken Container. 

Two Completed Containers.
They are in the garden as sunken containers and can be planted with just about anything. Parts 2 and 3 are about planning, expanding, and planting sunken container gardens.
 
This is a fairly quick and limited labor way to cheaply add to your vegetable gardening space. You can never have to much room to plant in your garden.
 
 
 
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