Friday, March 13, 2009

The Joy of Pails

I'm celebrating today. I've had my first WANTED post on Freecycle answered. Last weekend we cleaned out the garage. I posted a large list of junk that I was getting rid of. The kids old skis, stilts, lots of little empty boxes, bubble wrap and air packs, a paint sprayer, a battery charger. Just a lot of junk that we no longer need or have never used. At the end I tacked on a WANTED post, asking for food grade 5 gallon pails.

I was answered. Today I picked up a dozen of them. They all had pickles in them in the past. I'll clean them out soon. I'll use some to store my potting mix and some soil amendments. I will keep one or two to store harvested veggies like potatoes. I'll have to drill holes in them for ventilation, but that is ages away from now.

The real joy was finding six green ones. I was going to use some for pots in the garden, but I hate the look of white pails. Very ugly. I figured I would make "dresses" for them out of some leftover cloth I have. I won't need to now. The six green pails will house some tomatoes. I've never grown tomatoes in pails before, but I really don't have the space to grow all the seed I have. I have plenty of space close to the house that I can't plant food plants into. I'll just put the pails there.

Now the problem is to figure out which seed I'm going to plant. I got eight varieties from, but I'm only going to plant six. The three black cherry tomatoes are my first choices: Chocolate Cherry, Black Cherry, Black Moor. Though just one plant of each isn't the perfect trial, it will have to do.

For the other pails, I've got two selections from Siberia. I don't know if Siberia is humid, but they don't have hot summers, so they can handle our cool ocean breezes. Gregory's Altai is a large pink beefsteak type at 67 days. Miracle of the Market has small fruit about 2-4 oz and produce in 60-70 days. My last one will be from China. Early Ssubakus Aliana is a golden plum tomato. At 75 days it isn't early, but it is earlier then the other Chinese yellow tomato that I have.

Now I have to figure out what kind of potting mix to put in the pots. I have more of a tendancy to kill things in pots than to keep them alive. We will see what happens to the poor things. I want to leave out any real garden soil. My soil has nematodes, which makes it hard for the poor tomatoes to grow. I'm thinking I have a lot of (I'm hoping) finished compost from last summer. That will probably be the majority of the mix. I should get some sand and vermiculite to add to it. Has anyone used a mostly compost mix for their tomatoes before? I know the things grow out of the compost pile all the time. I think they can handle it, but if you have experience let me know.


  1. Daphne, I'm also going to have to grow a lot of my tomatoes in buckets this year. I ended up with 17 varieties! It will be difficult to find room for even one of each variety, but I'm going to be setting them anywhere I can find a few feet of space.

  2. Holy Moly! I've been buying them at Lowes. I'll be looking into doing that, as well. Thanks!


  3. I started growing all my tomatoes in pots 4 years ago because of my previously poor soil. I think they grow great in pot but they need daily watering and I think they produce a little less fruit. I grew mine in an equal mix of compost & quality potting soil. Just make sure your mix is airy and well draining.

    This year I am going to grow all my tomatoes in raised beds. Mainly because I was using large pots that waste alot of my limited space.

  4. Annie's Granny, wow 17 varieties. I have heard of people growing 30 but I've never had room for something like that. I'm going to have seven. The six mentioned and my sungold F2s.

    EG, 5 gallon pails are trash in restaurants (pickles, oil, soy sauce), bakeries (frosting) and supermarkets (pickles and frosting). They throw them away! I was lucky that someone was willing to collect them for me, though I have heard of people just asking at such places. Some will let you have them, some won't even though they throw them away. Some people hate giving things away without profiting, but Freecycle is all about giving things away and keeping it out of the trash. BTW I hear the pickle pails are sturdier than the ones you buy at Lowes. So I saved $36 and kept stuff out of the landfill :> It is a good day.

    Dan, I'm thinking my yield might be better. The nematodes really slow down my tomatoes. My yield is really bad. I'm actually hoping I get good results in pails. I'll make sure I have good drainage. Maybe I should get perlite instead of sand? I wonder which is better. It's nice to know that at least half compost is ok. I want to use at least that much.

  5. I love pails too! I buy the aluminum ones every time I am in a hardware store. I found some beautiful French ones on ebay a few years ago and although they were a bit pricey for just a pail, the size and colors were so lovely I couldn't resist them!

  6. What a great way to get rid of your junk! Looks like you hit the jackpot with the pails! Good job, Daphne! Thanks for stopping by today- I found some white crocus, but they weren't in the lawn like the lonely one. One of my friends told me maybe she likes being along- no one to steal her glory!

  7. What a great find from Freecycle. I need to look into the local one here. Good luck with your tomatoes. I've grown veggies very successfully in the past in containers. I don't know what the secret is other than you need to water more often. :)

  8. I just joined Freecycle but haven't posted anything yet. I know you're supposed to start with a "OFFERED" so I'll have to do a garage ream-out too! Hooray for pickle buckets, my mom has a million and she used to get them free from McDonalds. I filched a few, they are great for weeding into if you keep one spare from your plantings. Fill up one of those babies and you feel like you really got something done! :)

  9. I think perlite & vermiculite would be best for air & drainage. When compost or soil is put in containers it compacts and becomes waterlogged if not lightened up. You should check out gardenweb's tomato forum, there has been a few questions about soil mixes for pot grown tomatoes. Many of them use 100% soil-less potting mix.

    I have not heard of nematodes before, what are they?

  10. Sheila, metal pails are so pretty. I don't own any though :/

    Tessa, I think you're right. You have a diva on your hands.

    perennialgardener, I'm a little worried about the watering thing. I have a couple of vacations over the summer. I'm hoping they survive.

    Karen, McDonalds would be a great place to get them. They must go through a million pickles.

    Dan, thanks. I'll have to get some. I found a nice place that had them yesterday.

    Nematodes are a roundworm. There are good ones and bad ones. Mine are root knot nematodes which are parasitic to certain plants. They don't get horribly bad but they are there sucking the nutrients from my carrots and tomatoes. This year I'm interplanting them with marigolds which reportedly suppress the nematodes. I've been told that crab meal suppresses them too and if the marigolds don't work there is always another year to try the crab meal.

  11. I never would have thought to grow veggies in pails. What a great idea and tip Daphne. Thanks for sharing! I'm going to remember this one (like I need any more container grown plants to look after!!).

  12. Great find, sure beats the ugly orange (Home Depot) ones I have had to pay for.