Friday, July 31, 2009

Bucket Tomatoes (Part 2)

Ok, to do this you need two buckets per plant. One will be your water reservoir bucket (the bottom bucket) and the other will be your plant bucket (the top bucket). You will also need something to act as a screen between the dirt and water that will also hold up the upper bucket. Some people buy filter cages made for ponds, but I just cut holes in a coffee can. Another thing you need is a tube of some sort to get the water through the dirt and to the bottom bucket. I used a chunk of old water hose. Let's get started!

First, outline the coffee can on the bottom of the bucket and cut INSIDE the lines (so that the can rim can hold up the other bucket). Then cut a hole wide enough for the hose (not pictured). Next you will need to mark the top of the coffee can in the "dirt bucket" and drill a hole so that you will know when the water
reservoir is full (the water will squirt out of the side). Notice the slits cut in the coffee can.

I didn't actually do the above step because my water bucket had a coating of paint I could not get out so I lined it with a trash bag to prevent paint leeching into the water and then my tomatoes. Punching a hole would have messed everything up. Here is what the "top bucket" should look like upside down:
And here is what the inside of the top bucket should look like before adding dirt:

Add dirt, your plant, fill the bottom half with water through the hose and you're done: Granted, it won't make the cover of any gardening magazines, but it will keep a tomato plant from drying out in the middle of a 100+ degree Texas summer. I still need 10 more buckets! I think I may hit up fast food restaurants for pickle buckets or maybe grocery store bakeries.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bucket Tomatoes (Part 1)

Remember those tomato sproutlings I grew from seed back in March? Yeah, about those....

I haven't quite gotten around to planting them yet, and they are somehow still alive! Well, six of them are. It turns out I was completely wrong in my assumption I could grow them without special soil. I overwatered them and they got a fungus that was killing them. I broke down and spent the two bucks on some sterile planting soil, doubling my investment in the Tomato Project. They came back to life and have grown about as far as they can in their confined spaces.

Since they've made it this far, I figured they deserved a chance to give us some fall tomatoes, and now is the time for planting for fall tomatoes! Our soil is awful and chock full of giant rocks so I wanted to plant them in containers. I have read a lot about "self watering containers", which is really a misnomer, the correct term would be "sub irrigated container". The idea comes from Earthboxes, which are sold for around 50 bucks. The basic concept is to keep a pool of water under the dirt that seeps up through a section of dirt that is exposed to the water. To complete this project I needed containers! I sent an email to beg my family for any extra buckets they could spare. My sister and her husband came through! They brought me two great buckets..

....not so much. The one on the right had thick paint throughout and even included a sunken paintbrush! I thought this was going to be one long and disgusting cleanout to make this bucket suitable...
Maybe not! I think leaving it in the yard for a few hours in the 100+ degree heat loosened it enough and it came out in one giant glob. It was like a weird rubber bag.

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Quest for Chickens (Part 1)

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington! No, more like Mr. Me Goes To City Council!

city name photoshopped out to protect myself from anti-chickenites

I don't know when it all started. Whether it was our discovery of the Chickens in the Road blog, or if it was talking with my friend at work about his chickens, or if it was my obsession with chicken tractors I posted about here back in March. Either way, we have decided that we want chickens! Being the responsible citizens that we are, we did not just run out and get chickens. We researched the city code and sadly found out that chickens are only allowed if they are at least 150 feet away from any property line. For that to be possible you would have to have property at the very least the length of a football field with the width of 100 yards as well! I cried fowl! (I will have several more chicken puns where that came from).

I was curious about our surrounding cities, because I know for a fact that the metropolis that my city is a suburb of allows chickens. So I checked ordinances of nearby cities and found out that nearly all of them allow chickens with less restrictive ordinances. Their ordinances are worded so that if your chickens are not causing a problem with odor or noise, you can keep them (as long as it is 12 or less). Our ordinances already have provisions for noise and odor from dogs, cats, and "other animals", so I figured we had a pretty good chance to get this changed and set off to write an email to the mayor and city council.

However, I wanted to be thorough and make sure we had an airtight case so I addressed the misconceptions about chickens (i.e. disease spreading), the noise factor (we don't want roosters, who are the noisy ones) and also cited national news sources on the increasing popularity of backyard chickens and the ordinances changing to allow them across the country. I didn't get a response and figured it was inevitable that to get anything changed I was going to have to go in person and speak to the council. I figure anyone can write an email, but if I show up in person they would know I was serious.

Like most people, I am completely terrified of public speaking, so this was truly a test of how badly I want to have chickens. I've actually found though, that in life when you stretch yourself to do things out of your comfort zone it is the most satisfying experience. I prepared a short speech and we set out for city hall. I made sure to wear nice clothes and a tie so that they didn't assume I was a questionable yokel that was going to stink up the neighborhood with chickens. I pleaded my case..

By law, they can't just drop the gavel and allow the chickens to come to our city, so I was not expecting much. However, the mayor commented that they have received SEVERAL emails regarding allowing chickens and said that it has really been the "hot topic" lately. I think I was right that it just takes someone to come speak in public to get things moving. He suggested that it would be brought up at the next Animal Control meeting. Then, another councilmen spoke up and suggested they discuss it at an upcoming workshop! The same councilmen called me over after the meeting and asked why I wanted chickens and we discussed the issue a little. It turns out he grew up on a farm so maybe he is fond of chickens. So, things are looking good so far, but I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch. (I told you I had more puns).