Strawberries and Beans

These notes are from May 12, when I constructed my first large self-watering container. I converted a large storage tote. I bought four of them when they were on sale for this purpose. Well, one of them I’m using as a soil mixing place as I don’t have a wheelbarrow, and they’re really quite expensive. Plus, I’ve never seen the need for one, having only a patio. I can move stuff around in the wagon most of the time.

I would recommend for anyone constructing their own containers that they wear gloves. It took quite a deal of finessing and time to make my first one to make sure I didn’t cut the lid too small
thereby making it useless. So, I ended up with quite a blister, due to the tin snips. I took a break and planted the rosemary. I put it in its own container, rather than in the large strawberry planter that I was planning for herbs, because I need to bring it in at winter time. The last time I had rosemary outside in a pot I killed it by leaving it out.

I used the same mix for the large tote, which will be home to strawberries and bush beans, as for the watercress except I added about 1/2 C of bone meal to it. I planted 6 beans, a tricolour mix, with the plan to plant another row after these sprout. The beans started popping through the soil after after 11 days. It was a very exciting moment for me. I love how thrilled I am every time I see something sprout. I think it’s good for the self esteem to know that you’ve helped something to have life.

I bought the strawberries from a local garden centre, and although I love this place for many things I would not buy those little cardboard packages of berries again. There were only 9 in there instead of 10, and two of them were dead. I lost another one after planting. Fortunately by that time, I had purchased lovely large strawberries from a local grower at my farmers’ market. So, I will definitely start there the next time I need to buy some. The strawberries and beans are both thriving now, and I need to plant my second row of beans.

strawberries and beans thriving in a self watering container


The Beginning

Hi there and join me on my journey to lower my grocery bill by growing as much of my own food as possible. I live in a townhouse with a back patio, for which I will be growing in containers, and I recently acquired a plot at a local community garden, which I’m very excited about. I started keeping a journal about a month ago, when it occurred to me I should be sharing this information, and meeting new people with the same interests. So, I’m going to give a brief synopsis of what I’ve accomplished so far, along with what I’m currently doing, over the next few days we should be caught up.

I began on April 29 with my first self watering container. You can go here to find more information on those, including how to make your own. I filled it with a mix of equal parts coir, (coconut peat), which is a sustainable alternative to regular sphagnum peat, and mushroom compost. (one brick of coir, and half a bag of compost.) To this I added vermiculite and perlite, approximately  3 cups of each, and about 21 T of greensand. I also added some aged rabbit manure. My grandmother, who keeps everything, has been saving this rabbit manure for probably ten years, in a large garbage can. She was very proud that I came around with a use for it; however, the lid blew off some time ago, and the bucket filled with rain water. So, my grandmother no longer has a large bucket of dry pellets, but a large very wet single pellet of rabbit manure. Fortunately, there were some dry pellets left in the hutch. My grandmother is planning to dry out the remainder, but I’m past wanting it, to be honest.


watercress with green onions, and a seashell mulch

I planted water cress in this container with green onions around the side to deter pests. The watercress took 5 days to germinate, and the green onions took 17 days. I used a seashell mulch to deter the rampant slugs around here, and it also reflects the light up to the leaves helping them grow. This is great if you have a lot of shade, which I do.

I’ll just leave you now with a few things I have learned at this point:

  • self watering containers do not keep the surface moist, you need to mist the top to allow seeds to germinate
  • potting mix needs to breathe; don’t keep it in a container with the lid on. It will go mouldy.