Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mistakes I've Made - Part 1 of 2


Welcome to my Dubai based blog about container vegetable gardening. 

I was out watering my 30 odd plants this morning wondering what I should blog about first.   As I was going from pot to pot I was thinking  "I could have done this or that better, that pot is too small, why am I carrying this water can from the water tap to the plants and what should I have done".   So, I decided to share with you some 20/20 hind-sight on containers/pots, watering, potting soils and other things that I have messed up on before you might make some of the same blunders.    In this blog I will talk about containers/pots.   In Part 2 I will talk about watering and soils.   I will also blog about other things I screwed up or could have done better during the year or when they happen.

Thanks for stopping by and hope you find the blog/s helpful.

  • Plastic Pots: Do not buy black plastic pots - white is better. Yeah, the black ones are cheaper to buy (been there/done that) but they also attract a lot of heat that I am sure make life tough on the roots and thus the plant. It is not much of a problem this time of year but it will be in March, April and May. If you can afford them - perhaps get the plastic terracotta color ones with the black base plate that fits inside the pot at the bottom. There are holes in the plate that allow excess water to drain out from the root zone and form a small reservoir that can be use later when the plant needs it.
  • Ceramic pots: My wife learned the hard way a couple years ago with her flowers. Do not get the non-fired type because they will dissolve and crumble apart eventually. Only get the type that have been baked, fired, cooked whatever you want to call it but it must have had heat applied to it and hopefully glazed afterwords. Many of the pots for sale along the roads at the open-air markets are only sun-dried and will not last long.
  • Drain Plate: You will need to get a plate that goes under the pot to catch any excess water when you water your plants so that you do not have a mess all over the place. Most of the time, whatever type of pot you buy, they will usually have a matching drain plate designed for it. Make sure it is bigger than the bottom of your pot and not too shallow so that it can retain a bit of excess watering.
  • Drainage: You have to have drainage in your pots. There needs to be at least one hole at the bottom of the pot. This allows excess water to drain and the roots will not rot away if water remains around the roots for an extended period of time. Believe it or not plants also need oxygen to survive. If your soil is water logged then there is no room for oxygen. To help with drainage some put about a half to one inch of gravel at the bottom of the pot before adding potting soil. This will let the excess water drain out but (IMHO) the water will not be wicked back into the pot because of the space between the stones that make up the gravel. What I have done this year is cover the holes at the bottom of the pot with coffee filters before adding the soil. It holds the soil in and (IMHO) seems to let any excess water in the bottom plate be wicked back into the pot as the plant needs it.
  • Size of pots: Bigger is better! Get the biggest you can afford - of course it depends on what you are going to plant. Pots for tomatoes should be about 5 gal. size - what is five gallons - the big bottles of water sold for water coolers is 5 gallons. From this size you will need to gauge your pot to plant size. If you Google the vegetable you want to plant there will be many sites that will suggest a possible pot size. I planted cherry tomatoes in small containers 1-2 gallon this year (more about this in a later posting) and they grew very well. However, because of the  size of the plant and the amount of water it transpires each day  I am constantly haveing to water them. So. if you are limited on space - a balcony of example - then pots size is an issue.
  • Hanging pots: This is another option for people with limited space but again size can be an issue and drainage as well. Make sure that if you get a hanging pot and it is going to be hung some where you do not want water all over the floor that it has a drain plate directly under it or fits directly to the pot. Some handing pots have containers made of paper and coconut husk. My experience with both is negative. The paper container (IMHO) wicks the water to itself and then it evaporates through the paper quicker than plastic pots. The coconut husk containers I can't seem to get my head around - it leaks water like a sieve no matter how much you pre-soak it.  Another type of hanging pot/container is the Topsy Turvy. This is basically an upside down planter where the plant grows out the bottom of the planter. I planted tomatoes in two of these this year and will comment on them later. From this idea many types of upside down planters have been created by DIY'ers and have posted their versions on the web and You Tube. They are made from plastic buckets and even large coke bottles for those that lack space. I have tried this with a bell pepper but not much has happen - it growing but some critters are making life difficult for it.
  • Global Buckets: This is something I tried last year but did not have much success with it. I suspected the water was not being wicked into the root zone. My fault I am sure as it seemed to work for others. So, this year I "bubba-ised" the cup that goes into the water reservoir (more about this in a later blog) and it is working well this year. To understand what I am talking about you need to visit the site these two young brothers have made at Global Buckets. Click on the video showing you how t 
That's enough rambling for now.   Hope it was helpful and not too redundant for those that do a bit of gardening in containers.   I am hoping a few beginners will had stopped in for a look see.

Would like to leave you with a few words of wisdom:

"There's many theories about arguin' with a woman - none of them work!"

Thanks for stopping by!



  1. great tips :) looking forward to part 2!

  2. I assume you have bought the other 50% of the Ikea giant size terracotta pots? (I've only got a Diahatsu Sirion so there are limits) They're huge and properly fired. More importantly they're ONLY DHS.19.95 !!!!! You can't buy a rubbish un-fired pot at half the size for that price. Go see, if you haven't already wiped out the stock. Brilliant for tomatoes and mixed herbs ;-)