Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

Container Gardening, how do I find the containers?  How much do they cost, and what is the best container for my container gardening needs?


You can grow plants in virtually anything that holds some soil and has holes in the bottom for drainage. It’s only bounded by your imagination.


My wife loves to go to yard and garage sales.  She has come home with a half pick-up load of containers  at little to no cost.  She decorates them, or if they look nice, she just cleans them thoroughly to ensure that the porous containers are not carrying any disease that will affect our Container gardening crops.

Container Gardening, How do I Find the Containers?

There is also the aesthetics of purchasing some tastefully decorated containers for your gardening that will fit with your décor and your landscaping.  There are many roof top gardens and farms in larger cities, as well as large rooftop farms that not only provide the local restaurants with great produce, but lower the heating and cooling bills of the building that they are grown on.


So what are the problems with finding containers for your container gardening needs?

  • Finding a good fit for your needs
  • Matching the landscaping or the feel of your environment and what you want your container garden to provide for you
  • Being able to grow what you want to grow in the space you have
  • The cost of all of the containers and everything else you need to start and maintain your  container gardening adventure


There are quite a few ways to reach your goals, the first way is to find out how much room you have to grow in, as well as what you want to grow.  Below is a short list of some ways to not only use the space you have, but also teach others to do the same.


First, is look in your area for some training related to container gardening.  This can include children if you have your own, or work with them in any way:
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Gardening in Containers: Growing in Small and Soilless Spaces, US National Gardening Association, Growing Ideas Classroom Projects, 2003 —

Detailed practical guide online, designed for teachers to use in school gardening projects, useful for anyone.

Background, creative containers, plants and schemes, plants for container gardens, special container projects, recommended web sites, books and tools. Chart of vegetables, showing good container varieties, container size, final plant spacing, light requirement, minimum soil depth. Also herbs, annual flowers, bulbs, perennials. 3 web pages, 5,000 words.



Here is a great option for just starting out. Remember to use all of the resources that are available to you, whether they are online or next door.  By helping each other, we all win in life.

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Growing columns

Make a column out of 1″ chickenwire, 3ft high and 15-16 inches in diameter. You’ll need 5ft of 3ft-wide chickenwire, allowing for a 1ft overlap. Fasten it with twists of thin wire. Line the inside with corrugated cardboard from cardboard boxes.

Stand it up on end, hold a 4″-diameter plastic plumbing pipe in the middle and fill the pipe with sand and stones (builder’s gravel for concrete is ideal). Fill the rest of the column around the pipe with good soil, packed down enough to prevent it sinking too much later (but not too tightly — don’t compact it). Carefully remove the pipe.

Cut slits 2-3″ long through the cardboard in a spiral going round the column from top to bottom. The spiral should go round the column 6 or 7 times, with 6-8″ between the slits, making about 50 slits or more.

The sand and stone core is for watering — water will sink right to the bottom and then spread out to the sides. After you’ve watered it it will sink a little; top up with more soil and sand.

Plant leaf vegetable and salad crop seedlings through the slits. Water every few days.

This gives a growing area of 12 square feet occupying a very small space. Make sure you put it where it will get enough light, or supplement natural sunlight with growing lamps.

You can make a few columns — plant them about two weeks apart for a steady harvest throughout the growing season. Five will give an average family lots of delicious, fresh, green vegetables.


Here are some other ideas that you can use to save time and money while setting up your container gardening empire.

  • Garage sales will bring you lots of materials, as well as possibly some of the other items that you need for your container gardening needs.
  • Clearance sales from greenhouses and hardware stores
  • Coupons from large home improvement stores
  • Slightly damaged containers that may still be decorated or repaired
  • Be creative. What do you have that you enjoy that can be turned into a container for your gardening needs.

Be creative and remember to look at what you have.  That is one of the great Joys of the adventure of farming and gardening.

Sign up here now to continue to get great information on ideas and methods to achieve what you want in Your Container Garden.

Turning your dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs  ——————  The Caretaker

Posted by & filed under water.

How do I choose applicable water filtration systems for hydroponics growing?  Let’s take a look at the water that is normally supplied by your municipality if that is where you get your water for your growing system.


Depending upon the source water quality in your area, you may have one or all of these items added to your drinking water:

  • Algaecides
  • Antifoams
  • Biocides
  • Boiler water chemicals
  • Coagulants
  • Corrosion Inhibitors
  • Disinfectants
  • Flocculants
  • Neutralizing Agents
  • Oxidants
  • Oxygen Scavengers
  • PH Conditioners
  • Resin Cleaners
  • Scale Inhibitors

The Water Treatment System of your municipality is required by law to meet the safe drinking water act enacted by our government.  It was enacted to ensure that people would not get sick from the contaminants in the water supply, as well as the distribution system where you live.

Small Water Filtration Systems

To have good healthy clean water for your plants, you need to know what they need, and what they do not need in their water supply.  To meet the agreed upon water quality requirements for humans, your plants health is not the first concern for them.  Only meeting the requirements of the safe drinking water act and the inspections that they have is what they focus upon.


The reason for that is not only to avoid being fined by the government, but they also want to ensure that they overcome all of the possible contaminants that they might encounter in the distribution center after the water is deemed clean at the water treatment plant.


What is your responsibility when you choose to purchase water from your local water distribution system?

  • Is the water healthy for you?
  • Is the water of good quality for your pets and your plants?
  • What does the water consist of?
  • Is it high in chlorine levels?
  • How about metals or pH, Resin, Scale inhibitors?
  • What nutrients are left in the water
  • What is the pH of your water
  • What is the complete chemistry of your water


What home water filtration systems will provide the clean pure water that you need to grow healthy yourself, as well as for your plants?

  • Water softeners add lots of sodium, and can be harmful to your plants
  • Tap water can have chemicals that can harm your plants
  • Bottled spring water and distilled water do not affect the growth of a plant.
  • Mineral water may contain salt and other minerals that could harm plants.
  • There is also a risk of bacteria growing in an opened container of bottled water; the bacteria may be harmful to plants.
  • Filtered or RO water at the point of use are the best types of water for you to use for your Vegetables and Plants.


An RO (reverse osmosis) system uses a membrane to remove most of the materials that are dissolved in the water supplied to your home/garden or farm.  However, you must first remove the chlorine that is in your water to protect the membrane from the chlorine that will damage it.


You can purchase 3 or four cartridge water filtration systems that will meet most if not all of your needs.  The prices for this system are dependent upon which system you purchase.  You can purchase systems that produce 50 gallons per day (GPD) up to 750 or more GPD.  Depending upon your budget and how much water you choose to filter.


The lowest cost whole building filtration system is a single 5 micron Carbon filter that will remove the chlorine and most of the sediments. It will be a single cartridge with a removable filter inside of the body of the cartridge.


To protect your plants and your investment in your farm/garden or home, it is a great idea to install the correct water filtration systems for your needs.


Sign up here now to ensure you receive future information as we explore different water filtration systems and how they provide what you need.


Turning your dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs ——————– The Caretaker






Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

This is a question that many people ask as they are starting out with container gardening in smaller spaces, or even when they want to be able to move their containers around from place to place as they find the optimum site for their plants.

This is the question that we found in a container gardening forum we frequent:

What plant should I put in what size container?

I read somewhere that the cherry tomatoes would do well in smaller pots, but then I read somewhere else that they grow very large, and I need a bigger pot. I am confused! I don’t know what to do. I would really like to use the containers I already have, is that possible?

Container gardening: What size containers do I need?

These are the plastic containers I have:

– 12″ (31 cm) Round (6)
– 10″ (25 cm) Round (4)
– 12″ (30 cm) Square (1)
– 15″ (38 cm) Round (2)
– 18″ (45.7 cm) Square (1)
– Several flower boxes (like 10-ish)


The answer is maybe.  You want to discover the total volume of the containers that you have.  We have some larger diameter containers, but they are not very tall, so they do not work well for some of our larger plants.  We are currently growing tomatoes in containers as an experiment to see which size container produces the best produce in the same environment.


We have Cherry Tomatoes in one, and Heirloom beefsteak tomatoes in another.  We are also growing the same tomatoes in our garden as a comparison.


I have listed different sized containers and what they are best for, to my knowledge as well as some of my friends who also grow using containers, for you to choose which will work best for you.


Before I give you these container sizes though,  The first step is to ensure that you have proper container gardening drainage:


  • Planting containers must have drainage holes for root aeration.
  • When planning a container garden, the first step you should take is to look at what drain holes are present. While most store bought planters will have a hole or several holes present, many are insufficient.
  • If you have a planter that keeps moist soil for long periods of time, check your drainage. Roots that are allowed to set in water will rot quickly!!
  • If they’re there, great! No work is to be done!.
  • I like to see around 6 to 8, 3/8″ drainage holes in the bottom of a 14″ planter. The bigger the planter, add more. The smaller the planter, add less. A planter with only one drainage hole has a larger risk of clogging than a planter with numerous small holes.
  • If extra drainage or any drainage needs to be added, simply add the amount of holes necessary for good drainage


The following information Is from e-how.

It is great information, and I use it to help myself as a reference when I am trying new containers and different plants for the first time:

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1-Gallon Container

One-gallon container pots vary in shape and material. These smaller vegetable-growing containers may be in the form of a simple hanging basket, or plain plastic. One-gallon containers are typically 6 inches in diameter. Gallon plastic milk jugs make excellent planting containers if you cut the top off and make drainage holes in the bottom. Spacemaster cucumbers grow well in this size container as long as you only plant one per container. Hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, two to three plants of baby carrots, spinach, parsley, radish and three to five plants of bunching green onions also grow well in 1-gallon containers. All 1-gallon containers must contain well-draining soil so the roots of the vegetable plants do not rot from standing water. Always check the vegetable seed or seedling package for planting depth and spacing needs.

5-Gallon Container

Five-gallon containers will hold more plants, resulting in a higher yield at the end of the growing season. These containers can hold bigger plants in smaller quantities, or smaller plants in larger quantities. Five-gallon containers have close to 12 inches in diameter of space. The 5-gallon size make for good variety gardens such as cherry tomatoes and herbs, or a mixture of leaf lettuces. Vegetables suitable for 5-gallon containers include various beans, one carrot plant if the container is at least 12 inches deep, one plant of the smaller eggplant variety, one to two plants of hot peppers, one plant of patio tomato or one plant of squash. Various 1-gallon vegetable plants may grow in larger quantity in 5-gallon containers. Five-gallon containers require well-draining soil.

15-Gallon Container

The 15-gallon containers will hold a larger variety of vegetables, perfect for growing salad or salsa vegetable mini-gardens. This larger size container has a diameter of close to 18 inches. For any plant grown in the 5-gallon container size, the 15-gallon size will hold two to three plants more. Suitable vegetables include two plants of Brussels sprouts, three plants of Chinese cabbage, two to three tomato plants—depending on the size of the variety, five pepper plants and three to four leaf lettuce varieties. As with all container planting, the container must have well-draining soil.

Read more: The Best Size Containers for Growing Vegetables |
One of the  best things that I have found, is to research as much as possible,  but set a time frame for research, then take action.  Even imperfect action you will learn new things.

Thomas Edison when he was asked why he continued to experiment with electricity when he continued to fail answered:  “ I have not failed, I just learned another way on how NOT to make it work.”


Be adventurous, experiment and have fun.


Sign up here now to learn more and ask your questions directly.


Turning your dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs  ————-The Caretaker

Posted by & filed under Organic Gardening.

The question of how does a greenhouse work when used with hydroponics has intrigued me ever since I started seeing more and more Greenhouses make the move to hydroponics.

  • What are the problems that you might have by using hydroponics and Green houses together?
  • Is it safe to do so?
  • I heard it is more labor intensive than green houses using natural soil farming practices
  • What about maintaining organic or natural certification?

How Does A Greenhouse Work with Hydroponics

I am attaching some information from the University Florida about Greenhouse Hydroponics here:
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You can also go to and read it directly.


The Florida greenhouse vegetable industry in 2004 was comprised of approximately 80 acres of crop production. Several vegetable and herb crops are grown in these Florida greenhouses. A few greenhouse vegetable operations are considered large with more than one acre under cover. However, most greenhouse vegetable growers in Florida are small farmers with one or two greenhouse bays (one bay is about one-tenth of an acre). In a recent UF/IFAS survey, over 80% of the greenhouse hydroponic grower operations have 0.3 acres (three bays) or less. However, the large grower operations with one or more acres represent over 80% of the total acreage in greenhouse hydroponic production.

The primary crops grown include: pepper, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, herbs, and strawberry. The industry in Florida has changed from primarily either tomato or cucumber in the early 1990s to the diversity of today. A variety of structure types are used, as well. Structures include both fan and pad or naturally ventilated systems. Both are successfully used in the state depending on cropping intentions.

Several hydroponic production systems are also used, including soilless bag culture, rockwool, upright pots, beto buckets, nutrient film technique, floating systems, vertical stacking pots, troughs, gravel culture, and others.

Small farmers use direct marketing methods to sell their crops by selling retail at the farm, at farmers markets, roadside stands, other small produce stores, grocery chains, or other wholesale outlets. It has been the success of a marketing plan that has usually separated successful from unsuccessful greenhouse growers.

The initial investment in a standard new single bay greenhouse for vegetables can vary from $18,000 – $30,000. Most growers estimate they will have invested an additional $5,000 – $10,000 to build the structure, install the production system, and provide electrical connections.

The production of high quality hydroponic vegetables is also an intensive time commitment. It is difficult and risky to leave the greenhouse for short or long periods of time due to the high demand for the production system and environmental controls to perform as needed. Many small growers have been successfully producing crops at a profit for 10-15 years and many others have not made a profit and given up or sold the greenhouses in less than three years. Those who have been successful have used dependable production systems and have invested their time and effort in developing a profitable market.


So as you can see,  there are some concerns when dealing with how does a greenhouse work with hydroponics.


  • The cost of  a greenhouse can be more than $ 20,000, and you will have “Extras” also
  • It is safe, if you ask questions and put in place a good solid system.
  • It can be more labor intensive as far as your time, because you can not set it and forget it.
  • You can maintain organic certification, as well as naturally grown certification. But again, the systems need to be maintained daily.
  • You can lose money and go out of business
  • You can make money and have fun doing it as well as teaching others how to grow great food.
  • There are steps that you can take to ensure your success, you just need to do your homework.


The question to ask yourself, is are you willing to learn, ask questions and invest time and money into the endeavor?  If yes, this can be a successful deal for your and your family.

Ask for help.  Sign up here now to get future articles and to learn more on this subject.


Turning your dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs————-The Caretaker



Posted by & filed under Permaculture.

What is sustainable farming, and why is it becoming such a huge focal point in the United States and throughout the world now?  There is a Huge need for more jobs, as well as healthy food throughout the world.  Locally grown Organic food is the best that your money can purchase.  There is usually no middle man, and you can build a relationship with your local grower, or grocer if you so choose to.

Sustainable Farming - is this the life of your Dreams?

The great thing about our country is the ability for us to choose the life that we want. Living a healthy life eating healthy foods and enjoying the outdoors is what most people think of as a healthy enjoyable life. Americans spend a huge amount of time outdoors bicycling, motorcycle riding, writing, playing sports, all types of sports and of course eating.


So my question for you is this:

  1. What does sustainable life mean to you
  2. When you close your eyes what does your dream life consistent
  3. What food do you eat
  4. What do you drink, water, wine, soda pop, beer, or other drinks
  5. What does your environment look like all around you, is it rural, urban, remote or a mix of all three
  6. Now the big question, how did you make the life you dream of sustainable so that you and your family can live the life that you dream of without having to leave the property.

For a lot of people this may seem kind of strange. But when you think about it, that is what the family farm used to be like. Generations of the same family would live together on the same farm producing products for their neighbors, community and friends. He would work to use the land to the best of your ability and take care of the land so that it would continue to take care of you and your family.


So let me give you the definition and the meaning of what sustainable farming means to me. Number 1. Sustainable farming to me means the ability of the land and the lifestyle I live to pay for the property, food, equipment, marketing as well as vacations and medical as well as dental needs. It also means that everything we need to eat a healthy lifestyle self reseeds and grows continuously. The lifestyle also allows us to purchase after research and technology that makes our life simpler and more profitable.

2. When I close my eyes what is my dream life look like? I see our home which is a great ship, very energy efficient, right outside our kitchen door is a 1 acre garden. Inside her home the southern facing section of the home as a vegetable garden growing year-round also, with seven guest rooms as well as a central swimming pool with a water feature that aerates the swimming pool to keep it well oxygenated and fresh. There is a large shop on the property that maintains all of the equipment as well as manufacturers reverse trikes, which are three wheeled vehicles with two wheels up front and the drive wheel singular on the rear. This provides extra income and the reverse trikes can be either electric powered or small diesel engines that provide up to 125 mpg. There is also a hanger and a small runway that allows helicopters and small planes to land and take off. Because of this the property also is a bed and breakfast. There are horses for writing and providing horsepower for some of the work that needs to be done on the property.

3. Now that we have the garden healthy food we eat organic fruits and vegetables as well as have eggs available from the chickens. We have avocados, tomatoes, corn, squash, etc.

4. What do we drink. First and foremost we drink clean filtered water. For our guests we have fruit juice, freshly squeezed of course as well as wine and beer for those who like to drink that. All water is filtered naturally or with activated carbon to maintain the mineral content of a healthy water environment.

5. So what does environment look like for us? We prefer a more rural to remote type of property, which allows for more opportunities to enjoy nature and animals that live wild in the area. We leave a lot of the property natural and look for ways to use the naturally growing plants as part of our food supply.

6. So how do we make this property become sustainable in and of itself, so that we don’t have to leave the property unless we want to, to provide for all of our needs?


The answer to this question is dependent upon choices once again. What do I like to do, what does my wife like to do, and what does the area and my customers want and need that we can produce that will provide the income we need to make the property self sustaining.


This is where the most important aspect of managing your estate, farm or garden comes into play. The answer is one word: Mindset.

In the next section of this book we will talk about mindset and I will interview some very informative people.


For right now if you like what we have given you in this chapter so far, sign up here now to receive future posts regarding sustainable living.

Turning your dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs

The Caretaker

Posted by & filed under Composting.

Why is worm composting good for apartment dwellers?  I heard the following things about worm composting and would like to know if they are true:

  • Worm composting smells bad
  • It takes a lot of time and effort
  • It is expensive
  • There are laws against having farm animals in an apartment building
  • Worms can escape from their enclosures and infect an entire building
  • The biggest thing I heard is that worms are slimy and need lots of attention

Why is Worm Composting Good For Apartment Dwellers?

Now let me dispel some of the myths about worm composting.

  1. Worm composting will smell earthy during the process when done correctly, but will not stink.
  2. The worms do the majority of the work, so there is little effort on your part with the exception of some set-up and maintenance of the worm bins.
  3. It is not that expensive when you look at the compost that you get. Also your plants are going to love what you have done for them.  You will save money by not purchasing soil and plant feed from the local garden store.
  4. Worms are not a farm animal, they are all around you even in the city keeping the soil aerated even in the lawns and gardens in your neighborhood
  5. Worms are not very mobile, and if one escapes while feeding them with more food waste, just pick them up and place them back in the container.  They do not multiply in a sterile environment.  They need food and moisture, as well as a media to live in that allows them to move around.
  6. Worms do not need that much attention, but they do need food, water and a good clean healthy environment.  Provide that for them, and your good Organic waste will be turned into great compost for your growing flowers or vegetables.
  7. There are only four major components  to consider when you set up an indoor worm composting system:  A Container, Bedding, Waste Material and worms.

One of the other advantages of worm composting is the learning experience, as well as education of your family, friends and neighbors.  It could also start some interesting conversations with new visitors to your home!

How to choose the type of Worm Composting Bin that fits your needs?  Research basically.  There is a link to Washington State University in Whatcom county:

You can learn how to make your own worm bins inexpensively.  They even show you how to make it and how to take care of the worms and the bins.

If you are not as adventurous, you can just purchase a worm composting bin, and they usually even come with directions!  There are kitchen composting containers that look like fire hydrants.

Also, there are tumbler worm composting bins. You can purchase stackable containers that are sometimes called Worm Café’s.  All in all, there are worm composting bins that will fit your needs and your décor inside of your home or out on the deck or back yard.

If you live in the penthouse, you can even have your own rooftop garden!  In some of the larger cities like New York, there are even buses with mini-gardens on top of the bus!  The only limit to living a healthier lifestyle is your own imagination and your willingness to explore all of the possibilities.

There are many books and articles on worm composting, and if you would like to join with others who enjoy worm composting, there is a social network called vermicomposters which is composting with worms.

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Turning your dreams into the Life of Your Dreams

Chris Downs   ——- The Caretaker