How to grow vegetables in your apartment
Last week my twin sister Katie taught me how to build a sub-irrigated planting container out of recycled materials, so I can grow lettuce in my apartment. The full story can be read here.
I posted the full instructions below (watch the video, I promise it will help) but wanted to include a short list of some of Katie’s go-to websites and places where she learned some of the skills she uses to farm in the city.
www.yougrowgirl.com : Created by Gayla Trail in February 2000 for “people who want to grow but whose garden space is less than ideal,” according to information on the website.
http://rooftopgardens.ca/en: The Rooftop Garden Project, sponsored by Alternative’s magazine in Montreal.
She also suggests entering sub-irrigated planter on YouTube. Here are a few links to start.
My apartment has fairly terrible light. So our next project will be building a grow light. We plan to post that video in two weeks.
THE PROJECT: Kids can do this says Katie, but, of course, let the adults handle the box cutter and the drill.
What we used
- 16 litre Canola oil bucket with lid. The lid will become your false bottom or reservoir top.
- 1 litre yogurt container (we did not use the lid). The yogurt container will act as a support to keep the false bottom or lid off the actual bottom of the bucket.
- 20-inch PVC pipe with end cut on a 45-degree angle. Once the container is assembled this pipe will be used to fill the reservoir with water.
- 2 10 litre bags of potting soil that contain compost
- Box cutter
- Drill and ¼ inch bit
- Towels to mop up the spills
1. If your bucket has previously contained soil, sanitize it to ensure pathogens from previous planting cycles aren’t passed on to this season. We put ours through an industrial dishwasher but you can use a home dishwasher, or wash with hot water and soap and then rinse with a one-part bleach to nine-parts water solution and let air dry. If there wasn’t any soil, hot water and soap with an air dry will do.
2. Pop the Canola oil spout out of the lid to create a circular opening for the pipe to run through. If the lid does not have a spout proceed to step three.
3. Use box cutter to trim edges off lid of Canola oil bucket so it fits snuggly inside the bucket.
4. If the lid did not have a spout, you’ll need to cut a hole in the lid for the pipe to run into the reservoir. Trace the pipe diameter at the rim of the bucket lid and cut out tracing with box cutter.
5. Trace the top of the yogurt container onto the center of the trimmed bucket lid, being careful to not overlap with the pipe hole. It is important that the hole you cut in the center of the bucket lid is slightly smaller than the diameter of the top of the yogurt container. This allows the bucket lid to rest firmly on the container, creating a secure top for the water reservoir.
6. Poke a ring of ¼ inch holes, one inch apart, one inch above the base of the yogurt container. Repeat this process at two, three, and four inches above the base.
7. Place the hole-punched yogurt container in the bottom of the empty canola bucket and rest the Canola oil bucket lid on top, creating the false bottom. It should look like an upside down hat.
8. Once both parts are inside mark the height of the false bottom or lid on the outside of the bucket, then remove lid and yogurt container. Steady bucket on its side and drill a hole one inch below the traced line to act as an overflow hole for rainwater or human watering error. Drill a second hole at the same height on the opposite side of the bucket as a back-up overflow.
9. FINAL ASSEMBLY. Place yogurt container, open side up in the bottom of the bucker and rest cut Canola oil bucket lid on top. Insert pipe in the smaller hole in the Canola oil bucket, with the cut or slanted end of the pipe inside the bucket. NOTE: It is very important to make sure the slanted side of the pipe is inside the bucket. If you place the flat end inside water cannot be poured down into the reservoir.
10. Fill the yogurt container with moistened soil and firmly compress the soil with your hand. Steady the pipe with one hand so its straight up and down and fill the rest of the bucket with firmly tamped down soil. Now is a good time to get the old towel beneath the bucket to catch any extra water or soil.
11. Moisten the rest of the soil until a teaspoon of water runs out of a squeezed handful. This may take several litres. It is best to use a watering can, but any pitcher will do. Wait at least five minutes between each litre to allow the water to soak in.
12. Fill the reservoir by pouring water down pipe until water flows out overflow holes you drilled in the bottom.
13. Spread seeds and tuck in according to their specific needs for germination or transplant tiny plants into buckets based on their adult spacing needs.
14. Clean up water mess.