I was not expecting to move this summer. We'd started our seeds over winter, planted the seedlings in the ground (and in planters) and were nurturing them along when life said, “don't get too comfortable, now.”
Challenge: can one move mature garden vegetables successfully? My instincts told me “no.” I've gardened most of my life. I've never transplanted anything in the middle of summer. That would be begging for trouble.
A googling I went. Sure enough, there was a how-to video for moving mature tomato plants. If it works for tomatoes, it should work for peppers, right? According to the video, we needed to prep the plants by digging around them and breaking their roots, letting them recover from that shock in their original positions by watering them thoroughly over the next two weeks before removing and transplanting.
I would not be moving the plants to another garden plot, though. I would be transplanting them to planters. Tomatoes are large plants that need a lot of soil for their roots and plenty of nutrients to support their intense, rapid growth and fruiting.
A project that had been tickling at the back of my mind for over a year was sub-irrigated planters. During my mid-winter gardening research (if I can call stumbling about the Internet somewhat haphazardly 'research') I came across Bob Hyland's Flickr photostream of his research and work with sub-irrigated planters. Bob is the founder of the Center for Urban Greenscaping and has spent years perfecting the way he makes sub-irrigated planters (SIPs). His photostreams showed convincing results (coffee trees in New York!) that compelled me to give SIPs a try. The instructions are sketchy in his photostreams, however, and I felt no confidence in moving forward. When life suggested I get moving, the time was right to give these sub-irrigated planters a go. I worked from memory knowing my memory was shoddy at best. I managed to mash the instructions for smaller SIPs with the instructions for larger SIPs, but the results two months later are great. From memory, I needed a reservoir for the water, wicking material to draw the water into the planters, and a pipe of some sort to be able to add water to the reservoir without dismantling the planter. I had forgotten an overflow hole (remedied quickly with a drill).
I gathered food-grade plastic five gallon buckets for the tomatoes and other, smaller ones for the peppers. Since the pepper plants were small and easy to work around, we transplanted those first. Once they were in the planters we positioned the planters in mostly shade and watched for signs of shock. One plant pouted a bit – the leaves and stems were droopy that day and the next. By the third day, the droopy plant was fine as were all the other pepper planters. This was back in June.
|Inside of planter bucket. Wicking material is poly fabric. Section of garden hose is used for refilling the reservoir.|
|Wicking material hangs down into water of reservoir. (This is the part I got wrong, but seems to have worked throughout this season.)|
|I use a funnel to add water.|
|It's a beast!|
|All the planters in their new home.|
You can bet every planter I make from now on will be sub-irrigated!
|I'm sure the reservoir hole allows for evaporation. I have to fill this daily, sometimes twice daily.|