Liv Fruitful with Livi Lou! She is currently breeding strawberries, developing a garden product, trialing plants and researching the history of heirloom fruit varieties. She writes about unique perennials and fruit plants, so that you can grow an ornamental fruit garden. www.livilougarden.com facebook.com/livilougarden
 

 

The Best Container: Earthbox or Smart Pots?
by Livi Lou - posted 03/04/16

Why is container growing so great?

·        You can better control the soil

·        You can move the plant to the sun, shade or garage

·        It’s not permanent and you can try growing something new

·        They’re best for nursery grown plants since any diseased plantings will be restricted to the pot instead of contaminating your in-ground garden soil

 

What is a downside to it?

·        Your garden can look junky and overcrowded if there are too many pots

 

Which containers are best?

That depends on your purpose for the container. Is it going to be for decorative plantings such as annual or perennial flowers or for growing herbs, fruit or vegetables?

 

o    

Here is my experience with two brands: Eathbox and Smart Pots.

As you may recall, I am growing the Double Gold raspberry in an Earthbox.

 

  

  

 

Earthbox—I’ve grown tomatoes, strawberries, loose leaf lettuce and raspberries in these.  I find the strawberries do not survive the winter in them.  I prefer to use them for raspberries and loose leaf lettuce because of their length and water containment. 

·        Earthbox has a water containing compartment in the bottom of the container.  Unlike other ‘self-watering’ containers, I like that Earthbox has an overflow hole in case of over-watering.

·        An Earthbox is heavy to move. But the Earthbox set comes with wheels, which is great if you plan to use it on a hard surface. 

·        Earthbox is a growing system, but I find that you easily lose the nice plastic covering you’re supposed to poke your plants through.

 

    

 

Smart Pots—Fabric pots that air-prune the roots.  When the roots reach the fabric and the air on the other side, they stop growing and form fibrous roots.

 

 

Fibrous roots are the ones that gather the most nutrients from the soil. Your plants never become root-bound and develop a fuller root system. They were originally designed for use in tree nurseries. 

 

    

 

I’ve grown flowers, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and fruit trees in them. Above are photos of tomatoes and mint growing in Smart Pots.

·        A Smart Pot forms a capillary action with the dirt ground beneath it which helps to keep the pot from drying out. Eventually, the roots may grow through the bottom to the dirt below. No problem, just rotate your pot and break that minor growth.

·        They are lightweight and easy to move. You can move your pot to follow the sunny spots in your garden or to bring it into the garage in the winter.   

·        Many sizes. I’ve used 3 gal, 5 gal and 7 gal pots. Please note that as the size increases they tend to get wider rather than taller.  

·        Temperature regulation. The fabric keeps the pot from overheating.

·        You can put them inside decorative pots.

 

o    

 

I have a decorative urn in my garden.  It gets too warm in the sun and hardly anything will thrive in it.  I’ve put a Smart Pot inside the urn and planted flowers that will flow over the edge of the urn—masking the edges of the Smart Pot—and the plants now survive better.

 

 

 

I would recommend trying a Smart Pot.  You can purchase them from Amazon. Here is a link to an Amazon seller who sells them in a pack of 5.

 

The only disadvantage to a Smart Pot is what I refer to as becoming ‘root-full.’  Instead of being root-bound, it grows so many fibrous roots that all the untapped soil becomes occupied and then the soil becomes compacted.

 

Think of it like this:  the roots now outweigh the soil.

 

This may be a problem with my Jelly Bean blueberry bush.  When watering Jelly Bean, the water would run down the side of the fabric pot instead of being absorbed into the soil.

 

I think this can be avoided by planting a bush in which the root ball is NOT nearly the same size as the container. Therefore, the roots have more room to grow.

 

And it can be solved by re-potting to a larger container or by root-pruning.  I’ll write more about this later this month.

 

 

Check back next Friday for a tip on protecting your container crop…and for an additional surprise post!

 

   

~ Thanks for reading!

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Theme Announcement: contain your enthusiasm
by Livi Lou - posted 02/29/16

I’m excited for spring and I can’t contain it any longer!

March Starts the Container Campaign. All about container growing, all month long!

 

Do you ask yourself…

 

What containers should I use?

How can I protect my container crop from critters?

What size container is best?

 

…then this March follow Friday posts!

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Brazelberries Jelly Bean Part 2: Summer 2015
by Livi Lou - posted 02/26/16

As I explained in my previous post, I was eager and excited for Brazelberries Jelly Bean’s Summer 2015 harvest.   The blueberry bush grew in height and developed many buds.  However, I did not receive a harvest.

There could be two main reasons why the buds did not turn into berries.

1.       They flowered too early for pollinating insects or just poor pollination in general.

2.       There was an insect that preyed on the buds.

I believe that an insect is the most likely cause.  About four berries formed, but withered and fell off.  Some of the buds became brown.  There was one small black bug on the plant, along with a leaf in which the underside held small eggs.

I removed the egg-infested leaf and destroyed the bug, but I think the damage was already done.  I still have not positively identified this bug.

While I do not think I had all the signs of blueberry bud mites, I think some kind of insect that feeds on buds is the cause.

Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the bug at the time.

 

Another peculiar event occurred to Jelly Bean.  Below is a photo of Jelly Bean in Early September 2015. Despite its lack of harvest, it was still heathy and thriving.

 

 

Here is a photo of it about a week later.

 

 

 I had been out of town for a week. The brown leaves could be due to drought, but my other pots survived fine in my absence.  Jelly Bean did not revive after watering and I began to wonder if it was a disease.

The only photo I could find with similar looking leaves was from Michigan State University about a new blueberry disease called bronze leaf curl.

 

        

 

If you have a mysterious blueberry disease, you may want to learn more about bronze leaf curl. Here is a link to the university’s website: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/files/7_6_11_MBN.pdf

I am still unsure if it was bronze leaf curl.  Currently, Jelly Bean is fine and overwintering nicely in my garage.  We will find out how it produces this summer.

 

 

~ Thank for reading!

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