Friday, December 30, 2005

Growbox Gardening

Okay, I have posted a lot about running barefoot. When I started this site, I also meant to mention something about gardening, the vegetable kind.

Years ago, probably in the early 80's, my dad had this book on "Growbox Gardening" by a guy named Mittleider. I remember reading it and thinking that it would be an awesome way to create a vegetable garden, but I never had the gumption to really set one up. It seemed all complicated.

By the way, when we lived in Salt Lake City, the author lived not far from me. I remember going running at the bottom of this little canyon and looking up on the banks above the path and seeing lots of layered terraces creeping down the hillside. I was told that was his house. It was pretty cool, kind of like some Chinese gardens I've seen in picture books.

Somehow I discovered that he had a website set up and I visited it. To my surprise, his website was basically the entire book available on line, for free! Not long after I discovered his website, he changed it so now it is more of a big sales spiel for his book. Makes sense to me ... why give away what you're trying to sell?

Well, about 3 years ago, I decided it was time to give it a try. Mittledier updated his techniques since he wrote the one I first read. I like the new methods a lot more.

The Concept

A growbox is just a raised bed filled with artificial soil that you create. The box is only 18 inches wide, 30 feet long, and 8 inches deep.

You fertilize it once a week with a broad spectrum fertilizer and water it every day. It almost explodes with produce! Unbelievable.

I couldn't find a suitable fertilizer around here, so I had my son buy some bags of it in Salt Lake City and bring them up when he drove up here for a visit. Later on, I discovered that the Portland Rose Society sells a nearly identical fertlizer for about 1/2 the cost! Nice! My "soil" is made of 50% river sand, 25% sawdust, and 25% peat moss. I have to replenish some of the sawdust and peat moss each year, as the old stuff decomposes.

My first year, 2003, I grew broccoli heads that were almost the size of dinner plates. I grew corn plants that reached heights of 9 to 10 feet and produced very sweet, tender corn. This is almost unheard of in these parts - its considered too wet and cool and too short of a growing season for corn.

I grew green beans that reached the top of the 6 ft. trestles and wanted to keep growing, so I stretched lines from the trestle to the eaves of the house. The plants grew all the way to the roof, more than 12 feet tall! It has been pretty cool to pick beans that are hanging overhead. We always have more green beans than we know what to do with. I'm not planting them next year.

I have used the growbox method for three years now. Still with wonderful results. This past year I planted one single sweet meat squash plant. It threw out tendrils that were 15 to 20 feet long and produced 7 basketball (or larger) sized squashes.

<--- My corn plants in 2003, still growing. To the front of the pic on the left is a tomato plant and you can just see the edges of green beans. On the right I had some pots with yellow and green zucchini in them.

I also grew too many tomato plants and I let them grow too tall. They also threw out runners that were about 8 to 10 feet long. Turns out I should have trimmed them much shorter so the strength of the plants went into growing tomatoes, not longer vines, so they produced lots and lots of green tomatoes that never ripened. Live and learn. I also planted blue potatoes, and got great results from them!

So, I highly recommend the Growbox Method of gardening! Once its set up, its easy, weed-free, produces like crazy, and won't let you down. Looking forward to next year's garden!

Corn, fully grown & green beans almost to the eaves of the house! I had one zucchini plant at the far end that spread out about six feet wide on both sides! (2003 garden)

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