It is now mid July and the vertical garden has gone from a mandatory daily feed to a twice a day feed. Things don’t have to be precise, but doing it before any sign of wilt is a valid option. Since I really like the quad pot grow system, feeding twice a day really requires hardly any extra effort than feeding once a day. In fact, since a daily feed for my 500 plant garden with drippers takes place for an hour or two, the 55 gallon tank is plenty for a double feed in a day.
Meet El Cheapo
Being a Pacific Northwesterner all my life, minus several winters escaping the rain in Mexico, I build the ‘El Cheapo’ to compare costs and production with the beautiful, yet more expensive quad pot. My basic conclusion is that the terracotta pots style, look and versatility makes it my number one choice.
But, after remembering a vacation once spent in Mexico where the bartender had mentioned he finds Canadians cheap(much cheaper than Americans), and having read comments from many who liked the vertical garden, yet found it too expensive, I did begin experimentation with something similar; using 3 stacked standard nursery pots of various sizes.
I transplanted Roma tomatoes into the system and they are very productive. The cost of pots in the system was somewhere near $15. The cost for using the other pots was over $35 for three. From a farmer perspective in the short run, I would go ‘all in’ saying they would outproduce and be less maintenance; with all things equal like exact feeding and care.
Now that it is mid July and many plants are sucking up plenty of feed hourly, the larger pots do make it possible to get the odd night out of town; especially if you use soilless mix or another heavy peat moss mix.
What I do not like, is these nursery pots are soft, and would go ‘all in’ thinking will not last anywhere close to the better looking pots.
Another deterrent, are the holes in the bottom, which many conventional growers will like. The reason I personally dislike them is that they are on the outsides; thus I had to use wider buckets under the top buckets. That is only personal opinion, because conventional gardeners will find that fine.
Supa Cheapo is building the system with recycled food grade restaurant buckets. Often, they can be bought in bulk or obtained free from restaurants, bakeries, etc. Now, from a purchasable standpoint, you could buy 3 for under $3 and no tax. This looks the worst, but can produce large yields. The good news is that farmer could use these and lower startup costs significantly and even change them to nice pots if that raises the value of the farm before sale. Changing pots is easy, pounding in stakes and main irrigation setup is the majority of work.
Asides from the huge savings, the typical 5 gallon pot is made of string HDPE #2 food grade plastic which allows for good placement for bottom holes so that 5 gallon pots can easily stack upon one another. In particular, they are a decent option for larger tomato plants, peppers and hanging cucumbers. They are oversized for herbs, lettuce and strawberries.
In fact, farmers will dump roots, recycle, or dispose medium after each crop anyway. Thus, swapping pots is an option after crop completion.