Large yield of vegetables in small space using Poly Max grow tubes.
First of all, I would like to mention the importance of people learning how to grow at least some of their food. It appears easy, and in a natural way it is, but there are lessons to be learned that only time will teach. I have had so many people say to me that if there were ever food shortages or some kind of interruption of the food supply, that they would throw some seeds in the ground and then harvest their bounty. I am not sure how one can be so certain, because even the best master gardeners experience failures. Weather, is the big issue. Discipline and time is the other big ingredient. But each year we learn more and more about the planting and watering and the making of compost and other soil additives. Not to mention the health benefits of raising your own fresh vegetables. I like to say to people that if you are going to grow a garden, do it as if your life depends on it, as the settlers or homesteaders had to. One day we all might have to.
This year I put up a 24 x 48 greenhouse that I found on Craigslist for not much money. There are actually many abandoned greenhouses that can be bought for the removal. So once the greenhouse was up, the question was how will I grow all my vegetables in there? First thought was to make large raised beds along the sides . But that would require a lot of back breaking work getting the large amounts of soil into the greenhouse. My bucket loader tractor was to large to get into there. I did set up some hydroponics systems using the Easy Grow auto pots. They worked excellent as well. All the plants that grew in those pots flourished and massively produced vegetable. Notably tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. The plants were strong and lasted till I couldn't maintain non freezing temps any longer, which was December 1rst. The two 10" pot combination with self regulating "smart valve" that is connected to a large reservoir which maintains the water level automatically.
I bought 4 sets of the two pots for about $42.00 each which is a bit expensive if you wanted to make a whole garden. but they worked very well. I will continue to use them and will buy some more. Infact, I have moved them into the main house and am growing tomato plants in them for the winter.
The next choice was in the FarmTek catalogue where it mentioned commercial greenhouse growers were using the Poly Max grow tube. It is bought by the 100' roll and is a mesh type of material made out of spun polyester. The advantage of growing in these is many. But the best attribute is that the roots get plenty of oxygen which is called air pruning. They are easy to move around once filled. They can conform to any shape. A fraction of your soil/compost mixture is used verses a raised bed system. No tilling, no weeding, retains water and promotes drainage. Can be placed on a deck or balcony or a driveway, lawn. Any where. Can easily be removed later. I cut the material in to 6' lengths and hot glued one end shut. then in a wheel barrow, I made up my soil using 1 part compost, 1 part good garden soil and 1 part peat moss or coconut coir with some vermiculite added for more water retention. I used a small scoop to fill them. this was a little slow, but two people would speed it along. I packed them with the soil and then tied off the end with wire. that was it. I then put then where I thought I might want them, though I knew I could move them later. I cut holes in the fabric where I would place the seedling. that was it! In this picture to the left, I have the tomato plants close together in the beginning so they can be covered at night since that picture was taken April 15th in RI. The plants were producing ripe fruit by June 1rst! This year i will start even earlier. As the plants grew, i spread them further apart so i could walk between them. For watering I ran an old garden hose down the center and off of that I ran 1/4" feeder tubes to a 1 gph drip emitters. these worked excellent and the plants flourished. I was also able to add nutrients to the water reservoir for a periodic feeding. I found many plants did much better in the grow tubes than outside on the ground, such as the cucumbers. I raised several different varieties and they all grew up strings and produced 10 or cucumbers per plant. The amount of flowers was huge, but for some reason not all became fruit. Maybe not enough bee activity in the greenhouse. I did try pollinating them myself. None the less, there were loads and load of cucumbers from 4 6' grow tubes each with about 6 or 7 plants. At the same time as I was growing these vegetables, I was trying to raise Tilapia in a tank with a grow bed as the filter. This was very successful and there is much room for error, as I can contest to. . All the fish were in good condition and maybe one or two died. For more information on my raising tilapia, go to the Tilapia page here.
May 23, 2011
A new spring is alive. The pictures to the left show the grow tubes being used a second year. This has worked out very well. With the tubes that I grew the large rooty plants, such as tomato, peppers and eggplants, I opened up one end of the tubes and simply emptied the soil on to a tarp. I took the roots out and added new compost, peat moss and some natural fertilizers, bone meat, etc. Then added the soil back and was back in business. Other tubes I simply moved the soil around through the holes and added new soil and compost. All the new plants that I started from seed, some seed being from last year, took right off. The month of April and May has been below normal temperature, so the greenhouse is helping immensely. Other wise you would have to put tunnels over your plants if they are outside. Keeping rain off of your plants is something to think about as well. The grow tubes have certainly proved themselves last year and it appears that I will get another season out of them and possibly next year as well. I also experimented with making my own tubes out of the black weed cloth that is available at all stores. these worked just as well. I cut the material to the correct width and used a hot glue to fasten the edges together to make a tube. Doing this though isn't a whole lot cheaper than buying the Poly Max tubes, especially if you add in your time.
I have to say that using these tubes use a fraction of the soil required for a raised bed or conventional garden. I did not need a rototiller for this. If you bought the compost in a bale and added some other soil, you would have a garden in any place. A $80 roll, or 100' of the Poly Max tubes would give a gardener 16 6' long tubes, which could grow a tremendous amount of food. I do think that a thin layered raised bed contraption, say, some 2"x6"x 8' long regular construction framing lumber filled with dirt is a might be better to grow large amounts of spinach and lettuces. I would save the use of these tubes for the larger plants, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers and cantaloupes. Raising the cucumbers and growing them up the strings were great as well. Cantaloupes did well also. I have asked other participators to send pictures of their progress in which I will make a gallery of other peoples efforts.
I have put together finally the "COMPACT MINI GARDEN" that any one, from first time gardeners to serious master gardeners can nurture to grow plenty of fresh vegetables for the table. Using the Poly Max grow tubes assures success in growing all vegetables. Add drip tape irrigation, manual or automatic for a consistent supply of water. The Mini Garden comes complete, ready for simple assembly or can be set up at your location, complete with 24 plants of your choice. Place on your deck or balcony, or that sunny side of the garage. Easy to disassemble in the fall and put away. Reuse the next two seasons, maybe even a more. Read more about at them from the manufacture at
The garden will include:
One Cedar color stained 2"x6"x8' long frame with 4 mil black plastic fastened in place.
2 Better Boy or Delicous tomatoes and 1 Super Sweet cherry tomato, all will grow up the string.
5 Cucumber plants, all which will grow up the string and produce many fresh cucumbers
5 Cantaloupe plants which will grow up the string as well, but as the fruit becomes large, it will have to supported with a bag or netting.
4 Bell Pepper plants, or combination of regular and hot peppers
4 Classic Black Beauty eggplants.
Complete unassembled package, will include 22 plants, each grow tube filled with an organic compost , rich top soil, Pete moss and vermiculite (for water retention.) You pick up, simple assembly $200
Complete package as above but delivered to your location, set up and planted $325
5 4' long Poly Max grow tubes filled with the compost mixture, ready to plant $100
25' of just the Poly Max tubes, empty , fill with your own soil. $50
Start growing your own fresh vegetables today !
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