Monday, September 7, 2009

Baby I’m Amazed: Growing Food in Sub-Irrigated Planters (SIPs)

Three growing seasons after we started using sub-irrigated planters (SIPs), I’m still astonished by how much food they produce. Because we harvest a lot of what we eat every day during peak season--sometimes five pounds at a time--the extent of the abundance can be obscured. Today I decided to pick just about everything from the roof. Here’s the haul (minus tomatoes):

The chocolate peppers (some still green) are from a single 5-gal bucket set.

We aren’t the only ones using the sub-irrigation method to grow exceptional food. Many online friends are sparking the connection between people and what they eat, some with SIPs, some without. Bob Hyland at Inside Urban Green is a major force in spreading the SIP gospel throughout Brooklyn and on the NY-docked Waterpod.

El at Fast Grow the Weeds gardens in the ground and just plain inspires me. Her post on shell beans prompted me to crack open one of our scarlet runner beans. A shocking pink surprise awaited me.

Chicago’s own Nance Klehm at Spontaneous Vegetation teaches foraging and hosts lots of classes on making traditional foods, drinks, and balms in her Living Kitchen series. GRG pal Martha Bayne volunteers at Chicago’s Pacific Garden Mission, where Nance teaches residents about the cycles of nature.

LA’s Erik and Kelly at Homegrown Evolution keep us apprised of urban homestead projects from humanure to home brewing. We like their spirit.

Co-blogger Bruce showed me how to make horchata from a melon that went thump on the roof before it was ripe: just get rid of the rind and whiz all the rest, seeds included, in a blender with a squeeze of line. Yum. Thanks, Bruce!

The kids at Global Buckets are all over the SIP concept. Their theme? Two buckets on a mission to reduce malnutrition. I'm raising my horchata to that.

Growing can be playful too. Our scarlet runner beans made some serious progress up the twine-wrapped PVC arches this summer and are still going strong. The Rooftop Garden Project in Montreal gave us the idea. Check out this video of their city-wide project. Why can't Chicago do that?

I'd encourage you to take the time to browse these helpful and inspirational sites. Here are a few more worth looking at:
Not Dabbling in Normal
GardenWeb Container Gardening
Yahoo Edible Container Gardening Group

If you decide to try SIP growing, know that we've had extraordinarily positive feedback from people who've tried it. Start with one. Then show someone else how to do it.


Unknown said...

Heidi that is an amazing harvest! But I'm not surprised. The SIPs on the roof of the mission alone are suddenly loaded with tomatos. I'm steeling myself for the next few weeks -- that fleeting window when it's physically impossible keep up with the amount of food coming out of the garden.

inadvertent farmer said...

COOL! I grew potatoes in containers this year for the first time. Tipping them over and harvesting was the easiest thing ever! Kimj

Bruce said...

Hi Martha,

At the beginning of the summer you told us you (and Robert?) planted a watermelon seed in one of the sedum trays. Did it ever take off?

It's nice to hear that Nance's 50/50 coir and worm castings potting mix worked in the SIPs. We weren't sure if it would wick water properly or if the plants would get waterlogged.

Hi Kimj,

Thanks for stopping by. I think growing potatoes in containers makes a lot of sense.

I'm trying to grow potatoes in a box this year. I'll know in a couple of weeks how it turns out.

RVcook said...

I LOVE reading your blog! I too am truly in awe at the amount of food produced by a bucket. We just harvested our first watermelon and it was delicious! And we picked so many beans, we were able to freeze some...amazing! Peppers and eggplant have also been non-stop. Thankfully, all of the bounty has lessened the disappointment of the tomatoes. Oh well...there is always next year ;-)

Donna H.

Unknown said...

Actually we planted about two dozen in the sedum but, sadly, none of them took. Too dry, too hot, too shallow?

As for the SIPs, they didn't get waterlogged but the plants themselves did get rather fried from the sun. But that made the appearance of fruit that much more gratifying.

Alisa said...

"baby, i'm amazed," great song! and great food & images too, as always. how did the many pounds of potatoes in bruce's yard turn out? i wrote to check back in mid sept on the calendar, and was wondering. thanks!

Alisa said...

Yikes! Should have read the comment thread. Sorry! :( I see Bruce mentioned that! A few weeks on the potatoes, cool.

H2 said...

Just home again after some time away. Thanks for the comments, all. We're encouraged by your reports of SIP bounty, so keep 'em coming.

Avi said...

Thanks for the inspiration! Here's my report from Philadelphia:

H2 said...

Tomatolicious indeed. Thank you for sharing the pix of your bounty, esp the one of your little tomato elf. You inspire us too.

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