Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

For a few years now I have been growing mainly root crops in PVC tubes. I got the idea from Gardening Australia's Tino Carnavale. I had a lot of pipe given to me and this was a good way to use it. I cut it up into 300 - 400 mm lengths using a wood saw and used old tyres to stand them up and grow in. I had always had trouble growing good root crops due to my poor soil which is both very sandy and hydrophobic. When I added manures to the garden it made the root crops fork in all directions.

In my tubes I use a good quality potting mix which contains slow release fertiliser, which while not organic, is at least not a type of fertiliser that will kill microbes, or deter earth worms. Today I topped up my tubes as they had all slumped somewhat from last cool season's crops. I try to rotate what I grow in them as much as possible, e.g. carrots will follow a brassica crop. about every two years I completely change the mix, and use the old mix when potting up fruit trees or incorporated into a garden bed.  

I have successfully grown carrots, turnips (best to grow mini turnips or they can jam in the tubes), leeks, parsnips, kohl rabbi, cabbage (mini), beetroot, and chillies. Some of the crops are not as good as you would grow in a good soil, e.g. parsnips are a bit thin, but the root systems are long due to the excellent drainage and friability of the mix, and the taste is very good. See the photos for proof of the extensive roots.

I have recently started standing the tubes up in old plastic paint drums, with holes drilled in the sides so that they retain a water reservoir, (a la wicking beds) , my attempts to use black plastic to form a waterproof barrier in the bottom of the tyres has not been very successful. The jury is still out on this but it also allows you to water less frequently. Is anyone else out there trying to grow like this? I would appreciate feedback if you are. Today I planted out carrots and parsnips. It's probably too early for this but maybe the weather will be kind to me for once.

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Comment by DARREN JAMES on February 8, 2016 at 16:14

The pipes I used Roger were only 6 inch in diameter with a 19mm tube running along the bottom to help water and yes my ends are capped.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on February 8, 2016 at 7:51

The local Library could have Grass Roots. I used to subscribe and ended with a pile of mags so now I borrow from the Library. You can order specific editions online.

Comment by Roger Clark on February 8, 2016 at 6:30

Thanks Darren, I will try to get hold of those mags. I would imagine that you use quite large diameter pipe if laying down. Do you cap the ends to retain moisture?

Comment by Lissa on February 8, 2016 at 6:28

Your bag/tube garden is a wonder Roger :) Look forward to the day when we can come see it in person.

Comment by Roger Clark on February 8, 2016 at 6:25

Elaine, I agree that it is too expensive to buy the pipe new. Another thing that would make me nervous about using new pipe is that with most things plastic, they tend to give off chemicals for a while after manufacture. After a while they are much safer to use. I would think that probably the recycling ares at the local tip would be a good place to look. Especially if you could get shorter pieces which are pretty useless for drainage / building use. There are loads of different materials you can use in a similar way though. I am also using old horse food sacks which my next door neighbour gives me, they seem to retain moisture very well and you can grow around 4 carrots at a time in these. My included photo shows some snake beans and cucumber plants which were sown recently.  

Comment by Lissa on February 8, 2016 at 6:25

Good suggestions Dianne.

I gave up on the site years back after a debacle trying to give away pavers. Lots of promises to collect one after the other and no one ever came. But don't let that put you off - a very useful site I'm sure. I just cringe internally when I hear the name.

Comment by Dianne Caswell on February 8, 2016 at 6:24

What a fabulous idea Rodger. Especially for those of use who may not have soil deep enough for putting Root Vegies into the ground. It looks like your Leeks come out nice and clean too.

Comment by Dianne Caswell on February 8, 2016 at 6:21

Hi All, Regarding getting PVC piping free - Join Freecycle and you can get all manner of stuff free - costs nothing and the rewards are great - you get stuff free, you just need to pick up & at the same time you can give away what you don't want.

There is a guy on there at the moment giving away garden beds that he cut out but has lost interest in and now is giving away. Also there are sometimes people giving away plants and cuttings, building supplies, bricks, you name it. And if you are looking for something like the PVC piping you can list it in Wanted Section. Hopes this helps.

Comment by Lissa on February 8, 2016 at 5:51

Really thinking outside the square with this idea. Mind boggling how well it works.

I didn't realise PVC tubing was expensive.

Comment by DARREN JAMES on February 7, 2016 at 20:06

Hi  Roger I have a pipe garden the only difference being that  I use them lying down ,growing spinach,spring onions,asian greens.lettuce etc etc there is a better tutorial in grass roots magazines dec and jan issue on how Ive done it ,hope it helps cheers.

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