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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