A Mother's Day Wish:
Like any working mother of two, Sue Ross of Phoenix always has more on her to-do list than ever gets done. Landscaping the yard around her home has been one of those things that got pushed down on the list. Still, Sue wanted someplace to grow vegetables, but she didn't want to put in anything permanent that would have to be removed when they got to the landscaping.
"I have livestock so there are always old stock tanks around," Sue says. She remembered seeing an old magazine article where people had bought new stock tanks to use in container gardening. She thought it might be a good way to recycle the old tanks, and turn the eyesores into something useful.
"We also have a terrible gopher problem here," Sue says, "and I thought this would give us a better chance (of keeping the plants away from the gophers)."
Since the bottoms of the tanks were rusted out, she didn't have to worry about drainage holes. She and her husband Tom set up one oval and two round tanks on a corner of their property, then added one wooden raised bed, 2 1/2 x 6 feet, to the configuration.
Sue told Tom that all she wanted for Mother's Day was dirt and composted manure mixed into the containers.
"I didn't realize how labor intensive that was going to be," she says.
From their barn on another property, Tom and his helper began hauling the decomposed manure from the barn to their new backyard. Then they mixed it in wheelbarrows with an equal part of organic soil - another hauling job - and dumped the mixture into the troughs.
"It took them six to seven hours in pouring rain and they were both black with dirt and manure. It was quite a procedure," Sue says. "All I had to do was plant."
She wanted to go organic, and in her research learned about companion planting, so she utilized that system as much as possible. (The theory behind companion planting is that some plants have an affinity for each other and grow better when planted together.)
In a combined growing space of approximately 200 square feet, Sue was able to grow more than enough vegetables for her family plus some to give away. And the variety was astonishing.
Sue grew three varieties of tomatoes; 'Sungold,' 'Early Girl,' and a red tomato whose name she has forgotten. She also grew red, yellow and green bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, and another small hot pepper, which was a volunteer. She paired those with her home-grown tomatillos and onions and produced batch after batch of salsa and salsa verde.
The green beans, trained up a bamboo trellis cut from a friend's garden, produced a huge crop, as did the zucchini. Fortunately, the family loves zucchini bread.
They also grew lemon cucumbers, regular cucumbers, two kinds of basil, cilantro, eggplant, a variety of lettuces, kale, cantaloupes and 'Sugar Baby' watermelons.
Thirteen-year-old Haley helped her mother with the garden.
"I think it's a lot easier and it looks better than a regular garden," Hayley says. "It looks a lot more unique. We had so much it was overflowing on the ground. And it was a lot of fun to go out and just pick something to eat. I like lemon cucumbers and we had a lot of them."
Since Sue hopes to add either another trough or another raised bed this year, her intermediary garden solution is likely to become a permanent fixture.
"I feel it was a great success," she says. "It was everything and more than I was hoping for because of how well everything grew. I was able to feed my family out of that little space. And because (the troughs) are a little higher than the average raised bed it really was easier to work in as far as bending over and weed pulling. I can't wait to do it again this year."