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December 5, 2017 | Tags: , , , ,

Experiments in the Demonstration Garden: Garden Soxx

This blog is part of a three-part series. 

Joe Maddox of Eco Constructors and local artist Steve Ingraham spent a morning helping to set up our two of our 2017 experiments: Garden Soxx and Potato Towers.

 

“I wish I could garden at home but…”

One of the most common phrases I hear from volunteers helping in the Demonstration Garden on Saturdays is: “I wish I could garden at home, but I live in an apartment.” On the other hand, we have several older individuals who tell us they “miss gardening but I just can’t bend over to pull weeds anymore.”

At Gateway Greening, we believe that gardening should be accessible to everyone so when an opportunity to test a new container gardening product came up, we took it!

 

Beginning the Garden Soxx Experiment

Thanks to a donation by Eco Constructors, a local business that specializes in sustainable, low-impact erosion control products, Gateway Greening received several Garden Soxx to test. These short tubes are made using a special mesh filled with organic growing medium from St. Louis Composting, and weigh about 30 pounds each when dry. Our goal was to see if Garden Soxx could be an effective method for container gardening in urban spaces.

 

Pole beans sprouting during the Garden Soxx Experiment at the Demonstration Garden in Summer of 2017.

 

For our Garden Soxx experiment, we placed several tubes along the edge of a brick patio in the Demonstration Garden. By doing so, we hoped to create conditions similar to an apartment balcony or concrete patio. One placed, staff and volunteers planted a small variety of crops commonly found in both home and community gardens: chives, purple basil, three different varieties of hot peppers, pole beans, and radishes.

Planting was a breeze. Using a small pocket knife, we made holes in the mesh fabric that were just big enough for our seeds and seedlings to fit inside. For the seedlings, we scooped out a small amount of growing medium to make space for the root systems. The extra medium was gently packed around and over the seedling’s roots to stabilize and protect the plant while it got established.

Throughout the summer volunteers and staff vigilantly watered the plants several times a week using a garden hose or watering can. Thanks to the mesh tube, we saw very little soil run-off and overwatering was impossible. Excess water simply ran out!

Before long, we started harvesting a small amount of produce from the chives, basil, and each of the hot pepper plants. Unfortunately, the resident rabbits made a feast of our pole beans shortly after germination, and our fall crop of radishes did not germinate – likely due to dry conditions.

 

A mix of basil, hot pepper varieties, and poles beans in Garden Soxx on the Demonstration Garden Patio in Spring of 2017.

 

Did it Work?

Overall, the Garden Soxx were an effective method for container gardening in an urban space, but they did present a few challenges as the season wore on.

Firstly, that the Garden Soxx needed almost constant watering during dry spells and the height of summer heat. With their sunny location and lack of wind protection on the edge of the patio, the Garden Soxx were prone to drying out quickly which stressed the plants. The second challenge was that the Garden Soxx needed a few applications of organic fertilizer throughout the summer to support ongoing food production.

 

Our Recommendation:

Garden Soxx would be ideal for someone looking to grow annual vegetables or flowers with shallow root systems on a balcony or raised patio. Gardeners using Garden Soxx should be prepared to water regularly, and add small amounts of fertilizer as needed. Want to check out Garden Soxx first hand? Stop by the Carriage House during the growing season in 2018!

To learn more about experiments that happened in the Demonstration Garden in 2017, please check out our 45 Degree Angle Trellis Experiment and Potato Tower Experiment blogs.