Photographs courtesy of GardenSoxx®
Are you like millions of people who want to garden but have little outdoor space, perhaps only a patio or balcony? Or maybe you have a yard, but the soil is hard to dig, lacking in nutrients, or contaminated. For some would-be gardeners, time is the issue. Keeping up with watering, fertilizing and weed control can be challenging.
Under these circumstances, most gardeners turn to container gardening. While containers solve space or soil issues, they still require a fair amount of attention. Choosing containers that are designed to be lower maintenance can help in this regard. One option is GardenSoxx. Available since 2005, only recently have GardenSoxx become more widely known. This is due to an increase in people interested in growing their own food, but having limitations due to soil conditions, space or time.
GardenSoxx is a system of growing fresh food using a mesh containment system to hold growing media such as compost, peat, or potting soil. The empty mesh is filled with soil medium until it is about 8” in diameter, then planted.
A typical homeowner may opt to grow a 4 x 4 garden by making 8 Soxx, then placing them in four rows of 2 Soxx, each 2 feet long. This equates to a 16-square foot garden and can be compared to typical 4x4 garden kits at big box stores. Plants are placed directly in the Soxx at a spacing of about 4-8 plants per 2-foot section. Plant density is increased along with overall yield per square foot.
There are cultural advantages of this system compared to conventional plastic pots, terra cotta pots or planting boxes. Because the mesh breathes, it is hard to overwater, so plants don’t get waterlogged roots. This helps reduce diseases. The mesh also creates a cooling effect. GardenSoxx rarely get warmer than 75 degrees, even in direct 90+ degree days on a hot surface like blacktop. They can be used on existing soil, in greenhouses, on rooftops, concrete or asphalt.
Many urban and community gardens have used GardenSoxx on brownfield sites too, where there is a question about soil pollutants. They typically place a weed barrier on the contaminated soil, then put the filled GardenSoxx on top.
Drip irrigation is recommended for this system; just a lay flat drip tape commonly available at most stores or online. The drip tape is inserted under the mesh on top of the soil medium, and plants are placed on either side of the drip tape. Adding a timer for automatic watering is helpful.
Because the growing media is enclosed, weeds are less of an issue because they rarely have direct soil contact. Most people using this system will be amazed at not having to use a rototiller, constantly pull weeds, or water daily for hours when it gets hot.
Planting the GardenSoxx works best with small vegetable or flower plugs, but they can be direct seeded as well. Cutting a small 1-2” diameter hole in the top of the mesh next to the drip tape allows for placement of seed or plugs. Transplanting plugs requires a dibble to make holes in the media, so the hole can accept a plug easily without hurting the roots. Fertilize once every month using any premixed liquid fertilizer.
An excellent mixture to make at home is 45-50% compost and peat moss with about 5% perlite, all available at your local garden supply store. GardenSoxx last at least two growing seasons, but with increased fertilizer, can last up to five years.
USDA research compared GardenSoxx to matted row and plastic culture (with soil fumigation) for growing strawberries. Strawberries grown in the Soxx outperformed both common growing methods by wide margins, including higher antioxidants, nutrients, and flavor. And isn’t this the real reason everyone wants to grow their own food?
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By Stacey Hirvela, Proven Winners ColorChoice®
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners ColorChoice®
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