The Bucket Report: Dodging the Weather

As I write this, at 1pm on April 8th, the sun is shining on the patio.  It’s also 38 degrees outside.  Last week, we reached 83 degrees.  I think Mother Nature reserves Reno as a whipping child for all the other places that have chosen to abuse her. 

No, really.  I like it here.  There are far fewer bugs in Reno than any other place I have lived.  We have poor soil and it rains about… oh… five times during the entire summer.  But we have few bugs.

While the wind blows the snowflakes around the budding trees, my potatoes sit nice and cozy in the bay window.

The potato buckets sit cozy with the houseplants.

This is the result of the global buckets we are trying out this year.  And if this past month has been any indication, it will be a tremendous success.  The potatoes are just three weeks old. 

Already past the tops of the buckets.

On March 12th, Russ took all the white plastic buckets we had gathered so far and converted them into global buckets.

5-gallon buckets sit with other gardening supplies.

You can buy these buckets for $3 at most hardware stores.  We would rather get them for free.  And you can get them all over the city, if you know where to look and aren’t embarrassed to walk up to a deli counter and ask for leftover buckets.  Stores go through these like crazy.  They arrive filled with pickles, pineapple chunks, icing…  And much more, I’m sure, but those are the labels we’ve seen so far.  After the stores use the pickles or icing, they toss the buckets into the trash compactor.  Goodbye, perfectly good bucket.

That is, most stores do.  If you go to Whole Foods in Reno, you may be lucky enough to find a stack of buckets at the north entrance, beside the green shopping baskets.  There, I’ve just given away my secret.  And you can’t ask the deli to save them for you, as I have done at the Savemart in my neighborhood.  You have to make it there before someone else grabs them.  Hurry up, because more people are learning this secret.

Each planter takes two buckets.  The bottom bucket is the water reservoir.  The top holds the soil and the plants.  Drill a few holes in the bottom… some for drainage, one for the watering tube, and one for the plastic cup.  The cup wicks the water from the reservoir into the soil, and the tube is used to fill the bottom bucket.  As long as the plant is past the seedling stage, you can mulch the top of the bucket and just water through the tube.  Within a month, I’ve watered my potatoes once.

You can go here to learn how to make them.  We used electrical conduit for the pipe, at a cost of 50 cents for six feet.

To plant the potatoes, we put about four inches of fertile soil in the bottom of nine of the buckets and planted four seed potatoes in each bucket.  While they sprouted, the buckets stayed in the bay window with the tomato and pepper seedlings, with a few plant lights to help out.

The bay window, full of seedlings on March 26th.

 On March 26th, two weeks after planting, the potatoes had barely peeked through. 

All Blue potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes


On the same day, Mother Nature threw another hissy fit, but the potatoes were perfectly safe.  

Just a few days away from April.

A week and a half later, the potatoes had reached the top of the bucket.  We add soil whenever the plants grow six inches above the dirt, and will keep adding soil until the dirt reaches the top.  The potatoes get to go outside and play when the weather is warmer than 40 degrees, and it only takes about two minutes to take everyone outside, thanks to the nice handles already on the buckets.

However, today, they have to stay inside.  It’s for their own good.  I’m sure they understand.

Playing out in the sun with the lettuce, spinach, and tomato seedlings.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Gina
    Apr 09, 2011 @ 21:15:02

    Love the blog. Thanks for the link to global buckets. I followed the instructions and am ready to make 6 buckets.


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