Garden in a container

Farm Forum

Lester Finkbeiner, who lives near Ipswich, does container gardening, but don’t think he’s just growing plants in flowerpots.

Finkbeiner grows everything in large containers, including old livestock lick tanks and wood crates.

“Everything is up waist high, and you don’t have to bend down to get anything,” he said.

He uses the large containers to grow all of his fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, garlic, honeydew melons, kohlrabi, beans, potatoes and garden huckleberries.

The only vegetable he doesn’t grow in the waist-high containers is corn, because it would be too tall.

Finkbeiner, 75, retired from United Defense in 2003. He started his container garden about 10 years ago because he wanted to use some large wood boxes he had brought home from what is now BAE Systems in Aberdeen.

“I stumbled onto it,” he sad. “I just started growing things in there.”

Eventually, the boxes decayed, so he looked for new types of containers. He collects the cattle lick tanks and drinking troughs from area farmers and sometimes at auctions.

“There are many positive things that come out of it,” he said. “I don’t have to till, and there are very few weeds.”

Each container is filled with composted material. Using containers allows for an earlier planting start because the soil warms up faster, Finkbeiner said.

Still, the late spring caused him to start his plants later than usual, he said.

Finkbeiner said he prefers container gardening not only because it makes it easier on his back, but because of the higher yields he has experienced.

A couple of summers ago, he planted carrots in a 3-foot-by-5-foot container and harvested 72 pounds of carrots. He also grew some giant kohlrabi last summer that were larger than basketballs.

The containers sit in rows on gravel. A downside to container gardening is the fact that it might not be as attractive looking as a conventional garden, he said.

However, he can can save money by reusing the containers each year. He knows he could probably make a little money by selling what he grows, but said he finds joy in giving the extra produce to friends and neighbors.

He and his wife, Beverly, also blanche the vegetables, then vacuum seal and deep freeze their vegetables. He said they recently opened a package of carrots from 2007 and enjoyed them.

“Right now, things are just getting started,” he said.

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