One of the things I have taken the most time in designing has been a portable garden and water storage system. It ended up being quite simple in design and works very well. This year will be the first year I harvest an entire garden planted in portable containers. Lets start off with what you will need to start your mobile garden.
1. Seeds – I have chosen heirloom seeds simply because I enjoy using non government funded materials. My seed selection is specifically designed around what the local environment will support with greatest ease and will also provide the largest harvest ability from each container. I highly recommend getting involved with local farmers and farmers markets so as to better understand what they do. Master gardener associations exist in almost every town and city in the United States and they are also very good sources of information.
2. Containers – I chose 55 gallon blue potable water barrels can be found surplus in most areas, just check with local distributors such as Coke and Pepsi plants and other drink making facilities. I use backpage as many times you can find great deals and pick these up for around $10-30 apiece and have them delivered. The main rain water storage container is a 275 gallon white tank encased in an aluminum cage, these can also be found for around $130 or so. Additional containers for fresh herbs can be made from old egg cartons as well as any container you want depending on how large a plant you want. Remember, plants grow in proportion to their roots, the result of container gardening is that if you use to small of a container your production will be hindered or the plant will eventually die as the roots continue to grow and it ends up suffocating its own system of roots.
3. Tools – large gardening implements may not work as effectively with this approach to gardening. I use smaller implements and pay close attention to weeding on a regular basis. Using containers to garden limits the nutrients in the area surrounding the plant, ensure the limited nutrients are not stolen by unwanted guests.
4. Soil and Additional nutrients – We started with standard soil mixed three to one with sand so that it wouldnt become to compact. (This is completely up to you) The bottom couple of inches is a mixture of pea gravel and sand. For nutrients we are using one 55 gallon drum set up to rotate as a compost barrel. The purpose for this being that as it matures we are able to add nutrients indirectly to the containers and mix them into the soil already there. I start the soil off by mixing in several locally beneficial nutrient approaches and a little sand as well. Bat guano, Azomite rock dust, Endo Mycorrhizae and coco fibers (which I also use when camping for the bio safe toilet facilities I have which end up contributing to the compost when we return from camping)
Now, how is all of this set up to be mobile if necessary?
First, cut the 55 gallon barrels in half (not lengthwise). Next drill small holes towards the bottom, 1/32 times 15 or 20 of them is generally more than enough. You can also use a knife to put slits in the sides but make sure they are small, you dont want soil escaping, just excess water. Next cut handles in opposite sides approximately 3” below the lip of the half. I used duct tape to wrap the handle areas to prevent getting cut when moving them. Fill the bottom 2” or so with a pea gravel and sand mixture. The next layer is 12” or so of mixed potting soil using the nutrients and compost mixed with standard local soil. Lastly we place each half in a location where the light necessary for each plant type is available around the yard. (this step can obviously be done first to prevent breaking your back early) If you want to collect runoff water from the drum/pots and reuse it you can do so by placing the planters on top of large blocks and placing collectors underneath to be filtered and reused. At this time unfortunately I do not have the room for a true aquaponics set up as a result do not personally do this.
The large rain collecting/storage container is placed where the gutters run off, if you do not have gutters talk to the landlord about allowing you to out up just one which in many cases is more then adequate for filling the container. Most of these containers come with a 2” ball valve set up in the bottoms already and a cap in the top. Using parts easily found at local hardware stores you can attach a hose to the valve for watering or as I am doing set it up to easily water all of the plants at once with attached gravity operated feed. Placing this container about 18” above ground allows it to be high enough for gravity to do the rest for you.
Once these things are complete you will have a mobile garden, while it may not in some cases be easily mobile if you are like myself and have a small trailer it can be something that is mobile if it becomes necessary to move or if you are forced to (bug out) due to issues outside of your control. I am not a doomsdayer, however, having lived through three separate evacuations due to forest fires, floods and other nasty natural occurrences I am of the mind that having the ability to move rather quickly is in itself a benefit. Being able to bring your food with you is even more so a benefit, which makes a mobile fresh food store that much more beneficial in the long term. I have included some pictures, however, as with everything I do, I find that it is best not to reveal all the cards to the general public. If you have additional questions or suggestions by all means, ask.
Free the mind and the body will follow