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After a month or more of searching, I found a great deal on Craigslist for an 8 x 2 x 2 foot trough.  I plan to use this as my kitchen garden.  I know that I need to drill holes in the bottom for drainage.  But the big question is, what can I use to fill some of this space so that I am not using a ton of soil?  Has anyone ever used a trough (or stock tank)?  If so, how did you fill it?

Options I have considered are:

Layering with newspaper and organic material to create nice compost - but I imagine that the soil level will drop as the decomposition occurs.  I have also heard that you can use cardboard, but is there a concern for chemicals in the cardboard since this will be an edible garden?

Filling it with rocks at the bottom.

Filling it with empty plastic bottles at the bottom - water bottles, laundry detergent, etc.

Filling it with styrofoam peanuts.  Since this is my veggie/herb garden, I worry about the chemicals in the peanuts - any thoughts?

I live in the Coronado neighborhood in Phoenix.  So if you have some free stones or concrete blocks, please let me know.  I will be happy to take them off your hands.

Thanks so much!

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Hi Michael,

I do not know, of course, the system you are you using but I am always cautious about a non-draining container in the garden. Although our rain storms are infrequent, they can swamp a container and with a big one like the trough it would be impossible to tip over and drain out, and keep the plantings intact.

You may have a system that avoids this - just wanted to give an FYI.  I was looking at rain water harvesting calculations and a trough like the one Jennifer is wanting to use could gather about 10 gallons of water in one .5 inch rain.  If we had a gully-washer like we did this winter where my gauge showed 2.5 inches it would be a total mess.

The system I use is made from plastic totes that hold about a foot of water and no more. Any additional water drains out the side as there are holes at the top of the reservoir line.

For a larger application like the trough, I would suggest larger holes with netting (to keep the soil from leaving with the water). These totes were used while I was stuck with just a balcony at home but I continue to plant in them with a large garden because they are so low-maintenance and the plants seem to do quite well.

With the trough half-full with water and half-full with soil the OP would still be looking at more than half a cubic yard of soil. The trick is having a portion of the soil make it all the way down to the bottom at intervals in order to wick the moisture up to the roots.

I think this idea had possibilities!  Especially if you drilled holes at whatever water height you intended to maintain so excess water could drain and avoid swamping the container.  I also second the insulation comments on the outside of the container for the summer.

Interesting!  I wonder if the self-watering system might also act as an insulation against the heat....

While moist soil would be cooler than dry soil needing regular watering, I think some form of shade for the container itself would be warranted in the hot months here. Think about the location in your yard. Something that gets sun ALL DAY in the winter but gets afternoon shade in the summer would be ideal so you could grow all year.

Essentially what you need is a bunch of these:

to make a giant one of these:

Hmmm. This spot does not get all day sun in the winter.  It is morning to early afternoon sun in the winter.  It may get more shady over the summer as the neighbor's tree gets its leaves back.

It may still be fine. those sixteen square feet should give you quite a lot of food if planned carefully.
Keep us updated and let us know if you ned help.


Ah, I see where you are going with that Michael, as Liz noted a very interesting concept.

Ok, so I did some research and found a concept called a "wicking bed".  These sound so cool, I want to build one!!  Great idea Michael. :)

The wicking beds were discussed here in the past. They are very popular in Australia. I would love to be involved in constructing a wicking bed as i love how my self watering containers take the guess work out of when and how much.

Cool!  I am familiar with the wicking action (use if for a friend for her house plants - cotton yarn in a large jar of water and ends into the individual pots), but the media bed idea is a little different.  I can see how that would be really helpful on the larger scale of a raised bed - in our desert.


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