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'SUNKEN BUCKET' GARDEN SUCCESS in NYC Chelsea High Traffic Avenue 22.8 S 2nd Edition | Cha

Madeleine with robust annuals Mid-August

'Bucket Gardening' itself, widespread now, involves gardening above-ground largely with common 5 gallon buckets. 'Sunken Bucket', on the other hand, refers to growing plants in recycled nursery containers placed in-ground, above all to save water and gardener's energy -- mine .

Stay tuned. 2016 growth in progress... Above image shows plant growth achieved by August 2016 despite Summer 2016 heat. Later in early October, this GREEN IN post will show a Fall update of container plant growth and again in December showing final growth extent in 2016. M. Gill - Author

In 2016 I began volunteer gardening with Chelsea Garden Club (CGC) at a NYC DOT Bike Lane island located at the corner of 22nd and 8th Avenue in my Chelsea neighborhood. The island is down the street from where I own the apartment in which I live.

The tall grasses and perennials in the back of the garden had previously been established (See ‘Tales of ISLANDS WITHIN ISLANDS’ 9.15 post here), so I felt that I could do my part for the community by planting and tending some colorful annuals in the front. What I needed to make it manageable for me was a viable watering system during the hot months of July and August.

In-Ground Containers: A Sustainable Minimal-Water Way-To-Go!

22.8 Bucket Potato Vine, Coleus, Marigolds

Unlike other CGC islands, the nearest city fire hydrant is too far away from my island for routine watering, so I had to come up with another way to do it. Through working on other community gardens, it dawned on me that only the annuals I intended to plant would need frequent watering. After all, the existing grasses| perennials tolerate the fast-drying soil and drought periods; watering the entire 9'x10' island every time just to ensure that a few annuals thrived would be a waste of physical energy. Who needs that?!

So I decided to plant annuals in several 6” recycled containers sunken in the ground and to water just them every time. 'Street-tolerant' annuals that I planted include Verbena, Coleus, Potato Vines, Marigolds, Zinnias and Cosmos, shown in images.

Local Business /Community Partnership

Foragers view to Chelsea's 22.8 S island Garden

The 22.8 S island garden is located directly in front of Foragers Market & Restaurant. Before long, I made new friends at Foragers who now help me fill my watering cans every morning. Through this we have formed a wonderful partnership. As a result of it, Forager’s Market has a really beautiful garden of thriving plants to accent their business, and I am close to a water source for morning watering of my buckets -oops containers! It’s a win/win/win for all - for me, for Foragers business, the local community, and all of NYC.

Foragers employess Angelica and Jonathan

Deserving great thanks from me (middle) for their generosity and community spirit are Foragers employees Angelica (left), Jonathan (right) and Chelsea (not shown).

Not only is the Foragers Market enterprise laudable because they bring fresh produce from their Upstate New York farm to make NYC more sustainable, but they are sincere community-minded people.

That community spirit flows out their door onto the street to bare colorful proof of itself and highlight their signage on 8th Avenue.

Tips for Growing Plants in In-Ground Containers

Planting Soil - Use high quality planting soil in buckets, not surrounding urban soil that dries fast and whose makeup is unknown.

Bucket Sizes - Use buckets substantial in size because smaller buckets will limit root and plant growth. Size bucket depth according to mature plant heights. Don't just sink containers in which plants were purchased.

Drainage - Use plastic buckets with good drainage - holes, gravel, etc. Clay pots are porous and will dry out quicker.

Placement - Fill soil to top of bucket and set top of bucket soil at same level of ground -- as illustrated below -- so water doesn’t collect at crown.

Mulch - A bark or gravel mulch helps retain moisture in the bucket and integrates container plantings into the island. Watering Frequency - Although large containers need less watering than small ones, they still require water every day during the hottest days of summer. Once a frequent regimen is started, stick to that same regimen as plants will become accustomed to it. Thirsty plants in containers really show it! Also, continue to water into cooler months of September and Early October because they wont be able to draw water from surrounding soil.

Arrangement - Plant taller plants in the middle of bucket and ground covers (verbena, potato vines) on the edges to make them spread and fill out the garden. Surprisingly, coleus and potato vines are strong drought survivors and great bucket growers.

Sunken Bucket placement

Feel free to provide additional tips in Comment section below!

In-Ground Container Garden Applications

Beyond NYC DOT island / city street gardens springing up around NYC, like at 22.8 South, Sunken Container plantings can be implemented anywhere an isolated arrangement of annuals or spot color is desired, and, there is cause to save water and energy (which is everywhere these days). Here is HLA's partial Bucket (Application) List:

  • Street tree pavement openings

  • NYC Greenstreets

  • Commercial restaurant and private Backyards

  • Large terrace containers

HLA would love to hear of like success (bucket or no bucket) that uses low water or has sustainability in-mind.

This is Madeleine Gill (HLA Intern) and Michael Victor, signing off!

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