Everyone loves Disney World. Whether it is the classic rides like Space Mountain or the newer Star Wars attractions at Hollywood Studios, there is something for everyone. One of the greatest attractions is actually one of the lesser known rides at Epcot called Living with the Land. It because it takes you behind the scenes of the whole park and shows you how they grow the food they serve across all four parks.
Good land is at a premium price in Orlando, Florida and much of it is very swampy. In order to save money on importing food, the operators of Disney World decided to build tanks and irrigation systems to grow their own food in greenhouses. They have elaborate setups, some which include fish farm aquariums that irrigate and fertilize fruit and vegetable crops above them, all within the same large tank. It is a stroke of brilliance that allows the natural cycles of nature to help promote growth in their man-made agriculture economy.
The great news is that with the right tools, you can do this too! You don’t need a gigantic tank or miles of PVC pipes. All you need a water trough to get started with some really creative gardening.
How can you use a water trough for gardening? The concept is really the same as what Disney has been doing for years. Instead of thinking of the water trough as a big bowl or pan of water, think of it as a miniature ecosystem. In this ecosystem you will need soil, water, access to sunlight (or an electronic equivalent), and seeds or small plants.
What kind of plants can you grow in a water trough for gardening? One of the easiest things would be to create a raised flower bed. Any small flower (other than bushes or vines) will probably work in any size trough. You can plant as many as you want, in any design you choose, supply them with nutrient-enriched soil, and watch them grow. If your trough has a hole to attach a hose you can hook it up to your water supply and have an easy way of watering your flower bed. Even if it is a solid trough, if it is plastic, you could probably drill out a hole to attach a hose for irrigation. You may also want to consider adding additional holes for drainage.
Another easy water trough idea is growing potatoes. It may not be as attractive as a raised flower bed, but it can provide you and your family some extra food for little cost and far less work than planting potatoes in a traditional garden. Many companies today sell special bags to fill with dirt and grow potatoes in. They are hardier plants and do not require as much constant care as many others. A water trough is easily comparable and probably will provide a larger amount of produce for the work and money you put into it.
Down at Disney World, they grew all kinds of fruit and vegetables in trough-like environments. You might consider growing tomatoes, peppers, and even watermelons. These vine-like fruits/vegetables require a little bit of extra work in directing their growth and making sure their bigger fruits are adequately supported. Watermelons, for example, could grow outside the trough, fall out, and break upon the ground. However, since watermelons have to be rotated regularly so that they grow into the proper shape and don’t rot on the bottom, growing them in a trough means you can easily make those rotations without having to bend over to the ground.
The typical garden setup is that the soil is the lowest level, followed by the branches/vines of the plant, and the fruit grows out of the top. If you invert this image though, putting the soil on a raised platform, letting the vines grown down around it, and the fruit to grow down below the trough, you will have something that looks a bit unusual (Looking more like a melon tree!), but you will have easy access to that fruit and not have to worry about it sitting on the ground. This may not work for heavy produce, but for things that grow on vines, like peas, or on large, meandering plants, like tomatoes, it can be a great solution.
One of the best reasons to try a water trough for gardening is for simplified weeding. Large community plantations often use rubber tubing or strong plastic to line rows in order to prevent weeds from growing. As the crops begin to sprout, they poke small holes in the covering and pull the leaves through. This way the crops get sunlight, but nothing else trying to grow in the soil does. You can do the same thing even easier with a water trough for gardening. Once your plants start sprouting, simply cover the trough with a dark cloth or perhaps even a plastic garbage bag. You can poke small holes through it and pull the leaves of your plant through. This way it will get all the sunlight it needs.
If you have an irrigation hole in the side for water, you won’t have to worry about watering it from the top. It may look like it could suffocate your plant, but remember plants breathe through their leaves, not their roots. The only things that will be suffocating will be the weeds.
The other upside to this method of gardening is that you can actually fit more plants in a smaller trough than in the same area of garden because they won’t have to compete with weeds for nutrients. Just think, no more pulling weeds and three or four times the harvest as well!
Many troughs will need a framework. They will not hold up on their own. This applies to water troughs for watering animals, and especially water troughs for gardening. Any straight-sided or flat-walled rectangular or square tank will bow outward and will need an external frame for support to prevent failure. Anything that’s being filled over 18” needs an external frame to prevent failure. However, cylindrical or round tanks will not bow – they are self-supporting.
Luckily, if you’re making a raised garden bed, there’s some great ways to make this work for your yard. Using stones, bricks, or decorative timber as an external frame can support the trough while also creating a lovely look for your yard.
With good soil and regulated water, you can grow anything that will fit in your trough. That is great news for people that live in areas where the the topsoil is little or non-existent. Whether you live in a flat, dry dustbowl or in a rocky, mountainous area, you are more likely to see livestock agriculture than vast fields of crops. It is these same areas where you are likely to see watering troughs being used for livestock. Why not use a few more water troughs for gardening or other water trough ideas?
You could save your family money on groceries by growing some vegetable produce. If you are ambitious enough, you might be able to start a business growing produce that is foreign to your region. In a temperature-controlled basement with grow lights, you may be able to grow small tropical plants in the dead of winter, which you could sell at a premium in your community while the larger markets may have to import from overseas or simply not have anything available.
Yes, another water trough idea is growing fish – or at least, giving them a place to live while you enjoy the ambience a water feature adds to your landscaping. In fact, if you build a decorative support around it, no one will know that the basis of your new family attraction is a water trough.
Like any aquarium, it will require cleaning and maintenance. You will need to ensure that the water is properly oxygenated and clean of too much algae. Some kinds of fish will help eat up algae for you, but there is always more than they can do themselves. You will need to feed your fish regularly and remove any dead fish to prevent their bodies from releasing toxins into the water.
Most importantly though, you need to choose your fish carefully. If it is an outdoor fish pond, you will need to restock it seasonally and probably empty it during the months that the temperature drops to freezing. You will need to choose fish that can withstand colder temperatures. On the other hand, if your fish pond is in a temperature controlled environment, you have a lot of options to choose from when stocking your fish pond. Decide whether you want to use freshwater or saltwater fish. Do some research to find out which kinds of fish get along well. Don’t overstock your pond, but give them the freedom to move about the tank.
There is no limit to what you can do for water trough ideas. Put your imagination to work and create something wonderful today!