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Kenneth Tours Hoop Houses in Kingston

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My second trip with the Ardmore HFV Wilson Community Center Summer Agriculture Education Tour was to Kingston, Oklahoma. Anyone who has Googled videos of hoop houses, high tunnels, or gardening with containers has probably seen the elderly man we got to spend the morning with. That man is Leon Sloan, the owner of Leon’s Greenhouses. He has quite the following on YouTube with 20,000 subscribers, and some of his videos have more than 137,000 views.

Leon has 8 acres of land with an assortment of hoop houses and greenhouses. He tries to grow just about everything he can, from carrots and onions under the soil surface to fig trees that compete for skyline space in the tall hoop houses.


exampleLeon Sloan’s fig trees are approaching picking time but may have to be moved to larger hoop houses with more room.

I find it interesting to learn how and what people recycle these days. In California, the state makes customers pay a tax on recyclable products like aluminum cans and plastic bottles at the time of purchase. You can redeem the tax by taking the empty cans and bottles to a recycling center. However, in Oklahoma, the return on recycling is nowhere near the same value. Leon has found a use for discarded plastic containers that far exceeds a few nickels. Instead of filling his pockets one time with a few bucks, he uses them to grow plants which can continue to fill his and others’ bellies for years to come.

exampleOld cattle mineral tubs are used as planters for tomato plants in many of Leon Sloan’s hoop houses.

I have never thought of using mineral tubs for anything else other than a water bucket for livestock. Using them for gardening opens all kinds of new opportunities, especially since I learned how to create a fail-safe irrigation system inside the tubs from Leon.

  1. First, line the bottom of the tub with seven old milk jugs, or any plastic gallon jugs, that have two holes punched in them, one near the top and one near the bottom.
  2. Next, drill a hole the same height as the top milk jug holes into the side of the tub to allow for drainage.
  3. After the drainage hole has been drilled, insert a piece of PVC pipe vertically into the tub. Ensure the pipe is long enough to stick above the lip of the tub when resting on the bottom of the tub. This will serve as a direct route to the water reservoir beneath the soil, making watering a quicker task.
  4. Next, add soil until the tub is filled to the caps of the jugs.
  5. Sprinkle some fertilizer across the top of the soil. Specific fertilizers will depend on what plants are expected to be grown and what type of soil was used.
  6. Once the fertilizer is spread, continue to fill up the tub with soil.
  7. Now, the tub is ready to be planted with seeds or transplants.
  8. Finally, water can be added via the pipe until it trickles out of the hole in the side of the tub.

Another fun feature of the tub planter is that it is portable and therefore relocatable. I pay attention to the weather frequently and worry about freezes damaging outside plants. But if I had my garden in cattle tubs, I could move them into my garage or house until the freeze is over. Weather can be one of the biggest enemies to agriculture, but this system seems to outsmart Mother Nature. Now, there should be no excuses for anyone not to have a green thumb and grow his or her own food.

Stay tuned to see what cool experience I get to be a part of next.

Kenneth Watkins is a 2019 Lloyd Noble Scholar in Agriculture in Agriculture from Linden, California.