Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Self-Watering Containers, part II

Last year, I wrote about building your own self-watering container to grow happy plants. Self-watering containers have a water reservoir at the bottom of the container. Water is wicked up into the dirt, while roots reach down to get at the moisture. Plants grow strong and healthy, and you spend less time watering plants.

I was looking for a more flexible self-watering container than the two large bins I have. I wanted one I can take indoors or outdoors, and that is easy to clean. A plus would be one that is easy to make!

Allison Fastman, author of Cantabrigian Farm Girl, taught a fantastic workshop last summer on indoor gardening projects, including how to create self-watering containers out of Trader Joe's flower buckets. You've probably seen the buckets holding cut flowers. At closing, the buckets are sadly tossed into the dumpster - or better yet, the staff will hold them for you to pick up the next morning. Because the plastic isn't too thick, you can cut through them with scissors, making them easy to work with. So even if you have just a superglue gun and a set of scissors, you can still DIY.

Materials (for one self-watering container):
  • 2 flower buckets from Trader Joe's
  • Rope (natural, not synthetic)
  • Superglue gun and glue sticks
  • Weedblocking material
  • Scissors
  • Optional: hardware cloth, screwdriver
  • The rope and weedblocking material are sold in larger quantities than needed. Share with a friend!

Do It Yourself!

1. Start by supergluing rope around the bottom third of one bucket. When you slide this "inner" bucket into the second bucket, the rope will prevent it from fitting completely, allowing space for a water reservoir.

2. Cut a hole in the center bottom of this bucket, large enough to slide rope through. If you are pushing the point of the scissors down to start the hole, add pressure slowly to avoid cracking the plastic. Do I know this from experience? Yes. (I used a combination of scissors and a screwdriver.)

3. Cut weedblocking material to fit in the bottom of the inner bucket, then cut a hole in the center. For structural integrity, you can also add hardware cloth at this point. (The hardware store can cut it down to size for you.) The weedblocking material will keep the dirt in your top bucket and keep it from falling through into the bottom bucket.

4. Tie a knot in the end of another piece of rope, then cut to about 6 inches. Pull the rope through the holes you've just cut in the bucket and weedblocking material. The rope will act as a wick, moving water from the reservoir up into the dirt.

5. Poke two or more holes in the second "outer" bucket, a few inches up from the bottom. The holes should be just below where the bottom of the first bucket will end. If your plants are outdoors, this will prevent them from drowning in a rainstorm.

The bucket sat too high when empty, but sank lower when filled with dirt.

6. Fill the bottom bucket with a few inches of water, and the outer with soil. Then, plant!  And remember to add water as needed.

Red Robin cherry tomatoes

If you need any containers, feel free to ask - I got about 20 from Trader Joe's. Happy planting and let me know how it turns out!

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