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Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Toplef10Self-watering containers for patios and balconies 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies I22gcj10Self-watering containers for patios and balconies 14dhcg10

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Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

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Windmere
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CitizenKate
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Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Empty Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  CitizenKate 3/29/2015, 1:23 pm

Someone asked me a few days ago if I could share more about how I set up my sub-irrigating planters on my patio.

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Sip-bu10

A little of my history with them:  I decided to try tomatoes in these containers after failing miserably at growing them in the ground, and it ended up working fabulously for me.  Semi-automated watering really takes a lot of hassle out of growing a lot of things, and I believe my original problem was with soil quality, which this also solves.

After discovering square-foot gardening, I converted my in-ground garden into square-foot beds, and now use them for everything else I've ever wanted to grow, and that is also yielding great results!  Still, the SIP buckets provide a way for me to use patio space for growing, so I still grow my tomatoes and peppers in them.

I've been sharing this method - now both of these methods - with friends and neighbors who say they want to grow veggies, but have also had problems getting things to grow.  So far, they have all gotten good results from them, and for some of them, this is the only way they can grow anything.  This year, they're starting to want more containers, and have been asking me how to make their own, so I wrote up an illustrated tutorial and posted it on HubPages.

DIY Self-watering Containers

It's kind of neat how gardening has made us all more like real neighbors here.  We've been trading extra produce with each other, helping each other with yard chores, and just seem to have a lot more to talk about now.
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Post  yolos 3/29/2015, 1:34 pm

Wow, that is a very detailed post about making your bucket brigade.  I will have to think about this for getting some extra tomatoes growing next year.
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Post  boffer 3/29/2015, 1:48 pm

Excellent tutorial! Self-watering containers for patios and balconies 3170584802

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Post  AtlantaMarie 3/29/2015, 2:22 pm

VERY clever, Kate.  And a wonderful tutorial...!  Very clear directions.

I see changes coming to my deck.......  Shocked   Shocked
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Post  Windmere 3/29/2015, 8:11 pm

Wow, I loved reading about your idea!  It looks like something even I could do (and believe me, that's saying something).  Thanks for sharing.
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Post  CitizenKate 3/29/2015, 10:51 pm

Thanks, everyone!  I wish I could claim the concept of sub-irrigation was my idea - yes, it is very clever - but someone else actually came up with that concept, and there are now numerous implementations of it.  All I've done is try to improve on 2-bucket version of it and make it cheaper and more DIY-able.

Among other experimental variations in my container gardening methods, I'm going to try MM in some of them this year and see how it does.  What I've used in the past is a 50/50 mix of good, rich garden soil ("dirt") and commercial potting mix, with fertilizer.  Since working with MM and realizing all the benefits of self-sustaining growing mixes based on composting and the bacterial cultures that continuously turn organic matter into plant nutrients, I've become convinced that this is much better than the old-school methods of feeding our plants.  Only thing is, MM is quite a bit lighter than the 50/50 mix I've been using, so I'm not sure if that will cause any issues in this application or not.  Hence... just try it and see.
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Post  sanderson 3/30/2015, 5:37 am

Kate,  Thank you for posting the instructions.  I was wondering how your poles were secured and now I know!  I can't wait to add and secure 2 PVC pipes for each indeterminate tomato buckets for Florida weave!

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Post  CitizenKate 3/31/2015, 1:10 pm

Zip ties are such a marvelous invention.  Such a simple solution for a multitude of fastening problems.
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Post  sanderson 3/31/2015, 1:29 pm

+1

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Post  Windmere 3/31/2015, 2:36 pm

CitizenKate wrote:Zip ties are such a marvelous invention.  Such a simple solution for a multitude of fastening problems.
I very much agree.  I've also found velcro ties that are even quicker/easier to use.  It's the little things that make life better!
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Post  sanderson 3/31/2015, 4:02 pm

Kate, Do you have any trouble with the wind knocking these over? Today is windy and some of straw mulch is blowing around and a few tomatoes are leaning. Yes, I need to cage or stake the tomatoes, but I wondered if you have even had the buckets tip ove.

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Post  CitizenKate 3/31/2015, 7:41 pm

Not much so far.  We get a lot of severe wind storms here, especially in spring and early summer, and I've only had them go down once in all the years I've been using these.  That was during a really bad windstorm that had 70mph gusts, and then only 2 of them went down.

The trellises are pretty wind-resistant because they flex in high winds, and the containers are very heavy at the bottom, especially when the reservoirs are full.  Still, I've been playing with ideas to make them absolutely tip-proof in anything short of a direct hit from a tornado.  Maybe make some kind of broad-based stand for them...  When I get a chance to play with my ideas on that some more, I'll post new info.

If you happen to have them close to some kind of fixed structure, like a deck or staircase bannister, lashing a trellis pole to the bannister should make them pretty impervious to high winds.  Otherwise, if you're suspecting a wind storm is coming, that would be a good time to top up the reservoirs.
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Post  Dunkinjean 3/31/2015, 11:12 pm

CitizenKate:

Your tutorial is excellent and has me thinking.

Thank you for all the info.
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Post  sanderson 2/7/2022, 3:08 pm

Bump.

At one time, I didn't have enough beds and/or locations for all the tomatoes I wanted to grow. I just remembered this nifty set up for growing in 5-gallon buckets (= to one square foot when filled) post by Citizen Kate. My bucket brigade wasn't as successful as Citizen Kate's as I later learned that the buckets needed to be protected from the sun at my latitude and the hot reflective bricks. The embedded link no longer works but there must be other simple methods for self watering.

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Post  OhioGardener 2/7/2022, 4:40 pm

sanderson wrote:Bump.

The embedded link no longer works but there must be other simple methods for self watering.

This is another good site for making Self-Watering Containers:

Build Your Own Self Watering Containers

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Post  Frost? 3/4/2022, 4:40 pm

I can't see CitizenKate's descriptive, and the one OhioGardener posted is definitely different, although same principle, but here is another fray to add to your grey (matter).

  I will tell you at first that almost all of the fast food eateries use these buckets for SOMETHING, and until everybody gets the same idea in the same town, they are more than willing to give them away for the asking.  The ones here are Burger King pickle buckets.  Dunkin Donuts also uses them for Bavarian Creme supply (yuck!).  Either way, forthwith:  procure two buckets....

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Outer_10

your outer bucket receives a hole - size determined by the "elbow" you use, height predicated by the "inside" bucket - drop the second bucket inside, hold it up to the light and use a sharpie to mark where it's bottom is in relation to the outer buck.  My hole is about 3" off the bottom (C/L), 7/8" diameter.

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Inner_10

Inner bucket gets two holes (read the whole description before drilling; one hole is optional).  The larger hole in the center is for the net pot, mine are 4" which works well because they reach to the bottom of the outer bucket once assembled.  The smaller hole is for your fill tube, size contingent upon the piece of pipe you have laying around.  

(too be continued)


Last edited by Frost? on 3/4/2022, 5:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post  Frost? 3/4/2022, 5:00 pm

You will also need:

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Net_po11
net pot

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Gromme10
grommet & elbow (I got mine at ACE Hardware; Lowes or Homeboy Despot should have them also)

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Fill_t10

fill tube, cut on a bias at the lower end (inside the bucket) to keep from blocking flow when it rests on the bottom of the bucket.  I have eliminated this tube on my later buckets because I water from the top and let it seep down to the reservoir.  It seems to be advantageous, especially if I'm adding fertilizer (Blood Meal; Bone Meal; Compost; Ash; Greensand; what have you)

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Bucket10

The inner bucket goes inside the outer bucket with the inside fill tube hole (if used) opposite the elbow drain hole.

The you pop in the grommet, push in the elbow, drop in the net pot and fill tube.  

Convention says line the bucket with landscape fabric - I use a pillow case (a lightweight one).  It fits beautifully, adds to the wicking, and is Oh So Much easier fitting into place - I shove it into the net pot and pull the outer edge over the outside of the bucket.

I use about 3" or 4" of sand in the bottom of my inside bucket, and put the growing media on top of that; Maybe MM all the way would work fine, I just haven't gotten to that point yet.

I originally started this apparatus for, not tomatoes, but carrots.  My carrots weren't getting what they needed in my SFG beds (maybe not deep enough?), but once I started with these we have a constant supply of carrots - I put over 50 seeds in a bucket.

Self-watering containers for patios and balconies Carrot10

I put the circle of hardware cloth around the top of the bucket for "grow" room, the rack on top of that is an old oven or grill rack for squirrel deterrence.  I trim the tops when the exceed the grill rack and add them to the nights salad.
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