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SFG wicking boxes Empty SFG wicking boxes

Post  boffer on 6/25/2010, 4:17 pm

AKA self-watering containers ala SFG. Last year, someone on the forum was looking for info about them. I had never heard of them so I thought I would try one this year. On paper, it seems like a good way to deal with high temps and low humidity, or for an absentee gardener who can't water regularly.

There was lots of info when I googled 'wicking box'. A popular technique is to make one from Tupperware tubs. Basically, I took that concept and applied it to SFG, and this is what I ended up with.

SFG wicking boxes 100_1612

In the above pic, ignore that it's on a table or that it has a 'roof'. A SFG wicking box is a box with a plywood bottom sitting on a box that will hold water.

In the next pic, Mel's Mix fills the box and goes into the holes to fill the 'basket' in the water below. The soil absorbs water as it dries out.

SFG wicking boxes 100_1613


I haven't watered since I planted this box in mid-April, but I don't have a clue how well it could really work since we've had an usually cool and wet spring.

SFG wicking boxes 100_2233

I have more assembly pictures if anyone is interested in trying one.
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Post  chocolatepop on 6/25/2010, 4:20 pm

friggin AWESOME!!!!
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Post  Retired Member 1 on 6/25/2010, 6:21 pm

I think I'm definitely missing something here in conceptualizing what you are doing. What stops the Mel's mix from falling through those large holes on the bottom of the box into the bottom tray?
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Post  boffer on 6/25/2010, 6:26 pm

'baskets'

think of a 3 lb (if there is such a thing anymore) plastic coffee (Folgers) can with about 50 1/4 inch holes drilled in it. One is placed under each hole in the plywood. I'm looking for a picture.
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Post  boffer on 6/25/2010, 6:37 pm

I had coffee cans all drilled and ready to go- then I found these at an auction. This is the top box flipped upside down.
SFG wicking boxes 100_1614

This is the bottom box- it holds 50 plus gallons
SFG wicking boxes 100_1615
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Post  extremesoccermom on 6/25/2010, 7:34 pm

Great idea. It looks like you made 2 boxes and lined the lower one with plastic to hold the water. I may have to try this I love the 2 I made out of the Rubbermaid containers and I recently made the little one out of 2L bottle from instructions on this site.
The green one is currently holding 2 tomato plants
SFG wicking boxes DSC03910
The blue one is much bigger. I have 9 corn plants in this one.
SFG wicking boxes DSC03912
They are so easy to care for. I am also hoping to make some from the 5G buckets which I can move into the house over the winter to extend my growing season.
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Post  boffer on 6/25/2010, 8:02 pm

Yep, those kind of Rubbermaid tubs.

There's more there than plastic-I was doing it on the cheap, but I don't recommend how I did it. I would recommend spending the money on pond liner, shower pan liner, or EPDM.

An option, in lieu of the lower box, is to dig a hole about the same size and use a liner. Or, even a kids wading pool could work as a tub.

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Post  1chichi on 6/25/2010, 10:16 pm

Love your self-watering sfg SFG wicking boxes Icon_cool
I plan on making a small table top sfg for winter.
Hmm...it would be 10x better if I could make it like yours.

Here is the free display pallet I will turn into my tabletop sfg.
For now, I've painted it white.

SFG wicking boxes My_fut10
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Post  boffer on 6/25/2010, 11:11 pm

veggie fun
@1chichi wrote:
Here is the free display pallet I will turn into my tabletop sfg.
veggie fun

The best two things to have in one's garden!

FREE
&
tabletops

fun veggie
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Post  Retired Member 1 on 6/26/2010, 7:53 am

Thanks Boffer -- the light dawns. Really neat idea. I might try it using the hole idea with pond liner.
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Post  milaneyjane on 6/26/2010, 11:21 am

You did a fabulous job on that boffer!!! You could make some good moola selling those!!! :idea:
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SFG wicking boxes Empty End of Season Update

Post  boffer on 10/5/2010, 11:21 am

The cheaply lined tub finally started leaking in September. But the whole idea has worked out so well that I'm going to splurge on a good liner and try it again next year.

SFG wicking boxes 100_2411

SFG wicking boxes 100_2820

The tomato plants had the most fruit of all the toms I grew, and I was surprised at how small the root system was when the plant had unlimited water. Here are two stems and root balls before I moved them. The carrots are markers showing the center of the basket holes. I expected the baskets to be packed full of roots, but there were very few.

SFG wicking boxes 100_2821

here are the small root balls

SFG wicking boxes 100_2822
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Post  acara on 10/5/2010, 11:43 am

Cant believe I missed this ...very kewl thread/topic.

*** brain wheels turning ****
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Post  Garden Angel on 10/5/2010, 12:29 pm

Thanks for posting this is such detail, I remember considering this and in my case for the hot weather and gophers ! my wheels are turning too, hmm, like the idea about the kiddie pool liner. Do you have to replace the water ? will it eventually evaporate or be used up ? we live in two different climates so I'm thinking mine propbably would , how would I know and how would I replace it? maybe a tube sticking out , something like Josh's feeding tube but shorter ?
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Post  boffer on 10/5/2010, 12:52 pm

Great minds think alike! You can see in the second pic from the beginning that there is a black ABS pipe in the right rear corner. That is the fill tube.

I put water in the tub every couple weeks, just for peace of mind. It never went below 3/4 empty. The water is used by the plants, and I had a small leak. There is very little lost to evaporation which is one of the advantages of a wicking box. The MM on the bottom stayed consistently moist, and the top inch or two stayed fairly dry.

This is the fill and check pipe. A piece of cork with a wire stuck in it floated in the pipe to show me what the water level was. The pipe should have either the miter cut on the end, or the holes drilled. It doesn't need both. They help ensure the water leaves the pipe easily when filling.

SFG wicking boxes 100_1610

Next year I plan on growing 6-8 indeterminate tomatoes in this box. They say BER can be caused by erratic water uptake. I don't think a tomato plant can be watered any more consistently than this, in soil. We'll see. Maybe next year it will be warm enough for me to get a bunch of red tomatoes!

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Post  acara on 10/5/2010, 8:13 pm

I see a lot of mentions of "rain barrels" with folks on the forum ....

If you have a basic working knoweldge of plumbing, it wouldnt be hard to work in a float valve (i.e what's in your toilet) with your rain barrel and and your wicking SFG.
I've used the $11.00 toilet retrofit toilet kit from HD to install "autofill" feature in Koi ponds for years now ....works like a champ.
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Post  Garden Angel on 10/6/2010, 11:13 am

Boffer, thanks again, the float is a great idea, I can tell you thought this out! am thinking of trying this with the strawberry box we are planning for spring. Last time they looked like the leaves got sun scorched in places, hopefully this will be a better set up.
BTW, the scroll this morn, yeah , that's me , been there done that, see why I need all the help I can get !! lol Laughing
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Post  camprn on 10/6/2010, 8:37 pm

Boff, Brilliant! OMG< this thread has totally escaped my attention. I think this was originally posted when I was away at camp. Thanks for the BUMP of the thread! cheers
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Post  boffer on 10/6/2010, 9:17 pm

You can see extremesoccermom's Rubbermaid wicking box in one of the pictures. Middlemamma posted a link for good building instructions for them in her post here.

The concept is great for water conservation, the absentee gardener who is not around to water every day, and to provide very consistent water. I think the idea fits perfectly for SFG. Earlier in the year there was someone in Europe playing with the same concept, but they haven't posted in some time.
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Post  elliephant on 10/7/2010, 9:22 am

Definitely have to try something like this next summer...probably the Rubbermaid variety as there is also a high possibilty of a late summer in-town move and that way I'd have some plants I could take with me...if this actually helps them survive the summer!
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SFG wicking boxes Empty SFG and self-watering

Post  barmstr on 11/20/2010, 7:48 pm

I'm using Rubbermaid boxes right now for my self watering garden. One thing that I have read many times about this is that there should be at least 1 inch of space between the top of the water and the bottom of the planter bed area.

I used the pond filters that you buy at HD. These worked great. Have to be careful as to the size of your opening as too much water can wick up to the plants. The following is a link to a great video on making
Earth-tainers. The principles can be applied to the SFG beds. The videos are at the bottom of the page. The PDF is old. Follow what the video says and have a great self watering garden. Here is the link to the video: Earth-tainers

Also, I put my earth-tainer on a furniture dollie I got at Harbor Freight so I can move it around the yard. Our temperature in the Corona area can get to 120 degrees in the sun real fast so I have to move the tainer to the shade sometimes. The Rubbermaid boxes I used give me roughly 3 1/2 square feet of gardening space (37 gallon size).

Tried top post a picture but something went hay-wire. Try later on.

Enjoy the videos.
Bruce[img][/img]
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SFG wicking boxes Empty Great link!

Post  Lemonie on 11/20/2010, 9:57 pm

Thanks for sharing that link! I love this part:
...the soil in the EarthTainer warms up to suitable planting temperature in Springtime one month earlier than in-ground soil bed, permitting to plant out in early April. In 2008, harvest of ripe tomatoes began on May 25.


I'm watching the videos now and getting some great ideas. Can't wait to start wicking box construction! study thinking
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Post  barmstr on 11/21/2010, 12:23 am

Finally got a picture of the Earth Tainer. This was taken this afternoon. Lots of Lettuce and Celery. Notice the leaves on the ground for more mulch. Gotta love mother nature.

Enjoy the times with kids and mother nature.
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SFG wicking boxes Dsc00611
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Post  janetgouvas on 11/23/2010, 12:00 pm

This is a great idea and after reading all everyone has said here, I went to Youtube.com to see what else people were saying and doing. I like the 5 gallon buckets for myself. Cheaper, sturdy, portable. As luck would it, I just got a couple from the grocery store bakery. That size will be just right for my tomato plant that is ready for a new home.
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Post  walshevak on 12/28/2010, 9:25 pm

Hey Boffer,

A newbie to SFG here planning my first set of boxes. I have materials for 6 4x4x6 boxes that I hope to construct into table tops over the next few weeks. I plan to use your hardware cloth bottoms. Now I have a question about the wicking boxes. I was given enough gently used 2X4s and plywood to make 3 4x4 boxes. (almost new material) If I lined them with pond liner, would this be deep enough and provide enough water for self wicking boxes? I have always saved my worn out pantyhose and knee high hose to use as ties and supports for plants. Do you think I could stuff them with Mel's Mix and fasten to the hardware cloth to use as wicking? thinking
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