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Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

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Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  CitizenKate on Sun 29 Mar 2015 - 12:23

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



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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  yolos on Sun 29 Mar 2015 - 12:34

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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  boffer on Sun 29 Mar 2015 - 12:48

Excellent tutorial!

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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  AtlantaMarie on Sun 29 Mar 2015 - 13:22

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

I see changes coming to my deck.......  Shocked   Shocked
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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  Windmere on Sun 29 Mar 2015 - 19:11

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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  CitizenKate on Sun 29 Mar 2015 - 21:51

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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  sanderson on Mon 30 Mar 2015 - 4:37

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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  CitizenKate on Tue 31 Mar 2015 - 12:10

Zip ties are such a marvelous invention.  Such a simple solution for a multitude of fastening problems.
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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  sanderson on Tue 31 Mar 2015 - 12:29

+1

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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  Windmere on Tue 31 Mar 2015 - 13:36

@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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  sanderson on Tue 31 Mar 2015 - 15:02

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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  CitizenKate on Tue 31 Mar 2015 - 18:41

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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Re: Self-watering containers for patios and balconies

Post  Dunkinjean on Tue 31 Mar 2015 - 22:12

CitizenKate:

Your tutorial is excellent and has me thinking.

Thank you for all the info.
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