Everything Man

Random projects from an alchemist's workshop.

Monday, 16th May, 2016

In a digression from the recent Gingery projects, my wife and I have been wanting to do some gardening. Trying to detangle the HOA regulations about “major landscaping changes” was taking a lot of time, so we decided to put together a little planter garden on the back porch. Since we’re nerds, and generally busy nerds, we decided to make self-watering planters.

The self-watering planter
[Image credit to Gardening Australia.]

The theory is pretty simple. You have your plants in a plastic bucket. In the bottom of the bucket there is a reservoir for water, along with some piping to allow you to add water to the reservoir and drain excess off. On top of that you have a barrier to prevent your soil from falling into the reservoir. On top of that you have a regular potting mix, preferably one with good wicking properties to help draw water up to the roots of the plants. By a combination of evaporative and capillary action, water moves from the reservoir up into the soil, and from there into whatever you’ve planted.

Planter materials
Plumbing and rock layer
The screen barrier layer

The first step was installing the “plumbing”, drilling an overflow hole for the top of the reservoir in each of our buckets, and cutting down a piece of 1” copper pipe to be an inlet.

Some designs we looked at use perforated soda bottles or drainage pipes as the reservoir. We just used a 4” layer of rocks (since we had a big pile in the yard already). Barrier materials range from burlap to fiberglass window screening, we figured the latter was less likely to rot, so we went with that. The dirt is just regular potting mix with some organic fertilizer mixed in.

Dirt, plus a helper

We planted some seeds as well as seedlings, so we’ll probably top water our planters for the first couple weeks, but after that we should just be able to fill up the reservoir and let it go.