Sunday, May 3, 2015

Gardening with Self Watering Containers- 100% recycled, 100% FREE

We have been juggling about fourteen different little gardening or yard related projects over the last couple of weeks.

Rather than try to report progress as it happens on a daily basis (which can be quite chaotic) I will focus on reviewing one project at a time. Today- our self watering containers. As I mentioned in earlier posts, we are experimenting with a few different gardening techniques this season. I will be gardening out of containers, using the vertical gardening concept, and straw bale gardening.

The allure of container gardens (especially when vertical too)- to me- and I think to many tiny house people or renters for that matter-- is that space is completely maximized. I see so many tiny houses tucked neatly into a backyard space with little room for much else. I have also lived in an apartment and experienced the woes of not having a yard of my own at all. But! With container gardens, all you need is space enough for a 5 gallon bucket in a sunny spot, and some simple fencing or lattice for the plant to grow upward. A small balcony, a bay window, or a little walkway area can be turned into a lush and fruitful space. 

Self watering containers are very simple, requiring a couple of five gallon buckets, some pvc piping, rocks, soil, and then a few plants of your choice. Here is an article explaining in more detail. I snagged the image right here from that article as well. 

Once again, I was able to complete this project at no cost to me. We have family and friends in the food prep business (hospital kitchen, a market, a sub shop) and many food items come in 5 gallon buckets before they are further prepped at the location, so they have plenty on a regular basis. 

We collected buckets for free, and also perused behind Dan's Dad's store, where we found several lengths of used PVC pipe that would be perfect. Once the materials were collected it was straightforward work.

We paired up buckets and, using a jig saw, cut holes in the top buckets for the PVC piping. One for the soil "wick" and one for adding more water. We used a drill to add plenty of holes to the bucket and perforate the PVC piping to ensure good water flow. 

As for rocks, I simply walked around the yard and picked up whatever looked good. When it came to soil for the plant, I happened to have a large bin full of the richest soil around. Last fall when we decided to clean up around the cement foundation, we scraped an area clean that used to be an indoor floor. Everything we shoveled off was years and years of leaves, branches, animal droppings, and a lot of other plant matter that had turned to a rich black soil. As we were shoveling it away, I thought to myself, this is nice stuff, let's throw it in that empty bin over there. At the time, I had no idea what I would use it for, but figured it would come in handy for the next season. It sure did!! The only thing I had to buy were my seeds. 

Now, we have four containers that we placed up on the roof to take advantage of a perfectly good growing space and provide organic matter and shade to the roof area, further helping to keep us cool inside. In each bucket I have planted a strawberry (thanks, Adam!) a leek, and a cucumber plant. We will be building some basic lattice for the cucumber to crawl across, that way it won't be laying right on the black rubber of the roof. 

Vining plants work especially great with this container concept. The root system of the plant is the only part that needs soil, and that uses fairly little in comparison to the sprawling greens is produces. If those vines are guided up a lattice or other vertical route, you can pull it quite a bit of produce for very few square feet of your ground space. 

I'm excited to watch our roof get overtaken with the big bright green leaves of cucumber plants! 
Next up, I will be talking about our 100% recycled trellis and garden bed, and also the straw bale gardening.

Thanks for reading!
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  1. Those buckets are looking great! I just kicked off my own bucket garden, but going the old-fashioned manual watering method. If I had a hook-up on some free ones, I would have tried the self-watering route!

    Looks great, can't wait to see how yours turned out!


    1. Thanks, James! The cucumbers have sprouted and the soil has stayed perfectly moist, even on a black roof in the beating sun!! These things work great! Good luck to you as well! :)

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