I’m such a sucker for bargains!
Thankfully, over the years I’ve acquired some control over an urge to BUY, BUY, BUY when the price is right. I had to face the fact that an item was not a true bargain if I did not have an intended purpose for it.
Now Hubby would argue that point. He’s suffered through the salvage of wood from our garage tear down, and will point to the new garage rafters and ask “when are you going to use that?”
He calls me a packrat! The nerve! hehehe
Back to the point: I found a bargain resin tote at a Goodwill store recently and immediately thought of making a self-watering container. The tote was missing a lid, so at $1.99 the price was right.
The basic design of a self watering container requires a water reservoir, a soil support base, a wicking method, a water fill method and an overflow drain.
I assembled the tools and some recycled materials to achieve the basic design.
I found a great design that used a basic .50 basket for the soil wicking, so I used the basket as my height measuring guide for the plastic containers I would use to help create a support for the soil.
To create a reservoir, I cut the sugar container and the peanut containers to the correct height, and then added v cuts in their sides to allow water flow.
The support structure would be mesh gutter guard remnants laid over the top of the containers.
I laid out the reservoir components to prepare for the filtering layer. The basket and plastic containers (which are placed bottoms up on the floor of the tub) provide the foundation for the mesh overlay which will hold the soil.
Wicking is necessary to pull the reservoir water up to the soil, so a gap is created that allows soil on soil contact between the wet and the dry.
The water fill components are simple: two water bottles and the top of the sugar container, sans lids.
Also necessary is an insert for the water fill tube.
Another necessary component is the filter for the soil: a permeable means to contain the soil, yet allow water penetration. I used landscape cloth, with a second doubled layer of fiberglass window screen.
The cloth was placed first, creating a basket inside the basket to contain the wicking soil, then the mesh gutter guards were laid over the cloth. I added two scoops of dolomite limestone to the base of the basket.
I filled the basket with soil, packing it in firmly, keeping it contained in the landscape filter. The mesh gutter supports were then put into place.
The screen is placed over the support structure, with a hole cut into it for the soil on soil wicking method.
I placed the water fill tube into the insert (the screen was cut to wrap around the tube). Slowly, I added the first layer of soil, pressing it into the sides and corners and around the water fill tube, keeping the screen firmly placed along the sides and corners of the tub.
I added soil to just below the water fill guard (which also serves as a handy means to assess the water level – just pull out the top water bottle for viewing), leaving enough room for a layer of mulch.
I forgot something. There’s no overflow drain!
Whew! I know how to handle this…
I guessed the height of the reservoir and punched a hole about 1/2 inch above that. The proper method would have been to measure and drill a hole before the soil was added, but this will suffice.
We don’t want water logged soil!
There you have it, an affordable self watering container, also known as a wicking bed.