How Does Your Garden Grow?

The rain has avoided us again.  I’m resigned to settling into a second drought pattern, and I’m resolved to fare this one better than the last.

This year, I’ve copied the design of the water trough planter and made a wicking bed planter.  It’s doing fairly well, although I believe it’s almost time to move it to a better location.  I planted the kale, lettuce, radish and onion here.  There was a pest attack, so I didn’t get much lettuce harvest.  The kale has been a bit reserved in its growth, but I’ve added a few leaves to salads.  The onion seeds were planted a month late, so I only expect to have green onions from them.  We did enjoy several radishes in salads before I allowed them to go to seed.  Next time, I’ll set that container right outside during the end of winter with a clear plastic cover.

onion peeking out from the kale and lettuce

The leaky bucket that I set outdoors during the cold has fared well.  The lettuce has now succumbed to some pesky pest, but the carrots are thriving.  This bucket has a water reservoir and overflow, but no fill tube.

carrots thriving past the lettuce

The first leaky bucket sat too long on the porch before being placed outdoors, plus it is full of soil mix with no water reservoir.  The radishes fared well, but the carrots and parsley are still as wimpy as ever.

still wimpy radish and parsley

The big win is the holdover from last year, the water trough planter.  Strawberries have done very well, and I’ve only filled the reservoir once this spring.  I did plant a few cucumbers into the bed and only one has survived, barely.


The new stars of the show are the tomato planters with ollas.  I fill the ollas once a week, and the planters are set next to a north side patio that gets about eight hours of sun per day.  I put two ollas in each metal container, with a basil plant and marigolds to help shade the soil once things really heat up.  So far, these are doing extremely well.

tomato containers

tomato and marigold growth

ollas and grass clippings

We use our grass clippings as mulch, so I’ve topped the containers with clippings.  The next photo is the first tomato flower.  :)

flowering tomato

The primary water conservation technique is rain water collection.  We have six rain barrels set up to collect rain water for use on the gardens.

full rain barrels

It’s been quite easy to fill a pail with water from the barrels to use for the olla and wicking bed refills each week.  Here’s what happened when I took a short break after my watering duties:

butterfly landing

A sweet little ol’ butterfly made me its landing pad!  I was trying to take some stealth photos, but this creature could care less what I did – it was settled in for a thorough inspection.

butterfly inspection

Ah, I almost forgot to show Hubby’s pick of the day:

Hubby’s garden delight

We like to give credit when it’s due, so here it is.  This little Weber grill has outdone any charcoal grill we’ve ever used (said lightly, since I haven’t used it yet).  Hubby is the grill king, and he says it’s a winner!

How does your garden grow?

Dreamin’ Girl

Water Trough Planter

Several of my garden pictures include the water trough planter.  What you might not have noticed about this trough is that it’s a self-watering container/wicking bed on steroids.

I got the idea here (NOTE:  the link is now broken, from Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine, Aug-Oct 2009 issue, Makin’ Hay), and made it work with materials that I could access.

The mesh was actually gutter screens that were left over from the new roof we had put on last year.

This mesh was used as the support for the dirt, held up over the water reservoir by the perforated PVC pipe shown in the instruction link.

Holes were cut into the mesh for the four higher sections of PVC that were used to hold the wicking soil.

A double layer of landscape cloth and fiberglas screen were used to keep the soil on top of the mesh support.

Notice the PVC pipe in the left part of the trough?  That’s the water fill tube.  Just like the self-watering container, this trough has a water reservoir, soil support, wicking soil to pull the water up to the plant roots, a water fill tube, and a drain hole.  These are the necessary components for a self-water container or wicking bed.

The planter contains the strawberries seen below, and was a great garden bed for the sweet potatoes, dill, lettuce, spinach and strawberries during last summer.

strawberry plants

I highly recommend this water trough planter.  It fared quite well during a summer draught that was highlighted by the longest stretch of high temperatures we’d seen in a long while.  I was able to fill the reservoir once every two weeks and the plants thrived.

No water has been added since the end of summer, aside from the rain water naturally collected in the trough.  The strawberries are the new growth this year.  Lettuce is also growing from the plants I allowed to bolt for seed.

Once the budget allows, I plan to put two more of these planters in use.

Til later…

Dreamin’ Girl

Self Watering Container

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.


No… wait.

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.

Easy peasy!

Dreamin’ Girl