I’ve never been a big “go green” person… and I’m certainly not expecting that to change much anytime soon, but I’ve been thinking a lot about ways I can baby step myself into some better habits. If you’ve been in my house, you know I run through a million paper towels a day, throw away perfectly recyclable items merely because I’m too lazy to put them in the recycle bin outside, and any time I go on a “I’m going to grow my own garden” rampage I leave dead sprouts in my window sill for 2 months before remembering to throw them out… yes… in the garbage. In a plastic Febreeze scented bag.
But, it’s SPRING (shoot – at this point it’s almost SUMMER) and that means the annual Nicole Litton attempt and inevitable fail at gardening. I’m not kidding when I say I have a black thumb. It’s embarrassing. Last month, I was at Home Depot picking up some tomato plants when these two women who were debating over the best potting soil called me over “Excuse me! Do you grow flowers?” There was moment where my first instinct was to eagerly say yes (why I have no idea), started to open my mouth to say so, and then realized… no. I’m sure there was a comical series of facial expressions involved which ended with me lowering my eyes, saying no, and quickly exiting the gardening section before someone else could mistake me for someone who knew what I was doing.
Probably a poor choice of openers for a tutorial post that involves gardening, but hey, I’m nothing if not brutally honest. And in my defense, I may not be able to grow anything ever, but I’m really good with power tools and that’s what this tutorial really involves.
Whether you’re a lazy/forgetful gardener like me, a gardener who might often be out of town, or are new to gardening and haven’t really found a balance between too much watering and completely drying your plants out, this is for you. With weather and sun fluctuating so much, I always struggled with how much to water my plants. I considered buying a self watering container, but I’m cheap, so that wasn’t happening. Finally, I stumbled upon a tutorial for building one of my own just using 2 5-gallon plastic buckets over on UrbanOrganicGardener.com. Thanks to author Mike Lieberman, I might actually be able to keep my plants alive this year. The guy’s got tons of information about how to grow your own garden while living in the city. It IS possible, people. Just look at how many he’s got on his porch just full of delicious veggies and herbs.
Photo Credit: Urban Organic Gardener
So here’s how I made mine…
- 2 5-gallon buckets (there are other tutorials out there that just require one and like a floor tile…? I thought this was easy enough and just as cheap)
- drill w/ 1/4″ drill bit
3 1/2″ hole saw bit 1″ hole saw bit
- container with 3 1/2″ diameter (I used an empty sour cream container)
- nail and hammer
Take one of the buckets and cut a 3 1/2″ hole in the middle using the hole saw. I struggled with this part. Even though I used the same hole saw as Mike, there was a kick back effect on the plastic bucket and I couldn’t get it to stay still. I scruffed up the bottom of the bucket trying a few times and almost bore a hole into my thigh before deciding… I’ll just use the 1/4″ drill bit to saw a bunch of holes in a circle and then use scissors to cut in between. Admittedly it looks super ghetto, but no one’s going to see it. So however you have to cut a hole in your bucket to fit your little container into it… go for it!
Then using that same 1/4″ bit, just drill several holes in the bottom of the bucket around the big hole. This way the water can drain easily out of the bucket if you have some torrential downpour – you don’t want to drown your plants. Using the nail and hammer, poke a bunch of holes into your little container to make a wicking basket. Pop it into the big hole you made in the bucket and set it and the bucket into the other bucket. It’ll look something like this (ignore the PVC pipe on the edge… we’re not using that method):
Photo Credit: Halifax Garden Network
And if that’s not a good enough depiction of what you’re trying to achieve here, just check out this super awesome MS Paint diagram I whipped up for you guys.
OK so now that you’ve got a container set into a bucket with holes in it set into another bucket… hold up the whole thing to a light so you can see where the bottom of the inside bucket is. Just below that, drill a small hole using the 1″ hole saw into the side of the outside bucket. This is where you’ll pour the water into that bottom reservoir. You can see the hole and the slight shadow of the bottom of the inner bucket above it. In this picture I’ve already filled the reservoir with water, so that’s the shadow you’re seeing below the hole.
Now for the fun part – fill the bucket with dirt and stick a plant in it. I used a mixture of top soil and potting soil that had Miracle Grow in it. I have no reasoning for any of that, I’m just telling you what I did. haha After you’ve got your plant in the new planter, fill the reservoir with water. Yes, the dirt should also fill the wicking basket. When that basket is surrounded by water, the water will soak the dirt that’s in the wicking basket and be pulled up into the planter as needed. During the hotter days, you’ll have to fill the reservoir more often so keep an eye on it.
I’m happy to say the tomato plant I put in this particular container over a month ago, is doing really well. I’d bought two plants. One I planted in a self-watering container and the other I left in the small container I’d bought it in. They were the exact same size when I bought them, but the one in the self-watering container is almost double the size of the other now.