Self-watering Planter Basics: DIY Gardening with Sub-irrigated Wicking Beds (Albopepper)



Sub-irrigated planters (SIPs) are often referred to as “self-watering” systems. Also known as wicking beds. There are various ways to construct them. The systems shown in this video do no not use a base of gravel. Instead, the water reservoir is created by hollow pieces of corrugated, perforated drain pipe. Such drain pipes are inexpensive and easy to transport. Their light weight speeds up installation and makes them ideal for applications like roof terraces, balconies and decks. Also, if the system needs moved or deconstructed, the process is MUCH easier!

Sub-irrigated System Basic Components:
– Water-tight Container
– Aeration Screen
– Wicking Media
– Overflow Hole
– Fill Tube

Learn more at my website:
https://albopepper.com/sips.php

WATER-TIGHT CONTAINER:
Any food grade plastic container will work fine, including 5 gallon buckets, totes or IBCs. Beds can be built from lumber or composite materials and then lined with a water tight liner. Look for a non-toxic, fish safe pond liner. PVC will work ok but I personally prefer 45 mil EPDM liners.

AERATION SCREEN:
The growing media is suspended above the water reservoir with an air gap in between. The soil releases excess moisture rainfall or irrigation. The root zone receives air, allowing for respiration & preventing root rot. The upper edges of perforated pipes form the aeration screen in these SIPs.

WICKING MEDIA:
Potting mix slowly absorbs water as plants needs it, pulling it up from the reservoir through capillary action. The wicking material connects the reservoir to the soil enabling this process. Pieces of cord can serve as a wick. Or in corrugated pipe system, narrow bands of potting mix provide the wicking. Wicking materials should be highly absorbent will resisting decomposition.

OVERFLOW HOLE:
An overflow hole is placed at the side wall to prevent overfilling of the planter. It is slightly below the aeration screen. With corrugated pipe systems, the hole center is be around 3.25 inches.

FILL TUBE:
To directly sub-irrigate the planter, you’ll need a fill tube. This allows you to pump water directly to the reservoir, filling the system up. I generally combine soda bottle that then funnels into a 1/2 inch pvc pipe.

QUICK TIPS:
– Your SIP must be levelled for consistent moisture absorption.

– Avoid raw manures due to pathogen issues.
– Bagged manures & composts may contain high levels of salts.
– Avoid fine silty particles which reduce aeration & lead to compaction.

– Both synthetic & organic fertilizers can work in SIPs.
– All-purpose organics may offer minerals like calcium & magnesium.
– Apply all dry & liquid nutrients to the potting mix not the reservoir.

– In temperate regions, SIPs work best with annual crops rather than perennials.

#albopepper #UrbanGardening #DroughtProof #HighDensityGardening

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