Books and other media

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Self Watering Garden Bins

These bins are great for patio, greenhouse, or any garden setting  and are economical, practical, and very simple to build. I found the plans for them in a fantastic book called, "The Vegetable Gardener's Container Bible" by Edward C. Smith.

When BABB and I moved back to our little cabin we had no room for a lot of our more frilly things and I had stored a lot of things over the years in plastic tubs that were ready to be repurposed as I gave things away or took them to the thrift store. You can use new bins if  you don't have any extras. They're about $4-5.00 at most discount stores. I had mostly 16" tall bins but I assume this concept would work with any small to medium sized bin.

You will need:
1 plastic storage bin
Sharpie Marking Pen or Marker

4' of 1" PVC pipe10" of 3-4" diameter PVC pipe or length of gutter drain or other tubing
Silicone caulk or glue that glues plastic and caulk gun
Drill and 3/4" hole bit and 3/8" or larger bit for drilling holes in PVC
Jigsaw or sharp utility knife to cut through plastic bin
Compost and potting soil

Start by cutting lengths of 1" PVC pipe into (4) 5" lengths, leaving one piece approximately 30" long. Cut one angle of the 30" piece at a slight angle so that when it's inserted into the watering portion it will allow water to flow easily into the trough.

Cut the 3/4" diameter PVC pipe in half (5" lengths) and then with the drill drill several small holes around the piece of pipe to allow water to filter in the holes and wick up to the main portion of the bin.

Measure up 4 1/2" from the bottom on either end of the plastic storage bin and drill a small 3/4" hole with the hole cutting saw of the drill. Go slow because the bit catches the plastic and spins it out of your hands.
These two holes will be for overflow and allow a little air in for circulation to keep the water from getting too stinky in the bottom of the bin.

Lay the lid of the storage bin flat and measure inside the rim approximately 3-4" or if the lid has an indentation just to the outside of the indentation. This will fit inside the slope of the bin and create just enough resistance to keep dirt from flowing down into the water trough.

I found it easier to cut the middle out of the lid by drilling a small hole with the hole saw and then used a jig saw to follow the line around the rim of the lid. If you use a knife make sure to score the plastic several times to get a full cut because if it doesn't completely go through it can tear and crack the lid as you pry it out.

Measure on the top of the lid center in about 6" from each corner and draw an X on all four corners. Then measure approximately 6" from the center long sides and draw an X on either side.

Using the hole saw cut three of the corner X's out.

With the Silicone Glue or Caulk glue the two 4" diameter pre-drilled pieces of PVC over two diagonal corner holes, leaving one completely un-used. Glue the (4) 5" pieces of 1" PVC to the remaining X's and one in the center of the lid. Exact location isn't so important since these are just support legs that will keep the lid from sinking into the water trough.

When the glue has dried turn the center lid over and place into the storage tub and adjust the center lid to fit as tightly as possible against the sides of the bin. If there is a wide gap just place several layers of newspaper over the top of the center lid and up the sides to keep the soil from silting into the water trough as much as possible. Poke holes in the newspapers over the three corner holes to receive the dirt and watering pipe.

Take the 30" tall piece of 1" PVC and place it angled end down in through the third open hole until it stops at the bottom of the bin.

Using some potting soil, pack the dirt into the two corner holes and tuck it tight into the 4" perforated PVC pipe below to fill with compacted dirt. This will wick the water up and into the root system of the plants above. Fill the bin about 3/4 full with well composted soil and leaf mulch and position the watering pipe as straight as possible and pack the dirt around it to hold it upright. Then place about 2" of composted manure or other nutrient rich product over the yard compost. Put 3" or so of good quality light weight potting soil over the top till it's close to the rim of the bin. Then place the lid rim back on the bin to help keep the soil from washing out and give strength to the rim and move the whole thing into place with either a dolly or other scooting tool (or you could build them right where you want them to stay).

Plant your starts or potted vegetables into the soil . Don't overcrowd them and then just water them as they need or recommended by pouring the water in through the upright watering pipe. If the soil seems dry on top or f full fingers length down then a light sprinkling can help boost the plant as it grows. Good luck. Let's hope the book and ideas shown work in real life!!