Global Buckets served as the original inspiration behind last years custom planter design, but I think I pushed the design and materials too far, resulting in a forced design iteration (see custom planters version two) to give me something that would sustain my precious loot.
This years chilli season was well under way when I stumbled across this post on the subject of self watering pots by a gentleman known only to me as Sir Nose D’Void. His results were spectacular and to inspire me even more he had a monster Padron plant growing out of one. If you’ve been following what I’m growing this year you’ll know that I have 15 Padrons growing and I could not resist the tempation of having a couple of monsters in my crop.
The premise behind this type of design is that they’re ecologically sensitive because they’re normally constructed from reclaimed materials and they use less water than traditional pots because no water is lost through transpiration of the soil. Practically they’re also nice because people report they give better yields and this is always a good thing for Kitchen Curle.
Here’s what you’ll need
- 2 Plastic Buckets ( If you’re in the UK and live next to a Morrisons you can grab a bargain 8 ex-display buckets for 99p, but you might have to ask a staff member )
- Some wire or cable ties
- Some 67mm drain pipe and some smaller drain pipe (between 20mm – 40mm)
- Some black plastic
- An elastic band
- A Saw for cutting the plastic pipe
- Scissors for cutting the plastic & wire ( I used my Secateurs for the wire, scissor we’re not up to the challenge )
- A drill bit around the 7mm – 10mm in size
- Hole saws that match the size of the pipe you have
- A drill for drilling and the “Power Tool” feeling.
Step 1 — Drilling The Soil Chamber ( Little Bucket )
In the original instructions from Sir Nose D’Void he used two buckets of the same size. However I had one large and one small bucket. Luckily for me the smaller one was a nice snug fit so I’m able to bypass the instructions to cut one bucket to fit inside the other.
The first thing to do is put two holes in the base of the smaller bucket. The holes should match the size of your two bits of pipe. The large hole (for the wick) should be central and the smaller hole (to fill the water reservoir) should be just at the edge.
When drilling the holes you want to select a drill bit that is a few mm smaller than the larger pipe (to prevent soil slipping down into the reservoir) and one that is the exact size for the smaller pipe. It should be said however that soil in the reservoir is no big deal, I’m just being over zealous.
Next you want to drill lots small air holes that are about 5-7mm in diameter in the base of the soil chamber. The purpose of these holes is to allow oxygen to penetrate the soil and get to the roots of the plant ( very very important ). Good roots == good plant. This part does take a while, but do be patient and methodical. You may choose to enjoy a beverage whilst your doing this.
Step 2 - The Wick
The wick sits in the water reservoir and will eventually be filled with compost and will draw the water up to the roots in much the same that you’d drink from a glass using a straw. The height of the wick and the soil chamber (little bucket) should equal the height of the large bucket. You can see this in the photo below where I’ve cut the wick to be a little over 2 inches.
At this point the wick is practically useless because it has no holes in it. Take the same sized drill bit as you used to put lots of holes into the soil chamber and create a number of holes in the wick. These holes are where the water will be drawn into the wick.
Once you’ve drilled your wick you need to attach it to the bottom of the soil chamber and align it with the nice sized hole you drilled for it. I’ve attached mine using garden wire because it’s awesome, but you could just as easily use a cable tie.
You’re done with the soil chamber now so slip it inside of the large bucket and check that it’s as snug as a bug in a rug.
We need to put some holes in the large bucket using the same drill bit as we used to put holes in the small bucket and wick just below where the soil chamber sits and you want there to be a slight variance in their distance from the bottom of the large bucket and the bottom of the soil chamber. The aim is that the bottom holes will be used as overflow for the water level and the holes above this will allow air to flow into the bottom of the soil chamber. Below is a crude diagram of this.
Add Plant & Seal it.
The final thing should look like this
All that’s left to do it is to place the compost into the soil chamber and add the plant. You’ll want to make sure that the compost you use is capable of wicking so you’ll want to use something containing peat (not so environmentally great ) or something containing coir ( better ) or something else altogether. Whatever you choose though make sure that it’s packed tight, but not too tight, but certainly not too loose because this wouldn’t wick as efficiently.
Once your wick and soil chamber is filled and your plant is in, then you have to seal the top of the bucket. This is where I used some spare plastic that was left over from a compost bag. It was secured in place with an elastic band. The plant I’ve used here is a little battered because it’s been outside since early April and has experienced a few frosts and more than a few snackings by the neighbourhood slugs and snails.