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Self-Watering or Sub-Irrigated Container from two 5 gallon buckets

Discussion in 'Container Gardening' started by Mr_Yan, Feb 16, 2014.

  1. Mr_Yan

    Mr_Yan Well-Known Member

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    This is a thread I wrote a two or so years ago on a another (now dead and inactive) forum.

    This is a planter container which is based on the Earthbox or EarthTainer idea where a reservoir of water is under the planter and being wicked up to the growing medium. The water is then refilled through a fill tube and overfilling is prevented with a weep hole. These work really well for things like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, broccoli, and brussles sprouts.

    There are more material efficient ways to build these but this tends to be a fast and simple method.

    Required parts
    2 five gallon buckets
    1 yougurt cup or similar
    ~24" length pipe - I used 3/4" PVC
    black trash bag
    nylon string

    Tools
    drill with 3/16 bit
    some way to cut two larger holes in a bucket
    utility knife

    [​IMG]

    In the bottom of one bucket you need a hole in the center large enough for the yogurt cup and one at the edge large enough for the pipe to fit through. Also drill 3/16" holes every inch to inch and a half around the rest of the bottom - this allows excess water to drain back to the reservoir.

    Cutting the large holes will be the hardest part. I have hole saws (1 inch and 3 inch) for this so it takes less than a minute. A dremal tool with a zip router bit in it works well too. I have used an exacto knife, keyhole saw, jig saw. Just think about it, be careful, and end the project with the same number of fingers you started with.
    [​IMG]

    Nest the two buckets together. Cut the bottom of the pipe at an angle or drill several holes in the bottom to allow water to flow out of the pipe - Insert the pipe into the buckets and though the side hole.

    Also cut a weep hole just below where the upper bucket sits within the lower bucket. This will prevent the water level from getting too high.
    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    Fill the planter. I used the mix as described by "engineer gardener" 2 parts peat moss, 2 parts perlite, 1 part pine bark fines. To this I added tomato-tone and dolomite lime. I have also used the bagged soilless container potting mix like sold by MiracleGrow or Schutz and they worked well - try to get the one without the water holding crystal gel additive.

    Cover the bucket with a piece of the trash bag and tie the plastic down with string.

    Slice an X in the center and plant the seedling.

    [​IMG]

    --- --- --- ---

    This is my fourth year using these. I have seen several people use this nested bucket but here are other ways to build them including from 18 gallon totes:

    http://engineeredgarden.blogspot.com...on-bucket.html

    http://engineeredgarden.blogspot.com...18-gallon.html

    http://earthtainer.tomatofest.com/

    One of my thoughts in using these is it is really just a poor man's hydroponic system. This year I plan on using hydroponic nutrients in waterings as fruit is growing.

    Last year I had real problems with blossom end rot. Don't be afraid of lime or crushed egg shells in the grow mix.

    This year I am replacing several of my buckets with totes to reduce watering effort and time.

    A funnel greatly helps to pour water into the fill tube.

    If you have good ground to grow in use it. Plants were made to grow there. I use this as most of my prime veg sunny area is paved.

    5 gallon bucket planting ideas
    1 plant per bucket of: pepper, broccoli, brussles sprout, grape tomato, ice box watermelon, small cucumber
    2 or 3 basil plants
     
    MB3 likes this.
  2. MB3

    MB3 Member

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    Central Ohio
    Planting Zone:
    6
    I have gotten several dwarf tomato plant seeds, now I just need some buckets. This would double my required buckets, and also require getting some pvc, but looks like a good investment for someone else limited on space.

    thanks for sharing.
    I will look at the links for other versions too. perhaps I can get totes easier and cheaper. the only cheap buckets are off craig's list, but not off any bus route (buckets at Lowes and HD are crazy pricey), so I may have to mod this for totes :/.
     
  3. MB3

    MB3 Member

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    unfortunately the blog articles are not open to gen public:
     
  4. Mr_Yan

    Mr_Yan Well-Known Member

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    I just bought a bucket at lowes for $2 which I use to store flour.

    Also ask at the bakery counter at the local grocer's. I can buy old icing buckets with lid for $1 each.

    Watch cat owners. The square buckets cat litter comes in are great.

    Yeah looks like engineer garden blog has been shut down a year or two ago.
     
  5. Mike

    Mike Might know the answer
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    I had several of these last year to grow peppers, tomatoes and strawberry's with good success. For the bottom cup I used 3" net cups. I'll get some pictures this evening.
     
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  6. MB3

    MB3 Member

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    Looking over the EarthTainer totes, not sure how feasible that one is for me. 2 x $17+tx for totes, and then the fact I don't have a jigsaw (or *any* saw), and a few other things kind of kills all that setup for me. It looks great though. But I will be looking more at buckets for sure, cheaper and easier, and less soiless medium I have to buy, too.

    I guess I had only looked at HD for buckets
    the ones at Lowes are listed online as $3 for reg, $4 for food safe, no lids for either. a bit more reasonable than I recall HD.
    Gonna have to take a free day and make a bus trip to get some of these and some pvc (cut to spec, since I have no saws).
     
    #6 MB3, Feb 17, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014
  7. Mr_Yan

    Mr_Yan Well-Known Member

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    You can buy the PVC in 2 foot lengths. Get creative use what you can find you don't have to use PVC either. Any tube that will survive being wet will work.

    I built some tote based ones too and the thin plastic (I think they're polypropylene ) used in the totes breaks down in about two years.

    All common 5 gallon buckets are made of high density polyethylene. The "food grade" ones just are natural color, not pigmented. There are some more expensive ones to watch out for though generally these were sold full of things like hydraulic oil or cutting fluid though.

    I have started to view these as a poor man's hydroponic system. Think about adding worm castings and or using hydroponic nutrients.
     
  8. Mike

    Mike Might know the answer
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    Here's a few pictures of one of the many buckets I've had setup.

    bucket.jpg

    Inside view, the bottom is a 3" net cup:

    bucket-inside.jpg

    Water tube, drilled to allow quicker watering. Not fully needed but without while pouring water down the tube it would back up if I poured it to fast. After drilling it no more backing up:

    water-tube.jpg
     
  9. Mr_Yan

    Mr_Yan Well-Known Member

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    @Mike Looks great. Many of the sites say to use weed barrier cloth over the bottom but I've had good luck without it. When I started getting lazy about making these I just cut the pipe at an angle rather than make several holes. A drill and hole saws are about the fastest way to make these but you'd be amazed how well a dremel tool with a rotozip bit in it cuts a bucket. If you're careful even a utility knife works.

    Expect to top water for a week or two after transplant.

    I did have trouble with BER on peppers and tomatoes with these self watering planters. Last year I added crushed drywall (calcium sulfate) when I planted tomatoes and peppers and didn't see any BER. It was a terrible year for peppers though.

    I've backed away from these in the last year and over to wooden boxes again. But I did get a bunch of free 6" wide 4/4 redwood to make the boxes from. Two years ago I had 6 made from 18 gallon totes, one made from a plastic foot locker, and about 20 made from buckets. With that many watering got to be a chore.
     
  10. MB3

    MB3 Member

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    6
    this gives me ideas
    actually in place of pvc, I realize I have some old garden hosing already cut up from another project (I have no outside spigots anywhere I live, anyway).
    thanks for posting, guys.
    I have a drill, about the only power tool I have. I kind of need a cheap hole saw set for it anyhow, so may have to get one next time I hit a box store.
    I need some crushed drywall, too, espec as most everyone locally quit carrying gypsum in gardening centers permanently for whatever reason.
    I do have a worming bin and can make a worm casting tea by just pouring water through it and catching in a second tote below it, then filter through strainer just to be sure. sometimes this is my lazy way of not digging through the worm tub for castings, lol, espec since I have no screen.

    this looks like a good setup for peppers and the dwarf tomatoes seeds I have. =)
    now I just need money and to get to Lowes X_x
     
    #10 MB3, Feb 17, 2014
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2014
  11. Mr_Yan

    Mr_Yan Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    While we're hot rodding buckets I really like what this guy did to make dutch buckets for hydroponics.


    When I have space I'll try hydroponics / aquaponics with this dutch bucket design.
     

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