Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Economical self watering container

The Seascape strawberries in the garden are producing runners and I wanted to root and develop them in the greenhouse using self watering containers. Three times I made the trip to Agway, and each time they were sold out. On each trip I requested that the manager reorder a small supply for me, but it did not happen. So much for customer service. Well, necessity being the mother of invention; I decided to make my own, and I have.

Wal-Mart carries inexpensive plastic flower pots, and I purchased a few different sizes to experiment with. A 1/2" hole was drilled in the center of the bottom of the pot for a wick to pass through to the reservoir. I cut a eight inch by one inch strip of white felt to serve as the wick. Another small piece of felt was gathered and tied to one end of the strip to serve as an anchor. Using the bottom of the pot as a template I cut a circle in nylon screen and cut a slit in the center of the circle. The wick assembly was passed through the slit cut in the screen, and this will serve to keep the small particles of coco coir and perlite from falling into the reservoir. The bottom of the wick was pulled through the hole in the pot, and pulled down so that the anchor and screen were snug against the bottom. A discarded Folger's coffee container seemed an ideal choice for the reservoir, and I simply cut an overflow hole in the side at a height that seemed appropriate.

After filling the pot and transplanting the small tomato plant I poured a mild vegetative stage nutrient mix through the pot. The liquid settles though the medium and drains into the reservoir, and I continued to add liquid until the liquid was coming out of the overflow hole. That's it, project complete. Actually, it took much much longer to write this post than it did to construct the system.

Going forward I will try raising the overflow hole and see how long I can go between refills. We use Folger's coffee, so additional containers are not going to be a problem.

Agway was charging about six dollars for a self watering container equivalent to the size of the one I have constructed. As most of the materials I used were scrap found around the house, I estimate that this container cost me less than two dollars, and took about five minutes to fashion.

It is not as pretty as the commercial unit, but I am not expecting Martha Stewart to visit my greenhouse anytime soon, and I don't really care as long as it works.

And, Agway will not be selling me any more self watering containers anytime soon.

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