Sub-irrigated planters (doesn’t that sound impressive?)

My tomatoes are coming along quite nicely, having been hoofed outside and into their planters a few weeks ago.  I’m growing last year’s Gartenperle along with Incas F1.  Last summer we caught our daughter (then 1) stood, arms by her side, chomping on a Gartenperle tomato whilst it was still on the plant.  That’s recommendation enough for me to grow them again!

An easy-peasy design for a self-watering planter

The bit I thought was worth sharing, however, wasn’t my daughter’s lack of cutlery or tomato-eating etiquette, but what I grow my tommies in.

The idea is explained succinctly in the diagram on the left and here.

It’s simple enough – two buckets, one inside the other.  You water not onto the soil, but into the gap left between the top and bottom bucket, through  a pipe.

(Don’t forget an overflow hole to let you know when it’s full!)

Set into the bottom of the ‘top’ bucket is a smaller plant pot (I use 3″ round pots which have had it and would otherwise be in the bin).  Punch a few extra holes in it for good measure.  Then you fill the top bucket, including the pot in the base, with compost and plant into that as normal.

The small pot acts as a wick, as it is below the level of the water in the reservoir, drawing moisture up through the compost into the main bucket.  The plant’s roots are encouraged to go deep as the water is coming from below, rather than above, which steadies the plant well in the planter and, more importantly, in hot weather evaporation is kept to an absolute minimum.

Since I like to save money where I can in the garden, and because I’m not too bothered about the looks (within reason), I like to use the black florists’ buckets which can often be sourced free or very cheaply.  I paid 99p at Morrisons for each bundle of 8, in various sizes.   A few bundles gave me enough to make up enough planters to keep me in tomatoes all summer (weather permitting!).  If you go down the florists’ bucket route, there smaller size is best for the bottom bucket, with a larger bucket sat inside it; this creates an approximately 2″ gap for the reservoir.  I use clear aquarium pipe to fill the reservoir, but anything will do really, as long as you can get water into the end of it from a hose or bucket.

...and here they are in all their glory.

…and here they are in all their glory.


5 thoughts on “Sub-irrigated planters (doesn’t that sound impressive?)

    • It works brilliantly, did really well for me last year with very lottle watering. Lazy gardening at its finest.

      Cheap, too, and they will last forever, or thereabouts!

  1. I have a book about vegetable gardening in self-watering containers but I haven’t seen them built this way before. Excellent job! Your containers are great. The same principal applies with the grow boxes I have (only they’re more expensive). I look forward to seeing more of your projects!

    • Many thanks for the kind comment :-). Its not my original idea, of course, it just seemed ao easy to recreate with cheaper materials (total spend for 8 planters is about £3.50, less if you already have a bit of pipe or hose spare).

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Pingback: Too Many Tomatoes | Life in the Thrift Lane

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