Self watering containers or automatic watering.

Kerrville, TX

An automatic watering system is not very expensive and is highly efficient if coupled with the right grow mix. Almost any type of inexpensive container is good to go as long as it is large enough to hold enough grow mix for the type of plant you are growing and allows for good drainage. The key component is a fast draining grow mix that makes it almost impossible to over water your plants. Set your water timer to make sure that all plants get sufficient water......even if you are "overwatering" some plants.............the excess will drain away. Water soluable fertilizer can be added into the auto watering system or done manually.

Self watering containers do not water themselfs..........you still have to water them yourself......or automatically. For the price of about two of those self watering containers, you can set up an extensive automatic watering system using less expensive containers.

I offer these comments as a primer for a good discussion. What ya'll think??






Carmel, IN(Zone 5b)

Great topic, Jay. This is the first year I'm attempting to set up a watering system on some of my containers. The first ones were easy--I purchased (although at premium $) the system from earthbox to water my 12 EBs that are all located within the same area. What I really like about their system is that it works by sensors. As the watering needs for my EBs change over the course of the season, I don't need to make any adjustments. No worries about my tomatoes and veggies turning to toast if I'm traveling, etc.

I'm now getting ready to try to put together my own irrigation system for some additional containers outside of that area. Using a timer, pressure reducer, and 1/2" hose and various drippers/sprayers depending upon the container.

I do quite a bit of container gardening, but the daily watering gets to be a chore. Takes 30 minutes a day for 2 people; I hope this will cut the work down to about 15 minutes for one person, and provide more consistant results. I'd much rather spend the extra time enjoying the fruits of my labor!!

Waaaay Down South, GA

I too love the EB watering system for the same reason. I also have less expensive drip systems in place for other containers. :-)

Crestview, FL

Here is my self watering system, I turn it on and it takes maybe 5 mins for each one to water half of 70 plants.

Thumbnail by joy112854
Crestview, FL

I have a four way manifold, with 1/2" poly tubing hose, that is punched with holes and I put in the 1/4" poly tubing running the tubing into the self watering tubes. I just turn each manifold on, for about 5 mins each, one at a time and the whole thing gets watered. Leaves more time for things like tying up tomato plants, trimming off bad stems or leaves and of course, picking your veggies and fruits.
joy

Pembroke Pines, FL(Zone 10a)

I also have the BocaBob set-up such as yours but I have mine on timers. Just forget it and it waters automatically as to your settings. Mine are set for ten minutes at 4pm daily. My roses the same but every other day. With my health being as it is this is a blessing.

Crestview, FL

TPlant: I've been turning mine on first thing in the morning and when the sun goes down, these veggies are slurping up the water. I couldn't quite afford the timers this year, and while the water is going around the containers is the time I pick the fruit off the vine and tie down all my vines. I love mine, it sure frees up so much time for other things doesn't it?
joy

Kerrville, TX

Summer time finally got here after an extended cooler wet spring. Every thing is cooking now with one hot day followiing another and all my stacked container poles are on twice a day watering. 5 gallon nursery containers get once a day with a water hose except the tomato,s and egg plants which get watered two times a day. Next year, the nursery containers go on automatic watering system also. It is always kind of windy here in central Texas and wind as well as sun really takes the moisture out of the larger leafy type plants. So far this year............NO BUGS...........so far.

Crestview, FL

Jaywhacker: Be careful, they flock in all of a sudden, here, they don't show up til what I call the monsoon season, that is when we get that 2-3 week rain period where the rain does not let up for a full two days. That's why I'm trying the organic thing with the beneficial bugs. The aphids are terrible.
joy

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Bump!

Check this out...

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1158830/

Canyon Lake, TX(Zone 8b)

Joy, I just read this thread and saw the photo of your watering system. You've come a long way since "beginner status".

Crestview, FL

Thanks, been doing some studying in the Fall/Winter; but alas, also sitting and being lazy, I'm feeling that now. LOL I am breaking from the norm this year though, I have tomatoes outside for a few hours every day that have only their catydelons and not their first true leaves, because I have 47 more in a seed starter kit that will be needing the flourscent lights soon. So far, not problem the babies are standing straight and tall. I transplanted them all up to styrofoam cups burying them up to the two catydelons and now, they are going outside for just bits of sunlight and back up under lights the rest of the day. I've been shutting on the flourscents about 5 am and then shutting them off at 11 pm, so I know they are getting lots of light.
joy

Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

I am also slowly converting everything to timers and drip irrigation and misters. It is so great when you work away from home to not have to worry if your plants are dying. My biggest raised bed had a sprinkler also on the timer. All that leaves is the EBs and they don't need to be watered as often as the beds.

I see the veggies at the big home super stores all withered and actually feel sorry for them. At least mine should all avoid this fate this year. I love technology!

Easley, SC

I'm new to earthbox and want to set up the AWS. Do I turn the water on and leave it on?

Crestview, FL

No, you just run it until the last bucket starts peeing out water from the drain hole, then you know all the reservoirs are full, usually no more than 5 mins for 38 ebuckets.
joy

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Stampinladybug,
Yes, your water is left ON.

An AWS is automatic, IF you have installed a timer. The timer has a flap that opens and closes off the flow of your water hose, at the times you preset.

I purchased a 6-cycle timer which would allow my water to be released up to 6 times per day! The beauty of the automatic watering system is you don't even have to be home, and your plants/containers will get watered!

I've settled on a schedule that would turn the water on 6x daily for 10 minutes each time it comes on.

Finally, you can install different tips at the end of your drip lines. You could have a spray or mist type tip on your lettuce or leafy greens, or a plain line into EB or eBucket fill tubes, or a drip tape to lay on the soil of your raised or in-ground beds.

So, look for the step x step cheat-sheet instructions in the tags, install yourself a timer, and sit back and enjoy your AUTOMATIC watering system!

So, Joy,
Why are you turning water on and off all day?

Linda

Crestview, FL

Linda: This dummy can't afford a timer yet! And why are you watering your plants for 10 mins 6 times a day? I turn mine on for 5 mins and the whole garden is watered and I only do that twice a day, I watch the last e-bucket or earthbox and when it starts peeing I know it's time to turn it off, it's hooked up to my outdoor facet. My tomatoes are about 3 ft tall already.
joy

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Joy,
A timer at HD or Lowe's is only $10-15...

Most of my tomatoes this season are in buckets and molasses tubs that do not have built in reservoirs....

I'm growing 6 bell peppers and one (soon to be none) tomato plant in eBuckets...

The rest are in free-draining vessels...

Thumbnail by Gymgirl
Crestview, FL

Gymgirl: What??? All the timers I've been looking at are around $60, the ones at Walmart anyways. It has a timer you set and it's digital. Tell me more about these $10-$15 ones will ya? Do they hook up right to the facet outside and just before you put your polyhoses in place on the facet?
joy

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Yeah. It's just a battery-operated 6-cycle timer. From HD or Lowes. I forget which one. I bought it in the AWS aisle where I got the components for the system.

Crestview, FL

Gymgirl: Thanks, now I need to ask how you have it set up? I have a 4 way manifold that attatches directly to my facet, from that I have 3 poly hoses, each going to a different section of my garden, and one is for my 100 ft hose. Here is the problem, I am going to have to add a few T's because this fall I will be adding two pyramidal strawberry gardens, which have a spray attatchment and I need to connect those, each one needs it own connect. Obviously, I cannot run all the hoses at the same time, so I water each part of the garden seperately, and manually turn on the hoses and shut them off one at a time. I am on a well, thus, I don't think running all of them at the same time would do the job.
joy

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Joy,
Check with BocaBob on how to hook up your timer. Mine is a very simple system that follows Bob's original design for one hook-up.

Clifton, VA(Zone 7a)

Quote from Gymgirl :
Most of my tomatoes this season are in buckets and molasses tubs that do not have built in reservoirs....

I'm growing 6 bell peppers and one (soon to be none) tomato plant in eBuckets...

The rest are in free-draining vessels...


Gymgirl, I'm curious -- as the unofficial eBucket cheerleader on this forum - why aren't you using them much any more?

Crestview, FL

Gymgirl: I believe yours and Bobs go through a rainbarrel or something first doesn't it? Mine comes straight through the facet and the manifold has 4 seperate spikets, from there I hooked up the poly tubing, 2 of them so far; but this fall, I will be having to add T's to split them off even more as I will be adding 3 if not 4 more poly tubings. Thus I will have need of 6-7 seperate watering systems. I really don't think a timer will do it for it me unfortunately. My home and my garden are on a well, I don't use city or county water.
joy

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

VitaVeggieMan,
Sorry it's taken so long to respond. I started typing a response, lost it, then lost this thread. Been looking for you ever since.

Yes, I'm still the EB cheerleader, and will promote them always.

I relocated to another house between May and October last year. In addition, I moved the entire garden operation with me -- all except the soil and potting mixes, so I had to start building "dirt" from scratch to fill my containers. I started tomato and bell pepper seeds in December and ended up with 208 tomatoes and 65+ bell peppers. Good thing I don't have much furniture in two rooms!

Anyway, I took this new beginning as an opportunity to try out Tapla's 5-1-1 container mix. Had been studying soils and composting with him for about 6 months (just trying to understand the conversation). When, I finally did, it took me until almost the end of the year before I found the main component for the mix - pine bark fines. I searched for 4 months, and was about to give up when Al (Tapla) himself located a suitable source for me, here in town.

Pine bark fines need to be sifted to get the right particles for the various types of mixes. So, every evening from December to about a month ago, I ran home to either tend seedlings, or sift pine bark for the new recipe. NOTE TO SELF (sifting in the cool of the fall/early winter FAR better than sifting in the summer heat!!!)

Anyway, I sifted through 1/2 yard of pine bark. Which filled twenty-two 5-gallon buckets and two 18 gallon Rubbermaid tubs. That's a lot to sift, and, I actually finished the last tub this past Saturday!!! The mix takes some getting used to, and I'm actually in an experimental phase. I have to "tweek" the recipe for use in eBuckets, because this mix is designed to drain very fast, yet hold some moisture. I'm guaging the growth of bell peppers growing in eBuckets, and tomatoes growing in free draining 10-gallon planters, to see how the wicking action is working.

The ratio I started with was 3:1:1 (PBFs:peat (MG potting mix):perlite). Al recommended this modification to increase the wicking action for the self-watering eBuckets. I'm still getting used to how dry the containers stay on the top 2", yet, if I dig my finger down about 3", the soil is actually moist enough.

I still have all my eBuckets (all 28 of them...) and plan to incorporate them somehow into my growing plan. Right now, I'm working with a landscaper to do a layout for my yard. This'll be a project in motion for a couple years. I'm having a vegetable garden designed for edible landscaping, with raised beds as my primary growing areas. There will be decorative planters interspersed, and flowers growing alongside the veggies. As such, I'm going to need a decorative camouflauge(sp?) for any eBuckets I use!

I've never grown in the ground before, so the raised beds themselves will be yet another experiment for me! I plan to start with one bed prepped and ready for my fall/winter garden (my primary growing season). I'll have my eBuckets at the ready for my cabbages! I think I feel confident enough to grow the broccolis and cauliflowers and root crops in the RB. Giving up my eBuckets is not an option, though. I just need to figure out how to incorporate them into my gardening design. Those, and the 9 patented EBs I love to grow my mustard and collard greens in!

Hope this clarifies where I am and what I'm doing! There will ALWAYS be an eBucket in my garden, no matter what!

P.S. I'm STILL building eBuckets for newbie gardeners with limited space, and for seniors who want to grow in an efficient, cost-effective container. EBuckets are also perfect for growers who are differently-abled or those with limited mobility! I'm still leading the cheer!

Linda ^^_^^

Crestview, FL

Gymgirl: That is so sweet what you are doing for the seniors and newbies. Big Lots had some 4x4 cedar beds for $30, of which I bought two when they had them for $30; but they now are $20 each, so I broke down and bought 2 more. I'm intending on using them this fall for flower bulbs, after I put in weed cloth and some sort of wire across the bottom to keep bulb mulching critters out of the beds.
joy

Santa Ana, CA(Zone 10b)

Gymgirl, Not as cost effective , but this is what I did with my e-buckets last year to make them look a little better. The hardest part was finding pots that were the right size.

Thumbnail by OCCAROL
Santa Ana, CA(Zone 10b)

This year, I decided to skip the buckets and made two (NOT cost effective) self watering planters using the same method as the buckets. I'm sure you can find a way to disguise the buckets though.

Thumbnail by OCCAROL
SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

OCCAROL,
Check out the thread I started with the pictorial on converting planters into self-watering containers?

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1094601/

Santa Ana, CA(Zone 10b)

Yes, I had seen that, and forgotten about it. Obviously, it was stuck in my subconscious somewhere. LOL!

Kerrville, TX

The original purpose of my post was to create a debate on using the so-called "self watering" containers as opposed to simply using common less expensive containers such as standard nursery containers combined with an automatic watering system. A plant doesn't care where its water comes from.......from a bottom sump of a "self watering" container or from a drip system into the top of the container. Using my local prices for comparison......I can buy an earth box self watering system for $40. I can purchase 5 to 10 gallon nursery containers for approximately $3 to $5 each or scrounge them for less. The main point being that so-called self watering containers are much more expensive and still require watering. They don't water themselves. Using standard less expansive containers coupled to an automatic drip system into the top of each pot would be less expensive while providing planting space for many more plants.

Alternately......I can purchase a stacked container system from EZgro from www.theezgro.com for $60 with a stack of 5 pots and all mounting components plus grow mix and a years worth of fertilizer. The 5 four lobed pots provide 20 plant sites stacked vertically and taking up only about 2 square feet of ground space. Drip irrigation into the top pot filters down through all five pots and irrigates all 20 plants.

Dollar for dollar, many of the self watering systems are expensive compared to other systems and not any more effective. O.K.........thats the debate!! Whoops......forget to mention that they are more labor intensive and time consuming.



This message was edited May 9, 2011 6:09 PM

Santa Ana, CA(Zone 10b)

Jaywhacker, Sorry your thread got hijacked. I have followed, and enjoyed your posts, and wonderful pictures. If I could concentrate my growing area , I would surely use your system. Unfortunately, I'm in a mobile home park in southern Ca., where I have minimal space and have to grow most of my plants in pots in order to move them with the sun.

Kerrville, TX

I know what you mean about following the sun. My deer proof fenced in garden area has trees that I dont wont to cut down so I move pots around as the seasons change and the tree shadows slowly cover different ground. One thing I have discovered though is that lots of plants that are described as requiring at least 6 hours a day of direct sunlight can still do good with less direct sunlight than that. Maybe filtered sunlight along the edge of a tree shadow counts as sunlight. or......something I have always believed is that there is more sunlight in the southwestern sunlight than in the east coast and some northern and middle states. Another southwestern problem is the high PH of our water. I fooled around and let the grow mix in my stacked container system get up to PH of 8 and my plants are showing it this year. I need to continuously add vinegar to my irrigation water and I have neglected to do that. Procrastination will get you every time.!!!!

This message was edited May 9, 2011 7:24 PM

Crestview, FL

Jaywhacker: I have 3 stacks of stackers that I'm going to plant strawberries in this fall, they are in stacks of 3,4, and 3 with the 6 spots. I also bought 2 pyramidal 3 tiered strawberry gardens, that Gurney's had on clearance, for $20 each and they each will hold 50 strawberry plants, the sprinkler is at the top so it waters much like a fountain, will get them set up before this fall.
joy

Santa Ana, CA(Zone 10b)

I can relate to your ph issues. Our water is very bad here too. As to the hours of sun; I think it depends on what you're trying to grow. Veggies need the hours, whereas perenials and orchids are a little more forgiving. Most of my garden gets either morning or late afternoon sun. None of it gets more than 6 hrs at time. My southern exposure consists of two EBs.

Crestview, FL

My front yard gets morning sun; but the back yard gets full sun, all day long. My tomatoes have thrived on that and love it; but, the heat has been sweltering a lot of my plants, during the day they look terrible and then in the evening the perk right up. The problem I had was with my eggplant, and I thought they loved sunlight the most. I wanted 6 eggplants in EBs this Spring/Summer and had started some from seed, they expired, I planted 6 more, same thing, so I decided this time to go to the nursery and buy some in the one gallon containers that had all but the fruit on them right? I bring them home; sat them down in the back yard, and a few hours later, droop, I felt like crying. I didn't give up though, I put them in water that evening so they could drink from the bottom of the container and let them acclimate to the hot sun, now they are in EBs and I think they will make it this time. I need to spray with spinosad and pyrethrene tonight though as I have spider mites on some of my tomatoes, that I squashed and then sprayed the leaves with water last night. I also noticed some broken branches on some of my tomato plants last night, so either the birds are getting rough with the tomato plants or I have a critter back there.
joy

Clifton, VA(Zone 7a)

Linda,

Thanks for your reply. Glad to hear you're still the EB cheerleader. Sounds like you've got some grand garden plans for the new place - very exciting!

Personally, while I've read all about Tapla's 5-1-1 mix and the 3-1-1 variation you're using, I've settled on a rough 5-5-1 mix of pine bark fines, peat-based mix, and perlite for my eBuckets. I don't measure precisely - I just dump roughly equal amounts of peat-based mix and PBF's in a mixing tub, and pour a few quarts of perlite in to lighten it up (along with a few scoops of Greensand for micro-nutrients and dolomite/garden lime). I also don't sift the PBF's, but I do pick out the largest chunks as I run across them while mixing it up. This is working well for me so far, but I need a full season before I can call it a complete success.

I'm concerned that a mix with less than half peat will not provide sufficient wicking in the notably tall and narrow 5-gallon eBuckets. I cover most of my eBuckets with plastic and rely on bottom-watering, so the wicking must work right. The good folks at EarthBox have been doing self-watering containers longer than most, and they still recommend a 100% peat-based mix. Ray Newstead, creator of the large EarthTainer EB knockoff, recommends a 6:1 mix of peat-based media and perlite by default, but suggests a "tweak for experts" of using a 3:2:1 ratio of Sunshine #4 Mix (a peat and coir-based mix), Bark Fines (also called "Decorative Groundcover Bark), and perlite. Since people are having great success with both EarthBoxes and EarthTainers (including me), they can't be too far wrong.

I agree that eBuckets are not the most attractive planters available. I hope you find some creative ways to disguise their existence in your garden. I make mine out of the bright red pickle buckets from Firehouse Subs, which I think are slightly more attractive than plain white buckets or the gaudy orange buckets from Home Depot. But I figure the plant supports required for tomatoes and peppers are usually uglier than the pots, so there's only so much you can do to dress them up!

Mark

Clifton, VA(Zone 7a)

Quote from Jaywhacker :
The original purpose of my post was to create a debate on using the so-called "self watering" containers as opposed to simply using common less expensive containers such as standard nursery containers combined with an automatic watering system. A plant doesn't care where its water comes from.......from a bottom sump of a "self watering" container or from a drip system into the top of the container. Using my local prices for comparison......I can buy an earth box self watering system for $40. I can purchase 5 to 10 gallon nursery containers for approximately $3 to $5 each or scrounge them for less. The main point being that so-called self watering containers are much more expensive and still require watering. They don't water themselves. Using standard less expansive containers coupled to an automatic drip system into the top of each pot would be less expensive while providing planting space for many more plants.

Alternately......I can purchase a stacked container system from EZgro from www.theezgro.com for $60 with a stack of 5 pots and all mounting components plus grow mix and a years worth of fertilizer. The 5 four lobed pots provide 20 plant sites stacked vertically and taking up only about 2 square feet of ground space. Drip irrigation into the top pot filters down through all five pots and irrigates all 20 plants.

Dollar for dollar, many of the self watering systems are expensive compared to other systems and not any more effective. O.K.........thats the debate!! Whoops......forget to mention that they are more labor intensive and time consuming.

This message was edited May 9, 2011 6:09 PM

Jaywacker,

Your cost comparison above doesn't account for the cost of the automatic drip system, which isn't exactly cheap. Also, while I agree that most commercial self-watering containers are overpriced, that's why many of us make our own self-watering e-Buckets from 5-gallon buckets that are either free or about $2 each. Since I can't find free buckets, the e-Buckets I make cost $6 each, about the same as a cheap nursery pot, but able to go much longer between waterings. If you use plastic covers on your e-Buckets (like the EarthBox), it cuts down significantly on evaporative water loss, reducing your watering costs and requiring even less frequent watering. Moreover, I can always add an automatic watering system to feed the e-Buckets, so it's really not an either/or discussion. It's all good!

Crestview, FL

OCarol: Earthbox is now selling coconut coir! I like the coir mixed with perlite and add in dolomite. The use of green sand interests me a lot though, as I added green sand and rock phosphate to my canna lily bed this Spring. I'm just now looking over the instructions for my strawberry 3 tiered beds I'm going to be planting up this fall and notice that each bed calls for 1 cubic yard of good rich top soil to fill all three tiers of one bed! I called Ace Hardware and they told me it would take nine 2 cubic feet bags to accomplish this for just one of them and I have 2 of them. Each garden will have 50 strawberry plants in it. Can I use potting mix and perlite instead of the top soil I wonder? I will be using Espoma's Holly fertilizer which is perfect for strawberries I hear? I had thought about using coconut coir; but, that would be too costly. It has a sprinkler with each bed too.
joy

Kerrville, TX

Correction on price of earthbox at local nursery. I just came from there and they are priced at $59.95 locally. Smart bags large enough for growing potato's are $9. Can I plant potato's now or is it too late? Also.....about how many years do ya'll think a smart bag will last.

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