Will this easy solution work?

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

I ran out of EB space before I ran out of vegetable seedlings, so I plunked a few in some leftover pots. Then I noticed that the pots just fit into an 11x22 inch tray that happened to be lying near them. I filled the tray with water and presto, a "self-watering container". Two weeks later and they are still going strong. I have to refill the tray about every other day, the same as my EB's. Somehow this seems like it's too simple to work. Is there some drawback that I have overlooked?

Thumbnail by DonShirer
Washington, DC(Zone 7a)

For me, that easily-assessable open water means instant mosquitoes. But thats the only drawback I can see. They look like a brassica to me, so maybe they will need more root space eventually. What are they?

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

They look like brassicas to me, too.

I would try one plant per pot.

As the plantss get bigger, you might find the roots will rot - but it's worth a try :)

Clifton, VA(Zone 7a)

Depending on what kind of plants they are, this arrangement may provide too much water and not enough oxygen in the root zone. All of the better self-watering container designs provide an aeration chamber between the water chamber and the planting mix (except for a small wicking basket). This allows the roots to get much needed oxygen and keeps the roots from rotting. If your plants are the type that like to have "wet feet", maybe they'll do okay with your setup. Personally, I haven't had as much success with self-watering containers that have no aeration chamber.

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
Go here and you will find a whole bunch of people doing just this technique.

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

KK and HBNC: you are right, they are Brussels Sprouts.
LJ: thanks for the link. Evidently lots of other people have tried this with fair success.
VVM: Hmm, you have a point about Oxygen. Perhaps if I made a few holes in the sides?

Since I have some other BSprouts in an EB, I think I'll continue this experiment just to see what will happen. I have some late germinating peppers I might try this way too.
Thanks for all the comments.

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I'm guessing it would be a good idea to put some hydrogen peroxide solution into the water to add that extra molecule of oxygen. I was just reading up on it yesterday but darned if I can remember where it was. Sorry, I don't know the specifics. But it apparently helps in situations where rotting roots, standing water, or over-watering etc. can be a problem.

Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

Here's an update on the standing water experiment. Everything I've tried this way has done well (except the Bsprouts I didn't dust before the bugs found them). In the picture three pepper plants are in the foreground, with some hotter ornamental peppers behind them. I had to refill the water trays every 3 days or so except when it rained. The angled stakes are a remnant of hurricane Irene, but all the plants survived. I think I'll try more this way next year, possibly seeking a more rugged water tray. (I stepped on one which of course didn't do the thin plastic any good.)

Thumbnail by DonShirer
San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

Those look great, Don. I'm so glad you gave us an update. So often times, we like to experiment with different techniques but then forget to report the results. Excellent!

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Don, I wonder if standing potted vegetables in a kiddie pool would work?

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

It sure would work!

How much water did you keep in the trays? I mean what depth? Also, what were you fertilizing with, and how?

Finally, could you list the types of plants that didn't seem to mind having "wet feet"?

P.S. I concur with LiseP's recommendation to add some Hydrogen Peroxide to the water for oxygenation. I have been using it quite successfully with my new seedlings.


Westbrook, CT(Zone 6a)

The trays are about 1.5 inches deep so that is the maximum water level. I often did not fill them full--maybe 1" deep. The 1 to 2 gallon pots all have holes either in the base or on the bottom edge. Drawing on EB recommendations, I applied a ring of 10-10-10 vegetable fertilizer when I potted them. The plants I tried were mostly medium sized like hot and sweet peppers, Brussels sprouts and broccoli. I'm going to try eggplant and Fennel next year. I don't want to try tall plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and beans or spreading plants like squash because of the support or spreading problem, and they are doing fine in the ground where I have them now.

Kiddie pools? Hmm. Maybe I should watch out for end-of-season sales at our outlet stores.

Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

Gymgirl, I'm thinking the kiddie pool would be too deep, but perhaps holes could be drilled three inches or so up from the bottom to drain excess water. I don't think these would work on my sloped garden, though :(

Where hubby has been clearing out the running bamboo I've noticed some deep black soil. Probably from the years of fallen leaves that gather in that area. I can't wait to sow some seeds there next spring.

Saluda, SC(Zone 8a)

Okay, let me admit off the bat that I have not read this complete thread, just enough to peak my interest and to remind me of something I just became aware of recently.

I believe this information can help us understand why one person is successful with "plants growing in standing water" and others a dismal failure. Because of the perched water level principal, the answer could lie in the mix used in the container.

Here is an interesting article to get research started (google 'perched water' for loads of discussions on the subject.

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