Homemade Self Watering Containers for Tomatoes

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Self Watering Container

Funny thing happened when my son and I went fishing... first we caught some lovely rainbow trout, next was we stumbled across eight 5 gallon buckets that are in great shape!  So in the "reuse/recycle" fashion, we brought them home and put 4 of them to use as Self Watering Containers (SWC), also known as SIP containers (Sub Irrigated Planter).

There are many names for these containers or method of planting, but the end result is the same.  I wish I'd have taken more pictures of the actual project, but I'll post a few links to great write ups already out there on the web, no need to recreate the wheel I guess ;o)  Items you will need to complete the project, or at least what I used, was two 5 gallon buckets, or the size of your choice.  A piece of PVC pipe about 1" in diameter, I used left over water tubing from when this house was built that was left in the basement.  A 1" hole drill, a sharp blade knife, a small drill bit like 1/8th and of course a cordless or electric drill.  Last piece you'll need is a small bucket or pale to be used as the "wick"... I used old 1L ice cream containers for this purpose.  I'll make a video and take pics on the next ones I put together.

I've never built or used SIP containers before, but it's been on my to-do list for a while as an option for herbs, tomatoes, green peppers and such in a temporary hot house.  They will be a great addition to any garden and are perfect for the Urban Homesteader, where space and water can be at a premium.

So far I'm very impressed with the results.  Since this was only a test, I put our poorest tomato seedlings in these and they are doing great!  Due to the rain we've had this summer, we only had to top up the containers once.

Here is a pretty good YouTube video describing the basics of building a SIP or SWC out of two 5 gallon buckets

Mother Earth News also has a pretty good writeup on Self Watering Containers which is an excerpt from an awesome book, another in our library actually, The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen of RootSimple blog.  On a side note we recommend you check out their blog... excellent stuff!

This is a work in progress and we'll update our progress as we test these 2 new containers and move on to others.  We'd love to see your container garden and share anything you've learned along your way as well.

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Homemade Compost Bin

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Homemade Compost Bin

At our old Urban Homestead I had made a Pallet Compost Bin out of some old pallets I got for free from my dad's work.  This was something we definitely missed when we moved and needed to be fixed cause I hate throwing away good compost!

We will be reconfiguring the garden and backyard area behind the house this fall and next spring so I only wanted to build something big enough to keep us through until things are finalized.  Being in the country we also could have more critter issues so wanted to make sure it was critter proof... well as much as possible.

I didn't have a plan or anything, just an idea in my head of what we needed.  I had some left over strapping so started with that and a few left over 2x4's from finishing our basement.  I think I ended up buying 2 more bundles of strapping to finish it off.  While I was at the hardware store I saw some 1" square metal netting, not sure what they called it, but it was perfect to wrap around the base and the door to hopefully keep the critters out.

Unfortunately I ony have the one picture of the finished bin behind our tool shed.  I totally forgot to take pictures as I was building it ;o(  I'll try to describe it best I can and hopefully you can visualize.  The top door is on hinges at the top and there is a bar so that you can lift the top with one hand and the bar will lock it open.  This way you can dump your compost with one hand operation.  The front panel is removable so you can lock the top door open and remove the front panel to turn the compost and at the end pull the black gold out for the garden.

We put the compost bin behind the tool shed, in the berry patch.  Placement of a compost bin is important as you want it to be in the full sun as much as possible and close enough to the house that it's not a hassle to use, especially in the winter months... Yes we still compost during the winter in Canada ;o)

Next year, when we finalize the backyard homestead plans, we will build a 3 bin setup for composting to make turning easier as well as handle more compost.  We're also going to try Vermiculture, the art of worm composting, over the winter as well so we have an indoor and outdoor compost running as well as getting some excellent composting tea.  Everything we will need to help with spring seedlings ;o)

We love seeing DIY Projects... Do you compost?  If so did you buy a bin or make it?

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Homemade Upside Down Tomato Planters

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Homemade Topsy Turvy Tomato PlanterI've been wanting to try growing Tomatoes in Upside Down Planters for the last couple years, but time just didn't permit it.  We lucked out while looking for new fishing pools and stumbled upon some 5 gallon buckets.  These were food grade buckets and looked liked they must have blown off a truck or something.

We brought them home, washed them out and decided to make 3 Upside Down or Topsy Turvy type planters.  I didn't take any pictures of the process, but it's not hard.  I used a 2" hole drill bit and my cordless drill to drill the hole in the bottom center of the bucket.  Originally, as you can see from the pictures, I used the plastic handles to hang them up.  One broke in the wind and killed one of the tomato plants when it fell ;o(  I replaced the plastic handle with some synthetic rope I had which works great.  I think the only other thing I'll add is a cross brace of wood to keep the bucket from squeezing in at the hanging points.

I planted a left over tomato seedling in the bottom of each bucket and on top, some left over pole beans and snow peas.  I think it's working out pretty good and can't wait to see how they'll make out over the summer.  I also planted tomatoes in some SIP (Self Irrigating Planters) we built with the rest of the 5 gallon buckets.  Curious to see how each will do: Garden Tomatoes, SIP Planted Tomatoes or Upside Down Planter Tomatoes... either way they'll be just as good ;o)


I'll update with pictures as they move along... ;o)

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