Self-watering Planter Basics: DIY Gardening with Sub-irrigated Wicking Beds (Albopepper)


Hi I’m AL Gracian from Albopepper.com. Sub-irrigated planters (SIPs) are often referred
to as “self-watering” systems. Also known as wicking beds. There are various ways to construct them. Some systems use gravel. But the system we’ll look at today is easier
to construct or de-construct and reduces the overall weight of the planter. SIPs are great for urban areas allowing you
to grow on patios, driveways, decks, balconies or even rooftops! Let’s make one. A sub-irrigated system is made up of 5 basic
components: A water-tight container, an aeration screen, wicking media an overflow hole and
a fill tube. The base must be able to hold water, which
serves as the reservoir. It could be a 5 gallon bucket or 30 gallon
tote. Or it could be a raised bed, lined with a
non-toxic pond liner. Retail self-watering containers next have
an aeration screen made of perforated plastic. This barrier separates the growing media from
the water reservoir. The soil is able release excess moisture in
the event of a heavy rain. And the root zone receives air, allowing for
respiration & preventing root rot. We’ll use perforated pipes. Their upper edges will form the aeration screen. The soil media will slowly absorb water as
the plant needs it, pulling it up from the reservoir through capillary action. To do this though, a wicking material must
connect the reservoir to the soil. Pieces of cord can serve as a wick. Or in the case of our SIP bed, narrow bands
of potting mix will bridge the gap. Wicking materials should be highly absorbent
and should resist decomposition. With a water-tight container, our SIP will
eventually fill up to the very top. A waterlogged system will quickly kill your
plants. So we must create an overflow hole on the
side wall. It is slightly below the aeration screen. Larger systems should have more than one as
a fail-safe. These systems could be covered or left uncovered. Either way, to directly sub-irrigate them,
you’ll need a fill tube. This allows you to pump water directly to
the reservoir, filling the system up. This last component completes your system! Just fill it with a porous, water absorbing
substrate and fertilize as needed. Potting mix materials work very well, and
hold up for many years. Coir, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, aged
pine bark fines. These are all good places to start. Quick tips: Be sure your SIP is placed on a level place. Avoid manures that may harbor pathogens. Many retail, bagged manures and composts contain
high levels of salts that may damage plants. And they have fine silty particles that can
reduce pore spacing. Fertilizing can be done with both synthetics
OR organics, although organics tend to offer a more complete nutrient profile. Apply all nutrients to the rooting medium,
not the reservoir. This includes liquid feeds. SIPs work best with seasonal or annual plantings. Overwintering perennials in sub-irrigated
systems may be problematic if the reservoir freezes over. So instead of strawberries or blueberries,
think: corn, peppers or tomatoes! Want more details? Watch my other SIP videos. Also, visit albopepper.com for all of the
latest tips. Thanks for taking time to watch. I appreciate your support on my channel. Please subscribe if you haven’t already. And as always, Happy Gardening!

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