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applestar
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Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

One of my NEW EXPERIMENTS this year will be trying different ideas for DIY SWC (Self Watering Container) and SIP (Sub-irrigated Planter).

I've been looking at different designs and plans on-line for a while now. I want to stick with something simple that I can make easily, hopefully with minimum need to purchase supplies.

For starters, I made these from recycled 2L soda bottles and drinking straws.
image.jpg
I made the two for Dwarf Orange Pixie tomato seedlings a while ago, but it had been worrying me that there was no vent/drainage hole for the water reservoir. It has been my observation that most of the recent designs provide for an air space between the soil and the water surface in the reservoir.

Today, while I was making two more containers for the sprouted/germinated luffa seeds, I had an :idea: moment when a portion of the sidewall kept buckling inward.

I punched poles on opposite sides of the outer reservoir container, then aligned the buckled part of the inner container with the hole, then pushed a straw in the gap so the bottom of the straw is in the airspace above the water.

It was an easy retrofit to make for the tomato containers as well. Now there is a ventilation/watering tube. I'm not worried about drainage hole for these since they will be indoors and watering will be strictly monitored.

Luffa containers needed a humidity cover, and it turns out the quart size zip bag (also previously used) fits perfectly, and all I had to do was cut the corner off to let the straw out. Once the luffa seeds sprout, I'll cut off the other corner for better ventilation.
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applestar
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

First luffa is sprouting inside :-()
image.jpg
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Someone told me about this link :arrow: https://www.globalbuckets.org/2009/08/ex ... signs.html
I've seen the Global Bucket site before and was going to try the two-bucket method, but I'd like to try this 1-bucket/colander method if My local dollar store has the colanders:


This one too :arrow: https://www.insideurbangreen.org/

...and of course I was TOTALLY inspired by this post in :arrow: Subject: What Can I Grow In a Container?
albopepper wrote:I think I had Phosphorus deficiency as time went on. So I plan on boosting the levels for this year.

The totes are a pretty simple design. I don't have them tied together or automated in any way. Watering them was very easy though and hardly a chore.

This is my basic schematic:
Image

This is such a great way to container garden!
AS WELL AS other posts by MrBote in the same thread. :-()
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I used one bucket last year. I used 2 litter bottles slightly deflated with lids on and packed them into the bottom of a 5 gal. Then I put the watering tube in and covered the bottles with landscape fabric to make a reservoir and platform/separation for the dirt. Drill a 1/2 hole in the side slightly below the fabric to create an air space. Worked great and was all scraps I had on hand. This year I plan on the 2 bucket method. It's all about the free stuff laying around to me. These are for peppers only this year since they don't like my alkaline soil no matter how much I amend.

Speaking of peppers....I had pretty good luck with 50/50 mushroom compost and peat but it could be improved. They kind of fizzed out. With the 1 bucket there is about 3 gal of soil. With 2 buckets there is 5 gal. I was going to add some DE this year but was wondering what other minerals/nutes to add for the long haul.

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applestar
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

An unanticipated problem :lol:
...I hope that ladybug finds it's way out of the straw on its own.... :roll:
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I didn't realize I hadn't posted any new photos here :wink:
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Some really nice looking results in the photos above. I like all kinds of SWC because they make sense for people with busy schedules and they tend to be more resource efficient.

This is another way using the two totes, being they are only about 6-7 dollars each. Of course the bottom is used to make the aeration screen as usual, but the lid that comes with them may be used as well. I cut it into strips and then roll it into tubes fastened with zip ties that act as column supports under the screen on either side of the wicking basket. The remaining 2/3rds of the tote with it's bottom that has been cut off for the screen, is stacked into the other to act as a stiffener for the whole works, making a planter of double wall construction for the soil section. This one has a 5" deep water reservoir, with minimum of the water capacity reduced. It holds somewhere around 4-5 gallons.

This tote has a float valve installed for fully automatic watering, or can be used manually. Sure is nice to have the auto feature if you need to leave town for a few days or even weeks. So, with the auto float valve, the totes and the tube, the cost is somewhere around 23 dollars, which is not bad considering all it will do. There is landscape fabric scraps that gets put over the aeration screen and slightly up the sides to keep the soil from falling into the cracks on the sides, and keeps roots from growing through the screen and fouling the valve.
Image

Here you can see the float valve and the remainder of the cut off tote stacked inside the outer. Very little waste this way.
Image

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I "cheated" -- I was offered the home made tote planters in the back of this picture for free and could not resist :()
image.jpg
I'll take better pictures to show later after have the chance to I look them over. These will get my project started with chance to observe how they work. I still kind of like the elegance of the design with perforated tubes laying on th bottom though... But I believe the limitation in that design is the limited depth of the reservoir.
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I'm putting this link here since its not in the related topics list at the bottom of the page:
Subject: Are there any Earthbox growers here?
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albopepper
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Hi applestar,

I made this just for you (lol not quite but the timing couldn't be better):



This particular SIP bed is 30" x 71.75" internally with a 3.25" high overflow tube. (Not accounting for displacement) that means the reservoir holds 30 gallons! Obviously potting mix holds moisture too.

Anyway, I'm really happy with the 4" pipe technique and it scales quite nicely.

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Thanks for posting the video! I really did mean to post a reply when you first posted it. I watched it almost right away and thought the way this larger bed takes place of the several storage totes was inspired. 8)
I hope you will let us know how it performs.

I was reminded of your project when another member posted a question that seemed PERFECT for this application. :()
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I tried the pipes before, but chose this with the reservoir/aerator screen because of the added aeration, along with using plastic mulch covers. 4 gallons in the reservoir, and another 5 gallon bucket via siphon to the auto float valve. This is my youngest plant by a month, that almost did not get planted. I actually have a larger one than this in the front yard.

I guess it's what you get used to with types of containers. Many people are getting great results with a lot of different designs. As it stands, other than a more continuous water source, there really is no way I can practically improve on this principle, nor do I really know what benefits any gains would be from what it is already doing.

Image

Image

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

When I finally get around to making my own, I'm definitely trying your approach, too, @Mr. Bote. This is the "Earthtainer" design isn't it? With the side walls bolted together?

...Hmm... I just went back to look at the Earthtainer PDF and -though similar- it looks a little different after all : :arrow: https://earthtainer.tomatofest.com/pdfs/ ... -Guide.pdf

I bought one of those auto float valve to try already. :-()

I saw the second container via a siphon as reservoir idea at the Global Buckets website where the kids had siphone connected numerous containers together to a large barrel of water. I bought some rubber grommets to see if I can get away from using caulk/sealant, but I may end up saying food grade sealant is cheaper and easier....?

I really need to work on incorporating the automated watering into the scheme. Some people have mentioned simply extending their drip irrigation to include the containers....
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Yes, it is based on the earthtainer with some modifications. I use the top portion what is left of the sacrificial container to make the soil area double wall just by slipping it inside the planter. This helps because sterilite totes are kind of wimpy. Also, I don't bolt the trellis into the container because I don't want to buy all that hardware but rather spend it on the float valve. The plastic mulch covers are tucked in instead of shower capping the container so rainwater does actually get into the reservoir.

Much of the DIY versions of the earthbox are rather obvious. Then there is a rain gutter self watering system that is kind of obvious as well if anyone has ever followed hydroponics etc, or even if someone has bottom watered house plants via their pot's saucers. I think the best practices are those that have the least amount of waste. I was put off from the earthtainer initially because of all of the plastic parts that got thrown away, and started making all of the under supports and everything else i could think of out of what was leftover.

I also have a timer that hooks up to a garden hose bib. I was putting the tubing into the earthbox fill tubes and having it come on twice/day. This year I just felt like trying something different and a little more remote, or self contained, and for just not getting around to hooking things up.

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

OK. I finally got the chance to fill one of these 2nd hand SIP with growing medium. :D

First, looking it over, I felt that the number of holes in the platform was inadequate, so I drilled more 1/4" holes. While drilling, I realized that the original holes had been made with a heated object, and it was something with smaller diameter. So I drilled out the other holes, too.
image.jpg
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Another thing was that the platform seemed inadequately supported, and it sagged so that the platform would actually dip into the water in the reservoir. I tried adding more supports.
image.jpg
...it turned out that three of these have supports that are 4" high, while the fourth one has supports that are 5" high. I decided to put that one with a larger reservoir (but less mix) in the hottest, sunniest area (I intend to plant a couple of eggplants).

Pepperhead212 talked about using a screen on the platform and some designs use landscape fabric. I realize things that don't breakdown are probably best, but my car was out of commission and I couldn't go shopping, so I decided to just use layered packing paper. I did verify that the wicking column is working properly by pressing down over it as I filled the container.

Here is the finished container. I cheaped out and used 1/2 of ProMix BX bag as the plastic mulch, but then it was too short to drape over the outside. Since Mr. Bote said he tucked his in along the edges to capture the condensation, I decided to try it that way. (We typically have drought in the summer anyway, so it's possible for it to not rain at all for weeks, BUT this container is within the range of my overhead sprinkler when I water the nearby garden beds. If it's super critical to keep out the rain and overhead irrigation, I could maybe use a piece of a mylar emergency blanket OVER the top of the black one....

Someone who uses Earthboxes exclusively said keeping the rain, etc. water out and strictly watering via the wicking mechanism from the reservoir was critical, so if that's the case, I should modify this in the morning before planting. I wonder if the issue is more serious when using chemical fertilizers that are more soluble? I used Espoma Garden-tone. I can't go get Tomato-tone until this weekend.

I'm planning to plant 6-4 pepper plants in this one.
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

image.jpg
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...Someone told me I really should "shower cap" the plastic mulch over the rims, but
I just wanted to get them planted -- I've been pushing myself too hard lately, but there are still so much to do! (You can see these seedlings are woefully yellowed and stunted -- they should have been planted ages ago :oops: )

I had 4 left over pre-germinated Sprite mini-honeydew seeds so I poked a hole and stuck 2@ in. If they grow, I'll cull to one each and suffer the possible over crowded consequences. But each container has several dwarf sized pepper varieties 12-18" maximum height, so I'm hoping....
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

This morning, I tackled the eggplant SIP. After the first two, it WAS easier, but this one is in the sunniest possible location so it was hot work. :P I did use about 2/3 of the ProMix BX bag which allowed me to pull it over the edges and bungee it down. (I think I'll use the remaining piece for a 5 gal bucket SIP.)

My eggplants are suffering -- it really got ridiculously cold for a while, don't you think? Look at the poor Pea Eggplant and Hari Eggplant! They look the same color as the Ryobi drill. :o (Yeeesss, despite pepperhead212's caution about the monstrous growth of the Pea Eggplant, I put them in the same container.... :> )

Hopefully they will be happy now. :-()
image.jpg
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I am surprised at how yellow your EP got, applestar! Many of mine in the ground (peppers, too) were very stunted, and a yellowish green, and I figured it had to be the cold nights we kept getting. A few in the Earthboxes were smaller than some, but still growing and doing well through that. And just in this last week, the ones in the ground FINALLY started doing better, so there's hope! Good luck!
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

They are looking much happier now, though the browned edge on the pea eggplant leaf is worrying me a little.... :|
image.jpg
... And here is the last of the four DIY SIP. Do you think I should have mounded it a bit higher? (I guess I can add more potting mix when I plant)
image.jpg
I put a short 1/4" tubing in the drain hole so I can see it when the reservoir is full and draining, and I'm using a siphoned tubing in a bucket outside the garden fence to remotely add water to the reservoir :()
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Good luck with your setup, applestar! Just remember, once the plants get big, they really suck up the water. Today I had to tweak my timer settings to keep the containers with enough water, watering every 12 hrs., but a little less time. I may have to add some emitters to some, like that pea eggplant.
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I never use the shower caps over the rim any more. As long as the plastic is tucked down further than the fertilizer, it's essentially the same as filling the reservoir through the tube, except with rainwater when the opportunity arises.

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Thanks! That gives me more confidence :D

...checked that the siphon remote fill and drain are working...
image.jpg
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Here are examples of things grown in my 30 gallon SIP totes, without using any plastic cover at all:

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

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I prefer to harness rain water. Also, I like the plants to get aeration through the bottom aeration screen PLUS the surface soil line. This provides for maximum gas exchange. But you need a properly porous mix. Some things, like peanuts, won't even work if you try to use a plastic cover.

Of course if you're using a plastic cover and getting stellar results, then keep doing it!

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

We kind of have to use them in Florida between the heat and the heavy rains. Saves on water and fertilizer and gives me a way to recycle the bags that the peat moss comes in, which happens to be black on one side, white on the other. It also allows me to mound the potting mix higher.

Here's an heirloom tomato in one, 18 gallon tote.

Image

And it makes really large tomatoes.
Image

I use natural mulch sometimes in the winter growing season when pests are rare and temps are cooler.

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Wow that is huge! :D

I might be over planting... They are growing well so far:
image.jpg
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these three grow to less than 4-5'ft and the middle one is a determinate
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Hey guys,

Seeing the boosted interest in SIPs here has given me the idea to make a little contest to show people's success stories using SIPs. I thought some of you might be interested.

The video about it is here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcibWFtIGHs

Entries could be submitted to: contest2015@albopepper.com

I'm giving a free gardening shirt to the finalist who gets the most votes.

I'm not trying to drive traffic off of the site, but I don't know the best way to tell you guys about it. I hope a URL is ok.

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Update on the Pea Eggplant and Hari Eggplant! So excited to see first blossoms :-()
image.jpg
Also the SIP in the White Sauce Garden:
image.jpg
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Lookin' great, applestar! Pretty soon you's have so many EP you won't know what to do with it! I just stuck some in my dehydrator tonight. All those self watering containers I have out there are growing stuff like crazy!
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I can't wait @pepperhead212 :D I'm seeing lots of flower buds on the SIP eggplants. THE ONES IN THE GROUND are growing very slowly in comparison.

I have to admit I am really amazed by the way the SIP PLANTS are growing. I hope they won't run out of steam. Do you ever see them running out of fertilizer and/or otherwise showing signs of stress?

I really think I over planted now -- look at the pepper SIP's :roll: ...but the peppers are starting to set and produce fruits! :-()
image.jpg
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

The tomatoes in the SIP in the pallet-sided high raised bed enclosure have grown and are producing green fruits though none have ripened yet. They are obviously extra-thirsty and every morning, I find the remote bucket all the way down to the equilibrium level, with the two mosquito control goldfish desperately trying to hide in the shallow water :lol:
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Wow, I didn't realize I haven't been updating this thread. I'll post some photos later, but all four containers have been growing fantastic plants -- tomatoes, eggplants, peppers. I've been harvesting from them all, though only some of the peppers are just starting to change color and I made a mistake with one of the eggplants and set it back.

So it's a little early yet, but I came back to this thread to ask what you do with these containers for winter if you live where the winters are severe and freezing water in tubs could potentially crack them.

People in Florida are talking about prepping and planting them for fall gardening which will extend into winter. And they apparently just remove the plants, refresh the soil mix with additional fertilizer and dolomitic lime and topping them up with approved mix, sometimes rotate crops.

...but would I have to empty them, (I guess might as well clean them, too, then) and store them?

...could I just remove the plants, empty the water reservoir, then drag them off to a corner of the yard (if I can), let them dry out as much as possible and cover with tarp to protect from rain/etc.? I don't relish the idea of emptying and refilling these huge containers..... :|
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I grew up in New Jersey, so I have a good idea what your winters are like. I'd be afraid that anything left in them -- water, soil, whatever-- could heave when it freezes and crack the tubs. Without another option, I'd do as you suggest, dry them out and cover them to keep rain and snow out. Then give us a report in the spring as to how they weathered the winter.

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Apple,

I think the fact that these containers are slightly tapered downwards prevents them from breaking from freezing. People in areas much colder than us keep Earthboxes filled, and I have left many four and five gallon buckets filled outside through the winter, with none cracking. I am planning on tilting them on their sides, to drain the reservoirs, then uncovering and removing that fertiliser sock, as well as any of the old plants, and covering them with tarps, as you are planning on doing. BTW, a hand truck beats dragging those things!
Dave

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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Eggplant SIP as of today.
A Hari eggplant I'm hoping to collect seeds from, and the Pea eggplant blooming at the top of 10ft stems:
image.jpg
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Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Year TWO for my 2nd hand DIY SIP's. I left two of them outside over the winter, one on its side, the other upright, and two of them planted with sweet peppers last year were hauled into the garage "Siberia" area near the far garage door on uninsulated side of the garage. The garage ones are currently holding up a glass top patio table I acquired about a month ago, making it impossible to assess whether any of the peppers made it through the winter -- I'm not particularly counting on it, but it would be kind of neat if they did.

I haven't re-loaded the containers yet, but rather than letting them sit idle, I planted 3 Solstice broccoli transplants in the upright SIP in the VG garden along with some pre-sprouted spinach seeds, and had hauled the other one (eggplant SIP) upright a couple of weeks ago, in which I planted 6 Limba broccoli transplants today. I added about 1/4 cup of fertilizer per transplant in the eggplant SIP, but didn't fertilize the other one. We'll see how that works out.
image.jpeg
When it's time for the warm weather crops, I intend to use the SIP's for eggplants and peppers only, maybe some melons, this year. With any luck, the broccoli will be done.

With all this in mind, I went to the farmers market where I bought the ProMix BX last year for a good price this past weekend when they opened for the season. They were $21.95 each. I bought two, but will likely go back for at least one more bale -- there was no room in the car since I also made a run to the furniture shop to pick up the 55 gallon trash bags of $3 Douglas pine shavings. :D
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Location: Woodbury NJ Zone 6B

Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I have 10 more large SIPs this year, and I have enough to grow at least one of every variety of tomato I am growing, all of my eggplants and melons, and a lot of my peppers, as well as the pea eggplant. Last year I got that promix dirt cheap (sorry, I had to :D) at that market, after you told me about it, and got 6 bales of it! I still have about 4 2/3 bales, so I have plenty, even for all these new ones.
Dave

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Allyn
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Joined: Tue Mar 03, 2009 10:38 pm
Location: Mississippi Gulf Coast - zone 8b

Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

What size SiP are you doing the melons in?

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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

That green Rubbermaid tub one.
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pepperhead212
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Location: Woodbury NJ Zone 6B

Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

I'm growing two of my melons (2 each) in an 18 gal tub, and the Minn. midget in a 5 gal bucket SIP.
Dave

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applestar
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Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Re: Self Watering Container and Sub-irrigated Planter

Thanks, pepperhead! :D
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

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