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Old March 24, 2006   #31
jmhewitt
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continuing a small side discussion of self watering containers on my R&D thread

Ms Cowpea posted a link both there and here which contains JMALT's exhaustive treatise on Self Watering Containers.

I tried to build some of the bigger ones, but it didn't seem like they would really last since they don't have enough structural integrity. ....and they were a LOT of work!!

my choice for the big ones is either the Original EB (pretty pricey), the ones from Gardners Supply (not much cheaper), or even cheaper, the ones I got last year from WallyWorld. Ms Cowpea says: "Anyway, on another note. I know we have both used the self-watering containers from ((wm))--the ones for 10 dollars as I remember you mentioning them in another post . Big Lots has them for 8.99 --now my husband IS a cheapo and was absolutely thrilled to save a buck. "

the only problem I have with these are the small reservoir, and the difficulty of putting a cage around them. since the tomato plant ends up so high off the ground, you need to use a really enormously tall cage. I only see two practical solutions in my cage inventory: a large Texas Cage with the extension, driven into the ground and plastic tie attached to the pot, or the PVC design of QAGuy. I will try both this year.

as regards my design of choice, especially for smaller plants such as dwarves, start with the wallboard paste containers, which I think are about 4 1/2 gallons of soil over the reservoir which is another containers. the 5 gallon buckets from Lowes or HomeDepot also work great, but you have to PAY for those.

I have several comments on Jmalts design, and if anyone wants to see pictures of mine I can post them.

1. I use 2 10oz clear plastic drink glasses in the base of each pot, and a 2 3/4" hole saw to cut the hole in the base for each glass. these are the right size to go most of the way to the bottom of the reservoir pot, and either rest on the sides of the hole, or just touch the base of the reservoir pot.

2. the plastic glasses have 1/4" - 3/8" holes drilled in the sides in a spiral pattern. none are really needed in the bottom since this will rest on the reservoir container. I use a 1/4" drill to aerate the base of the pot that will contain the tomato. actually, going back and checking my glasses from last year, on many of them I just cut slits in the sides with a razor knife, and that seemed to work fine too. interestingly, these glasses seem prepared to do another year of service.

3. I use a 1 3/8" hole saw to cut the overflow hole in the side and also to make a hole thru the bottom of the tomato container to take the 1" pipe I use to fill them. the hole in the side of the reservoir container needs to be carefully located on each reservoir so that the midline of the hole falls exactly at the base of the tomato container. too high, and you risk drowning the mater plants, and too low, you loose valuable reservoir capacity.

(BTW, the top of the Orange Juice Container SIMPLY ORANGE works great as a funnel and overflow device on these 1" pipes. the bottom I use filled with MG Moisture Control Potting Mix and about 9 holes drilled in the base as drain holes, to stick tomato cuttings to root...nothing else worked for me until I did this.)

4. I do not use any cover on these containers, certainly not like JMALT shows....in our hurricane winds, the stem would get nicely clipped off by these tops, I fear. I used some red plastic on my bigger containers last year, but also used just hardwood mulch, and that seemed to work fine w/o any bad effect.

for cages, the Burpee cages work fine, attached by plastic ties, and can be stacked too. only problem is they blow over in our winds....however, just go back and turn them right side up! I tried stakes to keep them upright (plastic tied to a corner of the cage), but the metal ones bent....maybe wooden ones will be better.

actually the conical cages from ACE work great on these pots (the legs go inside the pot), but only for short plants since they cannot be stacked....don't forget to attach them to the pot with 3-4 plastic ties to give them strength.

Michael
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Old March 25, 2006   #32
garaj
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I am using the JMALT design self waterers for the fourth season this Spring. I also use a variation on that design, found on Google, which makes use of a 6-in. pond basket. The latter is a little less work setting up than the two wicking chambers of the JMALT design. Both work equally well. That said, my last two autumn seasons were severly impacted by hurricanes and last spring's season was nothing to crow about. I've been growing Sioux, OTV Brandywine, Mule Team, Ugly, Brandy Boy, Early Girl, Tropic , Better Boy, Champion and Big Beef. This Spring, it's mostly more of the same except that Red Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter and Tomande are replacing Better Boy, Champion and Big Beef. I have been averaging about 14 pounds of fruit per box whether I set one or two plants per. Some of the advertisement literature for the commercial type E-Boxes leads me to believe that I should expect as much as 30 pounds per box. What has been the experience of others related to yield ? Garaj
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Old March 25, 2006   #33
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Earthbox yield is fantastic--of all my containers they are the best. And fool-proof if you follow the instructions.
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Old March 28, 2006   #34
bigcheef
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Default Support for earthbox

How does everyone support the plant when using an earth box

I assume the best thing would be to position the EB against some type of structure such as a fence or deck. This is what I try to do with my regular containers.

Oh, and I was in Big Lots the other day. 18 gal Sterilite containers were $4.50 each.


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Old March 28, 2006   #35
Suze
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Default Re: Support for earthbox

Quote:
Originally Posted by bigcheef
How does everyone support the plant when using an earth box

I assume the best thing would be to position the EB against some type of structure such as a fence or deck. This is what I try to do with my regular containers.
I don't use EBs, myself. But in another forum I read, folks have mentioned that the EB company now has some sort of stand you can order that works with the boxes. Some also make stands out of PVC pipe.
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Old March 28, 2006   #36
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I just put concrete reinforcing wire around them too. Sometimes I wire on an additional section so I get about a 7 foot cage.

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Old March 29, 2006   #37
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Being the cheapskate I am, I use 8 to 10 foot tall wooden stakes, plant three of the around the box and then staple chicken wire around the stakes.

The tomatoes eventually grow up and over the top of the "cage" and back down again.
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Old April 5, 2006   #38
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I have never really seriously considered one of these. but now I am STOKED!
I am building one this weekend!
I fugure if I use a dark tote and a clear plastic tarp against a south wall, I could plant out WAY early!!
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Old April 19, 2006   #39
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I'm excited as well. Great thread Tim. I will be giving one a go on the weekend and if it goes together ok, I reackon three or four more. Thanks heaps
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Old April 24, 2006   #40
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Well, here is my first effort. Decided on two tubs of different sizes as the smaller one fits in the larger one perfectly. Big tub is 95 litres , smaller one is 65.


Used a black pot for the wicking chamber and siliconed it in place. Drilled small holes for aeration and bigger one for the filling pipe.



Finished



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Old April 24, 2006   #41
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Lookin Good Mantis!

How much water does the reservior hold? I like to get about 5 gallons of water in the reservior, so I can take a 3 - 4 day weekend vacation on the hottest days, and not worry.

I also love the fact that the bottom reservior is clear so, you can see exactly how much water you have.
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Old April 24, 2006   #42
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Thanks Tim. I am happy about how well the tubs fit together and the fact that KMart had 20% off all its storage stuff
The reservoir should hold about 30 litres which is about 6 or 7 gallons.
I modified the design a bit and put two sections of pipe under the red tub to help hold it up. 60 litres of damp potting mix will be pretty heavy eh.
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Old May 1, 2006   #43
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One question Tim.
I filled the above box with potting mix and sowed some beans to try it out over winter down here. After filling the resevoir and waiting a few hours , the water level of the resevoir had not dropped at all. So I watered it from the top and this morning the water level had dropped a bit. Am I right in thinking that the mix needs to be wet from the top to start the wicking process???
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Old May 1, 2006   #44
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Mantis: did you moisten the potting mix before putting it the container? It won't wick if it's dry.

I don't imagine you want to empty it out to wet the soil down, huh? You could try using warm water--it should absorb better. Good luck!
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Old May 1, 2006   #45
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Hi Rhonda. I put the mix in straight out of the bag for a start. Then after it didn't appear to be getting damp on its own I watered it from the top. Now it seems to be drawing up water from the resevoir. Next time I will dampen it first. Thanks
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