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Thread: What I'm made today

  1. #1

    Default What I'm made today

    I don't usually start threads on here. I more or less lurk since there is so much great information on this site that it is hard for me to add anything to it. However I am fairly proud of my project today. I'm making DIY Self-watering Containers for a container garden here at my apartment.


    A little back story:

    I grew up on a small dairy farm where we always had a vegetable garden (still do in fact, although the farm is now grows crops and doesn't have dairy cattle). After moving 45 minutes away, I've kind of missed being able to do my own gardening.

    The cost of living v.s. pay around here sucks, so finding an apartment/duplex/house with a yard that I would be allowed to plant in is near impossible since they are way out of my price range. I've looked into container gardening for a few years but never really got into it. Too much work I thought, doesn't look right to a country boy like me, etc...

    Well this past August I got married and my wife and I have both been wanting to grow some of our own food here, and not having to drive out to the farm or anything like that if we wanted a fresh tomato. Well I was looking through some old magazines that I had; trying to get some inspiration.

    We had already decided on planting a container garden this year, but daily watering sucks, and the price of store bought self-watering containers is outrageous. I vaguely remembered glossing over an article about making your own once. Since I wasn't into container gardening it was placed into "I'll read this some other time" category. Also known as the "I remember seeing something about that, but I don't remember anything else about it" category.

    I never throw away articles that might be useful later though. So, I rummaged through my pile and found what I was looking for. I got the supplies, and built 10 containers today...

    Here is the web link to the article I used. Specifically the DIY plans for what I made start at the very bottom of page 3.

    To make things even less expensive here is what I did:

    1. Why should buy 5-gallon buckets when I can get them for free? I went to a restaurant that I used to work at and walked out with 20 5-gallon buckets and could have taken more if I had wanted.
    Price: FREE

    2. I live in an apartment so I keep very few tools here. They are all back home on the farm. So thinking about how I can cut and drill the holes needed I went to work. Work? YEP! I work at a hardware store (ACE is the place )and we have more than enough tools in back for what I needed.
    Price: FREE

    3. I don't know about you but I don't tend to have 10 plastic funnels laying around and any that I do have would have been used for not so good for you chemicals. While at work I took a look around. I went to our small kitchen area and bought what I needed. I could have gone to the automotive section but why buy expensive funnels when you are just going to cut them and bury them? The cheap "kitchen" ones work fine!
    Price: $1 per funnel, minus my 15% employee discount (add sales tax )

    4. We sell potting soil, compost, etc at work. But why should I buy it when we have tons of bags that are torn and can't be sold? They just sit out back until a worker wants or needs them. I grabbed a few more than what I actually needed at this time but what the hell, I can always find a place for good soil!
    Price: FREE

    5. Plants/seeds... I haven't gotten any yet. It's too damned cold here still to plant! Once it warms up a touch more I will be getting plants and seeds from family members that have bought too much, have plants/seeds to share, as well as from seeds that I have saved myself.
    Price: FREE or very close to it

    While these are decent sized containers (20 quarts of soil per container) and for many plants a person won't need anything that large. So you could use smaller buckets OR try out another method.

    While searching on the Mother Earth News website I also found this article. I might try a few smaller plants with something like this. I'm not sure yet since they would have to be fairly small plants with shallow root systems. We'll see...
    Honesta Mors Turpi Vita Potior
    Facta non verba

    Lethality of the 22LR - Actual test
    Honor dies where interest lies


  2. #2
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Good luck. Thanks for the info. Here's a link to the containers I made - very similar to yours. http://www.josho.com/gardening.htm
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  3. #3

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    Thanks, and thank you for that link! I don't have access to any inexpensive pond baskets like that (they aren't a popular item around here). But I think I can' make something work.

    That style container, while harder for me to move will be perfect for a couple items I would like to grow but wouldn't do well in the 5-gal buckets.
    Honesta Mors Turpi Vita Potior
    Facta non verba

    Lethality of the 22LR - Actual test
    Honor dies where interest lies

  4. #4
    Administrator Rick's Avatar
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    Nice job RP. First, congratulations on the wedding. Second, you showed some real ingenuity and showed others how do it for little or no money.

    You can get 5 gallon buckets at most grocery stores that have bakeries. They use the 5 gallon buckets for icing. I suppose other bakeries have them as well, I've just never checked. Krogers told me I could have all I wanted.

    Funnels could probably be made out of scrap 1" inch PVC. Any plumbing shop or plumber probably has scrap too short to use but long enough for these pots. Then only one funnel would be needed. Just move it from pot to pot. Insert it in the top of the PVC and pour.

    As for the dirt, you don't need potting soil or bagged dirt. You could find a housing development or building complex that is building a basement. They would probably be glad to get rid of some of the excess dirt. If the soil is not very good, you can enrich it by stopping by the local stable and asking for some horse poo. They are pretty happy to get rid of it too and it makes great fertilizer. Just don't mix it too strong or it will burn the plants.

    Have your family start checking magazines or those unwanted mailers for seed samples. You can also check with Wal-Mart or other nursery stores to see if they have any damaged packages they would otherwise throw away. The end of gardening season ends early, different months depending on where you live, but by July in the Midwest seeds are hard to find. Check with Lowes, Home Depot, Wal-Mart for end of season specials and store the seeds in your fridge for next year. End of season is also a great time to pick up potting cups on the cheap for those seeds you'll plant next March or so.

    Nice post!!

  5. #5

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    I agree about not needing bagged dirt. Normally I would make my own "potting soil" but since I could get some for free (less time involved) I went that route.

    Word of caution for anyone planning on using "active" or "live" compost in pots. DON'T! You need to pasteurize it first. All those micro organisms that are so good at breaking down dead plant material in your compost pile are good at eating your plant roots too. In the garden there is plenty for them to eat, but in a pot they start to starve since there isn't fresh decaying plant material for them to feed on. So not wanting to die they will turn to eating your plants roots. Just make sure when you heat the soil it doesn't get above 160 degrees because then bad compounds start to form and they will harm your plants.

    For manure you are best letting it age if at all possible since fresh manure is more likely to burn your plants.

    Rick: Good point about end of season sales. At work at the end of last year all of our plants and seeds were 50-80% off. Any perennials would have been a great deal. And seeds can last years so why not pick up a few to try some year?
    Honesta Mors Turpi Vita Potior
    Facta non verba

    Lethality of the 22LR - Actual test
    Honor dies where interest lies

  6. #6
    Senior Member bulrush's Avatar
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    For free funnels, I cut a 2L bottle in half. I end up with a funnel, and a container for starting seedlings. In Michigan only soda bottles, and now energy drinks, have deposits. Bottles for water, iced tea, punch, lemonade do not. I think they just started having a deposit on energy drinks, but bottled water still does not require a deposit.
    Last edited by bulrush; 04-27-2009 at 12:22 PM.

  7. #7

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    Thanks for the tip! If I make more now I know what to try. It's not a problem getting 2-liter bottles.
    Honesta Mors Turpi Vita Potior
    Facta non verba

    Lethality of the 22LR - Actual test
    Honor dies where interest lies

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