Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Great Tomato Project

My first two posts mere minutes apart...I guess I jump into things feet first...

Anyway, The Grand Tomato Project is something that has been in the back of my mind for a long time...Every year though, it was "next year".  Well..."next year" almost came last year...I started a whole set of plants from seed in a mini greenhouse built from an Ikea kit.  (you'll be hearing about Ikea from me on a fairly regular basis).  They sprouted and started to grow...and then they died.  Crap...

So, this year, I decided it was going to be "this year".  I recognized my limits though and bought plants already seeded and sprouted.  I also spent some time floating in cyberspace and came back with a few designs for a self watering planter in a 5 gallon bucket.  Follow along...

-2 five gallon buckets
-1 inch pvc pipe
-tomato stakes or similar lengths of wood
-a cheap plastic cup
-your favorite potting soil mix (i mix bagged potting soil, compost, and topsoil because it's what I had)
-plants (I did tomato and basil in one, and yellow squash and chives in the other)

First, cut vertical slits in your plastic cup...not all the way up and down...just maybe 2/3rds of the way up from the botttom...about 5 or 6 is fine...this isn't rocket science... and then cut a notch out of one end of your pvc pipe...

Here's your, useful, sturdy...boring...Lets turn it over and cut some holes in it...

The big hole is for the plastic cup and needs to be sized so your cup fits down into it but will not go all the way through.  The small hole should be a tight press fit for the pvc pipe...push the pipe in, notched end first until about 2 inches sticks out the bottom of the bucket.  I then cut the top so it only sticks up about 2 inches over the top, but that isn't necessary.

Now you need to add your stakes to the bucket.  I ran a screw through the bottom of the bucket into the bottom of the stake and then screwed the stake to the top of the bucket with a short wood spacer, but there's absolutely no reason you can't just put the stakes against the sides of the bucket and let the soil hold them in place.

That's it for the first bucket...the only thing we need to do to the second is to drill 4 or 5 drainage holes in the side of the bucket about 3 inches from the bottom, and then put bucket #1 into bucket #2...

Carefully fill the cup in the bottom of the bucket with your potting mix so as not to dislodge it, then fill the bucket the rest of the way up and plant your plants.

Squash and Chives (from seed)                                        Tomatoes and Basil

Quick and easy...but why not just chuck some plants in a bucket of dirt?  This arrangement is self-watering.  To water your plants, you pour water down the pipe into the bottom bucket until the water starts coming out of the drainage holes.  The water will seep through the slits in the cup and up into the potting soil, watering your plants from the bottom.  I'll be updating how well this works over the next month or two, but I've read that this will keep your plants watered for a week.  

Happy bucket gardening!

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