Outdoor and indoor planters are fantastic add-ons to your property. However, taking care of plants in planters is not a walk in the park. Generally, you have to ensure that your plants get enough sunlight, moisture, and warmth.
This is the only way you can promote healthy plant growth. If you want your plants to grow well, you need to water them frequently. For the best results, water your plants at least twice a week.
Make it a habit to check whether the soil is damp or dry from time to time. Doing this helps you know when your plants need water.
Watering plants can be a tedious and time-consuming process, especially if you have a large garden. Fortunately, you can use self-watering planters to water your plants. The other option you have is to invest in an grow kit from Aerogarden.
Self-watering planters often water plants when necessary, without the need for human supervision. DIY self-watering planters also work well and can keep your plants in good shape.
How to build a self-watering planter
- Step 1: Place the drain pipe on the planter and fill tube
The first thing to do would be to take a perforated drain pipe and split it into two. Each piece should measure about 6 feet in length. Next, place the drain pipes at the bottom of the planter separately; there should be a reasonable space between the two drain pipes.
As you do this, ensure there’s no soil at the end of each drain pipe. Otherwise, the potting soil will enter the drain pipes. Next, attach a fill tube to one of the perforated drain pipes on the exterior surface of the drain pipe. The fill tube enables you to fill water into your drain pipes.
- Step 2: Create a drainage hole and fix the vinyl tubing
Create a drainage hole above the height of the pipe towards the end of the planter. Take your vinyl tubing and install it from the drain pipe to the drainage hole. Note that the tubing should be long enough to extend out of the planter box even after filling in the soil. One long vinyl tubing is often sufficient. Usually, the vinyl tubing is meant to get rid of excess water.
- Step 3: Pour the potting soil
Ensure the vinyl tubing extends to the planter’s exterior surface. Then, pour your planting mix. The height of the potting soil should not touch the vinyl tubing. It should be slightly below the vinyl tubing.
- Step 4: Proceed with planting
After putting your seeds in the planting holes, create your drainage system, start filling in the drain pipes with water.
It will take some time before you start seeing water coming out of the drainage hole. Water will flow slowly from the perforated drainage pipes to the potting mix and the plants.
At first, you have to keep monitoring your plants to see how long they stay hydrated. Then, you can check if the soil is dry by dipping one or two fingers into the soil. Doing this enables you to identify whether the soil is dry or moist.
Ultimately, a DIY self-watering system helps you save a lot of time and effort. Several gardening experts report that you may need to refill the pipes about three times during the entire summer.
So if you are having a hard time taking care of your plants, consider putting up a self-watering system.
Storing Water in Drain Pipes
Ensure your drain pipes have enough water. In our case, we used a cheap perforated drain pipe located at the bottom of the planter. When you store water in the drain pipes, it allows for proper ventilation. Also, it enables plants to sip water from the drains when necessary. The drain pipes contain vinyl tubing to get rid of excess water and prevent soggy soil.
Do self-watering planters really work?
As seen earlier, self-watering planters can help you save time and effort when taking care of your plants. So, yes, self-watering planters really work. However, you have to use them correctly. Otherwise, they won’t deliver excellent functionality. Typically, self-watering planters come with built-in reservoirs that store and provide water to plants whenever necessary.
The roots of the plants often draw water from the soil and transport it to the rest of the plant. As long as there is water in the reservoir, you won’t have to worry about your plants getting wilted. You can apply mulch or chip woods to the soil to reduce the evaporation rate. This way, your plants grow healthy and strong.
Keep monitoring your planter to make sure there is enough water in the reservoir. If there’s no water, fill it up again. Luckily, you won’t have to keep on filling your reservoir frequently, even during dry seasons. Ultimately, self-watering planters are very effective.
Are Self Watering Planters Good?
Self-watering planters work perfectly fine for all types of plants, from large sized tomatoes to peppers. You can also use them in your outdoor or indoor spaces. It all depends on your requirements.
All you have to do is determine the best planter size that caters to your needs. Self-watering planters are perfect for beginners. Even if you forget to water your plants, they’ll keep the plants hydrated.
Contrary to popular belief, self-watering plants do not drown plants. In addition, these planters often have vinyl tubing to get rid of excess water. Thus, there are zero chances of having soggy soil.
How do you mix soil for self-watering containers?
Undoubtedly, self-watering containers make it simple for you to grow your plants. I mean, with these planters, you don’t have to worry about watering your plants frequently. It is essential to use high-quality soil that encourages healthy plant growth in self-watering containers.
Of course, the type of soil you use depends on your plant’s requirements. But generally, the soil should have the right pH and nutritional content. This way, your plants will grow healthy.
What to use when mixing soil in self-watering containers?
Armed with the right gardening tools, the best soil to use in a self-watering container should be lightweight and facilitate proper drainage. Nonetheless, note that you should never use regular gardening soil in self-watering containers. Standard gardening soil is too bulky for a self-watering container.
Although it is more affordable, it may not meet your plant’s requirements. Besides, gardening soil contains harmful microorganisms that can harm your soil. Some of the things that can be present in standard farming soil are pests, fungi, and weed seeds.
Thus, using gardening soil makes your plants more susceptible to pests, weeds, and diseases. You should instead purchase a quality potting mix from a reliable manufacturer.
Some of the components to include in your potting mix includes compost, coconut coir, and peat moss. However, if you are not making your own potting mix, consider purchasing it from a dependable manufacturer. The potting soil should have a pH of approximately 7. So, you can avoid using peat moss for your potting soil since it is acidic. Adding bark chunks to your potting soil also maintains fine soil particles that drain well.
Moreover, you can use inorganic matter to create your potting mix. Some of the inorganic components to be used include perlite, vermiculite, and coarse sand. All these nonorganic components improve the drainage of the soil and boost moisture retention. Occasionally, potting mixes contain pea gravel to improve soil drainage, especially when growing succulents.
There is a wide range of organic and inorganic components you can use to mix soil in self-watering containers. They include peat moss, compost, coconut coir, vermiculite, perlite, pea gravel, and coarse sand.
The components you choose often depend on your planting requirements. For example, if you want to grow plants organically, make your potting mix using compost and coconut coir. Alternatively, consider buying soil mix for self-watering containers from reliable garden stores.
Create self-watering soil
When mixing soil for self-watering plants, you have to evaluate the requirements of your plants first. Typically, some plants thrive in alkaline soils, while some grow well in acidic soils. For example, tomatoes grow well in slightly acidic soils with a pH of approximately 6.0 to 6.8. Conversely, garlic plants grow well in soils with a pH of roughly 8.0.
You can mix compost, coconut coir, peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, and coarse sand to get the perfect self-watering soil mix. Also, you can add recycled lava rock and pine bark to make the soil rich. Recycled lava works well for improving the soil’s drainage.
How do you fertilize self-watering containers?
In a self-watering container, plants sip water from below. Remember, the reservoirs are often located at the bottom of the planter. Thus, when plants require water, they draw water from below.
Unfortunately, during this process, mineral salts are left at the bottom of the container. This can lead to the accumulation of mineral salts in the potting mix. In turn, these mineral salts can harm plants after some time.
Even so, the minerals found in water are not as harmful as the ones found in fertilizers. The majority of fertilizers have a high mineral content. In particular, added water-soluble fertilizers have large amounts of dissolved mineral salts.
Using these fertilizers on self-watering plants can lead to a buildup of mineral salts in the potting mix. Subsequently, soluble fertilizers in self-watering plants can lead to plant failure. So, avoid using soluble fertilizers in self-watering planters.
Gardening experts advise using organic fertilizers on self-watering plants. Organic fertilizers decompose entirely into the soil. Thus, there won’t be any accumulation of dissolved salts. Also, consult your manufacturer about the best fertilizers to use in self-watering planters.
How to prevent salt buildup on self-watering planters
This is exactly what you need to do to go about this;
- Use dry, granular fertilizer instead of liquid fertilizer
It would be best to use dry, granular fertilizer that is pre-mixed into the soil before planting. This way, you’ll prevent the accumulation of mineral salts in the container. Avoid using liquid fertilizers in self-watering plants. Moreover, ensure that the fertilizer you purchase suits your plants’ requirements.
Keep in mind that plants have different nutritional needs. Consult a gardening expert on the best fertilizers to use on your plants. Also, follow all usage instructions when using fertilizer. And avoid putting fertilizers directly into the water in a self-watering planter.
- Mix lots of compost in with the potting mix
As mentioned earlier, it is advisable to use organic fertilizer in self-watering planters. So, create a rich compost and apply it to the soil. Consider making your own organic compost at home from manure and organic kitchen waste.
Using organic manure or compost can significantly improve the quality of your soil. Organic compost has a broad spectrum of beneficial nutrients that will enhance the quality of your plants.
- Replace the potting mix every year
Another thing you have to do to prevent a build-up of salt in your self-watering can is to replace your potting mix. Make it a habit to change your potting mix at least once a year.
Doing this helps you grow healthy plants. Weeds, pests, and diseases can attack your planting soil and degrade its quality. Therefore, you would be doing justice to your plants when you replace the soil often.
Do self-watering planters cause root rot?
Indisputably, self-watering planters make planting easier. But at times, they can affect plant growth due to several reasons. First, most people believe that using self-watering planters often leads to root rot. Well, this is true.
Remember, most self-watering planters do not have an overflow opening. Thus, water can make the soil soggy. Soggy soils eventually lead to root rot, among other diseases. Plants infected with root rot eventually end up dead. Moreover, saturated soils can also lead to fungi growth that hinders healthy plant growth.
Nonetheless, self-watering planters with overflow openings are less susceptible to root rot. These planters contain a vinyl tube responsible for trapping and releasing excess water out of the planter box. Therefore, when creating your planter box, ensure you install vinyl tubing to get rid of excess water.
Other problems faced by self-watering planters
The concentration of harmful mineral salts: Self-watering planters are likely to experience a build-up of toxic mineral salts. When plants sip water from the bottom, mineral salts are often left behind. After some time, these mineral salts pile up and can harm the plant.
Succulents cannot survive in self-watering planters
Typically, some plants cannot grow well in self-watering planters. For example, plants like cacti thrive in dry conditions. So, you would be making a big mistake if you grew them in your planters.
Additionally, certain herb plants lose their flavor when grown in wet soil. Before planting anything in your self-watering planter, take time to understand your plant’s needs. Only certain plant species can thrive in self-watering planters.
Poor root growth
Growing plants in self-watering planters can lead to poor root growth. This is because the water at the bottom of the planter does not allow the plants to spread their roots freely. Therefore, plants in a self-watering planter might not be able to grow to their full potential.
Also, when plants stretch their roots, the roots will stay in the water. Here, they won’t be able to thrive due to a lack of oxygen. Subsequently, your roots are likely to grow weaker.
Do self-watering pots attract mosquitoes?
- Mosquito breeding grounds
Another common problem you are likely to experience in self-watering planters is mosquitoes. All self-watering planters contain drainage holes. These holes provide an ideal atmosphere for mosquitoes.
As a result, mosquitoes live and reproduce here. This can lead to a large mosquito breeding ground in your backyard. Therefore, it would be best to avoid placing a self-watering planter in your indoor space. Fortunately, you can incorporate several techniques to control mosquitoes in your self-watering planters.
- How to prevent mosquito breeding ground in self-watering planters
Below are some techniques you can use to control mosquito breeding grounds in self-watering planters.
Cover the reservoir using a mesh material
First, you have to ensure you cover the reservoir. Do this using a mesh material. Ensure you cover all the areas where mosquitoes are likely to breed.
After covering the mesh material over the reservoir, use a waterproof adhesive to attach it. Ensure it is firmly secured onto the reservoir. Then, keep monitoring it to ensure it’s still in place season after season.
Break the surface tension of the water
Another effective method of controlling mosquitoes in your self-watering planters is to use cooking oil to weaken the hydrogen bonds in the water. Pour cooking oil on the surface of the water.
When you do this, you discourage mosquitoes from laying their eggs in the reservoir. When you break the surface tension of the water, mosquitoes will no longer be able to float in the water. This mosquito control technique works perfectly for edible plants.
Use a mosquito dunk
You can also use insecticides to kill and put off mosquitoes from the self-watering planter. Mosquito dunks are typically chemicals that kill mosquito larvae. They work well even for extensive mosquito breeding grounds.
Nonetheless, it can be dangerous to use these chemicals in planters with edible plants. Mosquito dunks often contain toxic chemicals that can tamper with the plant growth and flavor of your plants.
Take the self-watering container indoors
Consider transferring the self-watering container indoors. There are fewer mosquitoes in indoor spaces. It is advisable to drain the reservoir first. Then, move the plant indoors.
It should be noted that some plants cannot thrive indoors. So, take time to evaluate your plant requirements first before taking the self-watering planter indoors.
Why a self watering planter or pot?
Self-watering planters make plant maintenance much more manageable. You can always create a self-watering planter from the comfort of your own home or buy an indoor growing kit. All you need to do is purchase the right equipment.
Even though self-watering planters are beneficial, they carry several drawbacks. So, before you decide to use a self-watering planter, ensure you understand its advantages and disadvantages.