Here in my part of the south drought is taking its tole on agricultural production; from large farms to backyard gardeners, production herds to little homesteads..we're suffering. In this we have two options: accept defeat or get creative. Since not having a garden growing morphs me into some kind of vicious mommy-monster...I am choosing the 'get creative' option.
Research and rummaging led me to SIPs; self-irrigating planters. Now, I have never used them before..and, yes, I'm still planting some ground crops using soaker and irrigation set-ups,..however, the SIPs intrigued me. Using some basic shop 'remnants' and a little bit of skill saw here's what we did.
We used: plastic storage tubs, corrugated drain pipe (the one with slits in it, otherwise, drill some holes around it randomly), pvc pipe. I placed a scrap of garden fabric over my pipe because I had it and I wanted the extra insurance for soil not to clog up the holes in the corrugated pipe.
Basically you cut a length of drain pipe that fits in a 'u' shape in the bottom of the tub; this is your water reservoir. Drill a drain hole in the side of the tub 4" from the bottom to prevent over watering. Place a length of pvc into the drain pipe; this will be where you add water to the planter ensuring the water goes directly to the roots of the plants. As I mentioned, I covered my pipe with a scrap of garden fabric..it isn't required, but it made me feel better.
When adding soil, you want to pack soil around the corrugated drain pipe..this creates a 'wick' for hydration. The upper soil layer is loose and airy. Now, plant!
My SIPs have tomato and squash plants and are in my greenhouse already due to some chilly nights. I intend to place a few herbs in another one and a set of mescalin greens. As I said, I have never used SIPs before. so this is a trail and error for me, but it's better than doing nothing (for me, anyway).
Now, the obvious downside: cost- if you don't have the stuff on hand, well, money lost; soil- if you purchase potting mix, well, money lost; time- you do have to do some cutting and putting together-ing; then, the obvious 'what-if-it-doesn't-work' element- well, that's a risk. On an up-note, they are not ridiculously heavy; I moved them completely full..so, bonus! All pieces are reusable if it's a fail; they go back to the 'remnant' pile in the shop. I get an "E" for effort from my family--it will keep me occupied for a while, right?
For more information and varieties of SIPs, please visit: