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Using milk bottles to make wicking pots for herbs

I made these on the weekend. So far they haven't collapsed so fingers crossed they'll do good.

Here's a short instructional page on what I did.

Make mini wicking pots for growing 'urbs

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Comment by Joseph on September 27, 2012 at 12:45

Here's an update on the mini wicking pots. So far so good.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on September 6, 2012 at 22:48

I do grow fruit trees in them! A Fig, a Mulberry, 2 varieties of Raspberry and a Pomegranate. 3 of the 5 have started to fruit. I do need to keep up the nutrients though. And so far I haven't mulched the surfaces figuring that there needs to be air going into the soil for the roots. There's ordinary self-watering pots too which I bought and they have 1 Strawberry plant in each and are doing well so far. Wicking/self-watering pots come in many shapes and sizes including troughs. It's a matter of finding them cheaply at garage sales or just sales.

Comment by Joseph on September 6, 2012 at 21:10

200L is massive, that's the size of a 44 gallon drum. I see what you mean about DEEP pots. You could grow fruit trees in those. :) Actually what do you grow in them?

My deepest pot is probably no more than 50cm.

As I'd mixed fresh compost with the comfrey leaves, I'd expect active microbes to be present. In any case, there was no bad smell ie. anaerobic decomposition. Comfrey seems to naturally break down into a gelatinous mess.

I shall check out your album, thanks! Am curious as to what your styrene wicking box looks like.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on September 6, 2012 at 20:37

Oh about using raw organic matter eg Comfrey ... I have found that the new plants rotted - I think it's because of a lack of the right micro-organisms to munch the raw organic matter. At least that's in the small bins. The 200/300L bins have compost worms in them and they seem to be more able to cope with added organic matter - e.g. I do a cover crop now and then and that disappears quite quickly.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on September 6, 2012 at 20:34

The overflow hole height varies and the size does, too. Originally the 200L bins (which I can no longer buy :-() had a 25mm hole around 100mm from the bottom. I kinda do it by 'eye' - so far, so good. I've converted styrene fruit boxes to wicking boxes by lining them with heavy plastic and just leaving the top part of one hole exposed to act as the overflow. There's a photo album of mine called "wicking beds according to Elaine" which might help to explain. Work just fine. I use cat litter trays (new ones!) for sprouts (micro-greens) with a skewer hole about 10-12mm from the bottom. Keep watering until water runs out of the hole.

Comment by Joseph on September 6, 2012 at 20:04

I see. The media in a deep pot will hold water pretty well especially if it's high in organic content. I emptied a 30cm pot that I haven't watered for 3 weeks (it was intended for cherry toms but all the seedlings died). The top 5cm of potting mix was bone dry but lower down it was still a moist congealed sludge, thanks to decomposing comfrey leaves and compost.

How far up from the base do you have your overflow pipe? Too high and I guess there's a good chance of getting water logged. 

This weekend I'm expanding the idea to make a wicking polystyrene box. I'm tossing up whether to just throw in pebbles or build a floor over the reservoir. I'll probably build the floor as it's more fun.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on September 6, 2012 at 19:42

In a sense I suppose the whole potting mix is the reservoir ... I start the bottom layer with el cheepo potting mix then add other stuff depending on what I am growing and how deep the bin is. The separate reservoir means you can store more water I suppose, although there's less actual mix. It works for me ... the trick is to have an overflow hole so the plants don't drown. I have tried growing micro-greens in hole-less containers but found they got waterlogged without an overflow. Being hot in the summer would influence that too, I imagine.

Comment by Joseph on September 6, 2012 at 19:23

Hi Elaine, what do you use to store water if the wicking pot/bin doesn't have the reservoir? 

Comment by Joseph on September 6, 2012 at 17:15

Algae may become a problem with these translucent bottles, Elaine. A few sites recommend changing the water once a week or so. I'll post an update in a few weeks, if the coriander seeds germinate. They are fickle things to grow.

Comment by Elaine de Saxe on September 6, 2012 at 16:34

Ever the experimenter, Joseph ;-) I have found that wicking pots/bins function quite well without the special reservoir. They may be a tad less efficient, but I've not had the messing about with extra making. It will be interesting to see if algae form in the water and if it does, whether that makes any difference.

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