Saturday, May 01, 2010

My SIP Garden Experiment

For me the hardest thing about gardening is the constant watering. Sure it's cool in the springtime when you plant and it's raining every week. You don't even have to think about watering. Then comes the months where we have a few sunny days and things dry out inbetween. You start to keep up a watering schedule and think to yourself.. "hey this isn't so hard!" then SUMMER comes and you are out there when you wake up, when you come home from work and before you go to sleep at night. And if you don't they will all DIE! And their plant deaths will be on YOUR HANDS! Last year I just gave up. My life was too busy to keep up watering every stinking day.. especially for plants that didn't produce. I watered and watered but no freakin zucchini! There just HAD to be an easier way.

This spring I moved to a new house and started over again in a new garden. This time through I had a feeling it would be different. This time I will not let them die! I really had given up on gardening though. It was just too much work for so little output. I didn't save money in the end and the labor and time outweighed any savings in my book. It took one day at Powell's bookstore and a random gardening book that were responsible for bringing hope back to my dead black thumb. For the life of me I can't remember the book but I do remember what was in it! They had plans and instructions on how to create your own EarthBox from a Tupperware tub or a bucket. There is tons of examples here.

I called up my brother Pat. "PAT I NEED YOUR TRASH! I need milk cartons NOOOOOOOWW!" I left a few messages... he took ALL DAY to call me back. Then he took HOURS to come over to deliver them. This was after the argument that it wasn't really eco friendly because he had to drive to deliver them therefore it wasn't helping the environment. I could have taken the train there but it would have been the same thing. I could have dug through my OWN trash but it was just recycling day! I have bad timing on my ideas sometimes. I also had a weekend free so I wanted to get a few done before I had to go back to sewing all the time.

I cut the top of one of the containers so I could use the inside as a grate to hold the dirt. I had to drill a MILLION holes that seemed to take forever. This was the hardest thing to cut out too! dammit.

Pat finally showed up with the milk cartons and I made my first SIP garden container! Now the trick is to create a water reservoir where the water is stored and is "sipped" up by the plants using the wicking of the soil.

Here is the final version with some added duct tape for extra sealing power!

I had a really long talk with the garden guys over what "Potting SOIL" and "Potting MIX" really meant. I was told by multiple blogs and books to NOT use soil. BUT every damn bag at the store had SOIL on it! Thankfully I had read the ingredients of Potting Mix before I left so I knew what should be in it. I ended up buying the right stuff after all. The guys at the garden store really don't know what they are talking about. Also no one knew anything about EarthBoxes or the SIP method. I was also warned about this but found it rather shocking. It's so eco friendly! You save on earth, time, water is conserved and you can put it anywhere even on the pavement!

One of the blue containers is growing tomatoes that were rescued from my neighbor. FREE PLANTS! The other empty one has lettuce that I just planted seed for. The third is going to be some kind of zucchini. YES I am going to try zucchini again and see if this time I can get it to flower for me. So thus the experiment begins. I will let you know if this method works for me! I have a lot of faith but a lot of dead plants on my hands. Let's hope they will last through the summer!


PeteCorp said...

Hum. They seem to be uncovered. The Earthbox comes with a shower cap. It prevents most of the water from evaporating. Did you add a fertilizer strip? The potting mix is good at keeping water but has no nutritional value. You can easily grab a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer from the hardware store. Remember to add it in a concentrated strip to not kill the plants already in the box.

Mary Kelly said...

I did cover the tomatoes and left the other two open. That led to water filling up the containers and flooding the plants. Covering is highly recommended!

The potting mix I have has fertilizer in the mix already. Some more would be welcome.

So far the experiment has been fruitful. And you learn as you go! The closer you can get to replicating the earth box the better.. with covering, fertilizer, potting mix and the water resivore. The resivore I made with the milk jugs tends to get clogged but the water is still wicking up. I prefer the container for the tomatoes that has the lid with the holes drilled in it.

I'm going to try buckets next!

Anonymous said...

Why not put a hole in the side of the tub to let the water out like the original earthboxes had? Homedepot also has some off name earthboxes that are bigger and cheaper. I think they are like $20.