So I thought I’d toss my own crude idea out and see if you think it’s workable for you. Your comments are certainly welcome.
This self-watering planter uses wicks to draw water into the soil for the plant roots. I’ll suggest two ways it can be constructed. Though I’ll refer to buckets, you could just as easily do this with smaller containers like butter tubs. You can probably get food grade buckets cheap, or even free, from a nearby restaurant or grocery store.
Since buckets will nest, use two buckets. One is the reservoir. The other is for the plant. In the bottom of the planter bucket, cut four slits a couple inches long.
Cut up an old towel or T-shirt into narrow strips. This is your wicking fabric which will draw moisture up from the reservoir.
Fit the strips through the four slits in the bottom of the planter bucket so the fabric forms a cross or X inside the bottom of the bucket. The fabric should hang down through the slits. How much hangs down will depend on what you think is necessary when you put the planter bucket inside the reservoir.
Sit the planter bucket inside your reservoir so the fabric strips dip into the water. Don’t overfill the reservoir. There should be some air between the water level and the bottom of the planter. Fill your plant bucket with soil and whatever seeds you decide to plant.
I suppose the down side of this little system is that it requires you to lift out the plant bucket to check water levels from time to time. This means you won’t want to grow anything too large, such as an unwieldy tomato plant. But you could surely do lettuce or other greens in it.
Here’s a variation on the idea. Rather than nest one bucket inside another, put a lid on the reservoir bucket and cut slits that line up with the slits on the bottom of the planter. Sit the planter bucket on the lid so the wicking fabric goes down through the slits in the lid and into the reservoir.
You may want to cut an extra hole near one edge of the lid. This should allow you the opportunity to slide the planter bucket aside just enough so you can check the water level and add more water as needed. This way you shouldn’t have to lift or move the planter bucket completely away from the reservoir.
If you make one of these self-watering planters from butter tubs to grow herbs in your window, and you’re the decorative type, wrap colored contact paper around the containers.
The advantage of any self-watering planter is that you don’t have to worry about watering very often. Plants will get the water they need when they need it. Check now and then to make sure they’re still getting moisture, and fill the reservoir when needed. You can also put plant food in the water from time to time if you like.
Happy survival gardening.