self watering containers: converting a 5 gal bucket into a mini garden 062317

Asked June 23, 2017, 8:04 AM EDT

Good day...Hope you are well Came across your web site and this web page while looking for info for putting drainage holes in a 5 gallon bucket/container for container gardening. Very interesting. Questions refer to this page: 1) is this a design/construct that you still recommend and use or as ideas go have you moved to another version, tweak or new and improved? I just came across this in June 2017 2a) anchoring the 6 inch drainage tubing? I couldn't make out the anchor method for a bit. The screw or nail is pushed thru the diameter of the tube, but it is not attached/screwed/nailed into the side of the bucket? It goes freely thru the diameter of the tube? As sort of a stop or anchor so the tube stays put? If plastic tubing is .5" diameter plus some electrical tape for creating snug fit and screw or nail is .5", does a .5" length anchor piece have any "overhang" to serve as stop for plastic tubing? Or should the nail/screw piece be longer, greater than .5", 3/4, 5/8", etc.? 2b) drainage tube? Coming from inside the bucket: from end of plastic tubing, come 1" forward, place screw or nail thru tubing, in front of anchor screw/nail wrap electrical tape to make snug fit in drain hole, place tube thru hole, put outside into gallon jug 3) the drainage holes for the plastic support lid/platform? The instructions say drill 15 holes in lid, the picture has about 20 holes in the lid. Follow picture or text? Doesn't matter? One preferred over other? 4) drainage holes in plastic support for medium and growing medium? Growing medium will stay above the water reservoir level or will medium gradually seep into level under platform? Or does medium compact enough to fill/plug holes and only water and feeder roots pass thru holes? Thank you for your time, assistance, and info. Have a good day. Regards, Omari

Prince George's County Maryland

2 Responses

Hi Omari,
1. This design worked fine for a research project for us some 10 years ago and while it works fine many people have tweaked it to make it better, simpler, etc. For example:
If you search the internet for "bucket in bucket gardens" you will find many web pages and videos with plans and instructions.
2a. Yes, the screw or nail is inserted right through the middle of the tubing and acts as a stop. It does not attach to the bucket. I would recommend a galvanized drywall or decking screw with rough thread and it can be any length- I think we used 1 1/4".
2b. the tubing does not need to extend very far inside the budget. The electrical tape makes a water tight seal.
3.number of holes really doesn't matter much. More holes equates with more space for plant roots to grow through but will also increase the amount of media that can filter down into water.
4. Don't use garden soil. If you use a mixture of compost and potting mix (soilless growing media) some of it will move through the drainage holes into the water reservoir at the bottom of the bucket. That's ok. If you cover the drainage holes with a tight mesh screen, like window screening, you can prevent this problem but you will also may reduce root growth into the water reservoir.
5. would love to receive photos and feedback from you if you come up with your own adaptation of this plan.

Hi JT,

Thank you for the response. Very helpful. I wanted to acknowledge that I did receive your reply and that I appreciate the time, info, and suggestions. Haven't had/made time to do the new search for "bucket in bucket gardens", yet, but will.

1) the 10 years ago research project made me laugh. Interesting what one thinks may be a 'new discovery" until they find out otherwise. Will take a look at "tweaks" as you suggest.

2) you anticipated one of my other questions that I did not include so as not to over burden you, the expert, with my ramblings, i.e., I have used mesh screen at the bottom of pots and containers before. I had to consider some medium mix "loss" with roots making their way into container bottom with water and feed solution versus keeping growing medium contained by mesh screen above platform level.

"... hybrid between hydroponic gardening (plant roots growing in nutrient-enriched water) and conventional container gardening. ..." I thought this was fascinating/interesting. So I thought the root growth into the bottom was better benefit than the all the medium staying above the platform level. And I would guess that some medium and solution mix (maybe even a murky mess (smile)) would be a fair trade off versus putting in a barrier that the roots couldn't get through. I was actually surprised and found it interesting, also, that you said that it was even a possibility that some roots could "break" through and work their way into the water/feed solution zone.

Thank you and have a great day.