Self-Watering Garden Boxes: A Green Thumb's Best Friend

Self-watering garden boxes

If you talk with experienced or novice gardeners, watering is one of the challenges they mention. Watering too much has negative consequences, root rot specifically. Too little has an equally negative impact, prolonged growth, and reduced yields.

So, you must find that happy medium. But what's the solution?

Well, as the adage states, practice makes perfect. And that's certainly one approach ... keep doing it until you get it right.

Unfortunately, you could lose some plants along the way. At the very least, your yields will suffer because they need consistent, regulated water.

Get It Right with a Sub-Irrigated Planter

Fortunately, you turn to a sub-irrigated planter (SIP), otherwise known as a self-watering garden box. It gives you a virtually fool-proof green thumb.

Once you fill the reservoir with water, it handles its distribution. So, that takes you off the hook for ensuring your plants receive the proper amount of water.

SIP planters are a highly efficient way to water plants and provide precise moisture levels. You might be surprised to learn that they're not particularly innovative.

Sub-irrigation dates back to the 6th century B.C. and to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. It had large basins with an aqueduct design resting under the walking areas. Those basins provided water to the gardens consistently.

Today's Sub-Irrigated Planters

Today, you can build your self-watering garden box to suit your space. You can scale it to create a large garden to grow numerous vegetables. Or keep it smaller and focus on one crop, like tomatoes.

If you lack sufficient gardening space, you can turn to container gardening. Container gardens work nicely on a patio, balcony, or deck. Best of all, you can get a planter that's self-irrigating. For example, EarthBox offers planting boxes with a self-watering feature.

With EarthBox planting boxes, you'll enjoy an award-winning, maintenance-free design. And you'll get bigger yields than traditional in-ground or raised bed gardens.

And that brings us to the obvious questions. What are self-watering garden boxes, and how do they work?

What Are self-Watering Garden Boxes?

As the name suggests, self-watering garden boxes are planting containers designed to automatically provide plants with the moisture they need. These are especially beneficial for those who may not always remember to water their plants or for those who travel often.

The primary goal is to ensure the plants receive consistent hydration. Delivering that constant supply of moisture reduces the stress on your plants. It also eases your worry about watering your plants too much or too little, reducing anxiety.

Many SIP planters focus on decorative gardening. But planters like those from EarthBox focus on vegetable, tomato, fruit, and herb gardening. So you can grow produce anywhere with fewer concerns about maintaining plant health.

Equally important, you can assemble the self-watering garden boxes in minutes. You can also place them nearly anywhere: patios, decks, roofs, indoors, parking lots, etc.).

And because they require little space, you can use one or several garden boxes. So, if your spot gets adequate sunlight, a SIP planter will quickly become your best friend.

How Does a Sub-Irrigated Planter Work?

A self-watering planter includes a reservoir at the base of the garden box. It's the life-center of the system. You fill that reservoir using a water-fill tube. That becomes your chief responsibility -- keeping that reservoir full.

The reservoir or wicking bed provides a consistent source of water. Plants can access moisture and transfer that water to their roots through capillary action. In short, the plants ensure they don't get too much or too little water. So you're off the hook!

Plus, unlike other planters, you don't have to worry about drainage holes. In traditional potting, you must have them or risk water-logging your plants, but that's not the case with SIP planters.

And are you ready for this? Self-watering planters with large reservoirs can last as long as four weeks without refilling. Some even come with a water indicator to alert if the reservoir level is low.

The Benefits of a Self-Watering Garden Box

We just touched on one. Depending on the size of your water reservoir, plants will be happy for up to four weeks. And that means you'll be satisfied knowing you don't have to water them. Or concern yourself with the thought you're killing them from imprecise watering throughout the growing season.

But it's not all about you, so let's focus on how your plants benefit from SIP planters.

First, consistent watering means your plants get no water stress. That can slow their growth, prevent flowing, wilt their leaves, etc. Of most significant importance, your plants perform better. The optimal watering conditions keep them healthy, which produces better yields.

Second, there's less water waste because the watering system is closed. Aside from water waste, you'll water less, up to 80% less than traditional watering techniques. Equally important, fertilizer is more readily available because it doesn't drain from the planter.

Third, your plants will have little competition from weeds. Weeds will have trouble germinating because the soil's surface will be drier. Remember, plants draw the water from below versus from above.

Fourth, a self-watering garden box improves soil aeration. That promotes a healthier root system and better nutrient uptake. This can lead to richer-tasting fruits and herbs.

Finally, we'll return to your significant benefit: you can go some time without watering. So, if you have a busy schedule or want to get away for a long weekend, you can. No worries. Check the water level in the reservoir, then fill it and forget it.

What Can you Grow in a SIP Planter

Self-watering garden boxes are ideal for annual vegetables. There's no limit to what you can grow using one.

Sub-irrigated planters work excellently as a planting box for vegetables—plant peppers, zucchini, squash, broccoli, kale, lettuce, spinach, carrots, etc. The consistent water supply ensures the plants' health to produce an excellent harvest.

They're also perfect as a tomato planter. Indeed, EarthBox even offers a tomato growing kit that includes everything you need to produce ripe, juicy tomatoes. It even consists of an organic potting mix and fertilizer.

It's best to steer clear of perennial plants because the reservoir will likely freeze over the winter. You'll also want to avoid plants that require substantial drainage. Most Mediterranean herbs, for instance, demand drainage, including cilantro, lavender, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, etc.

The Downside of Watering with a Hose Versus Sub-Irrigation

With traditional planters, gardeners water from above. Often, that means only the surface of the soil gets wet. Many gardeners fail to water their planters to saturate the soil. So, plant roots may not receive the water necessary.

That's a particular concern for those interested in growing tomatoes. For example, tomato plants are fussy about their watering needs. If they receive inconsistent moisture, it can lead to blossom end rot. SIP planters can help resolve that concern.

Equally important, many gardeners spray the entire plant with water. As a result, much of the water fails to enter the soil, where it does the most good. In addition, when your vegetable plants' leaves get wet, it opens the door to diseases.

Overhead watering creates a leaf-wetness period when a thin layer of water covers the leaves. That wet layer allows disease-causing fungi to germinate and infect your plants. The longer the leaves remain wet, the more at risk they are to disease.

Potting Soil for Sub-Irrigated Planters

Your growing medium is a critical ingredient for planting boxes. And that's true for self-watering planting boxes.

Hopefully, you've learned that topsoil or sand is deficient in planters. Topsoil can compact, causing waterlogging while reducing aeration. On the other hand, it doesn't hold water or nutrients very well. It consists of silica, which cannot hold onto nutrients and water.

Any soil mix must allow for drainage, aeration, and nutrient uptake. Typically, that means using an organic component like peat moss or compost. It also means using vermiculite or perlite to help retain moisture.

You can keep things simple and buy a potting mix or mix your own. A good formula looks something like this:

  • One part peat moss
  • One part perlite or vermiculite
  • One-half-part compost
  • One-half-part worm castings

Maintaining a Self-Watering Garden Box

The good news is that SIP planters are pretty much maintenance-free. Your only concern is salt build-up. With traditional planters, salts accumulate near the soil's surface. However, they wash away with rain or water and escape through the planter's drain holes.

The salts don't wash away with a sub-irrigated planter, and runoff enters the reservoir. So, you should flush your self-watering garden box before planting a new crop. Give it a good bath with water to drain any remaining salt from the container.

EarthBox: a Recognized Leader in Self-Watering Garden Boxes

EarthBox has been the top-rated and most trusted container gardening system since 1994. Its planting boxes let you successfully grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs. The system is so successful it comes with a satisfaction guarantee.

You can select from different-sized planting boxes to fit your select vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Best of all, you'll enjoy the worry-free gardening success of self-watering garden boxes. Your green thumb's best friend!