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Using Self-Watering Planters

One of our sponsorship winners, Chris, has been asked to trial a new product from us, to give you all the ins and outs of how to use it, with what applications and what sorts of results you can expect from these truly wonderful planters.

Introduction

Self-watering hanging baskets and street planters are regularly used in professional settings. Parks managers use them to great effect by using all shapes and sizes to decorate our parks and streets. The simple design comprises of a planter mounted above a reservoir for the liquid feed. It is then easy to connect the two using a capillary strip of felt. The benefits are significant with the reduced frequency of watering offering huge labour savings.

Imagine a similar type of planter on a domestic scale. A planter enabling a range of crops to be grown but allowing you a few days holiday without bothering the neighbours to water your plants!

I have been asked to trial an exciting new product in a home setting to grow a range of popular crops.

What makes up the planter?

The Green Smart Self Watering Planter is a large 60 litre planter and is available in black, cream or green. It is also both very easy to assemble, maintain and importantly to clean at the end of the season.

On unboxing there are only six parts that you need to put together before you are up and running. Here is my step by step guide to putting it together, choosing a suitable compost and planting it up.

Assembling the planter

The key to sealing the planter’s reservoir are a filler tube and a selection of washers and a lock nut. One of the washers has two notches cut into it, this is placed on the screw thread of the filler tube and forms the outer seal. The filler tube is then pushed into the corresponding hole in the lower side of the planter. It can only go in one way and locks securely vertically – a really well thought out feature.

The other rubber washer is located over the screw thread of the filler tube on the inside of the planter.

Next I attached and hand-tightened the locknut before filling up the reservoir up to the level of the side drainage holes.

Filling the planting reservoir

Another useful (and fool proof) feature are the side drainage holes which drain the planter’s reservoir to the correct level. This level corresponds to the max level indicator on the filler tube. The good news is that this makes the potential for overwatering (including rainfall) a thing of the past.

After the correct level is reached all you need to do is a quick check of the seals for leaks before giving the lock nut a gentle tighten with a wrench.

The next step is to put the base in to support the compost. I was also really impressed with the design of this simple structural platform. At the end of the season it will be so easy to clean as there is no capillary felt which can become choked with plant roots. 

The base platform is also perforated, allowing the roots to access water and the supports also act as capillary wicks when packed with planting media.

 

Creating the right compost

To get the right compost I chose the same mix as I use for my buckets of potatoes. This comprises of  40 litres of old tomato compost and 20 litres of garden compost. To add nutrients I added 300g of Elixir’s organic Bio Plant Vegan Fertiliser Pellets. These pellets have a similar nutrient value to Elixir’s EX4 but are totally plant based being produced from anaerobic digester solids of maize and sugar beet. The pellets look similar to pelleted chicken manure and break down quickly in use to provide slow release nutrients.

I was keen to try these pellets out in this situation to keep the amount of nutrient salts low. This can be problematic towards the end of the season.  After a quick mix my planting compost was ready to go. I placed the platform into the water and watched the support legs fill with water. This made filling the legs with compost easy which is essential for the capillary action to work.

On putting the planting base into the planters reservoir, the water level fills the support legs, this combined with filling the legs with your chosen growing media is key to getting the essential capillary action to work.

Planting up

I left the filled planter over night before I planted it up. You don’t have to do this, but I wanted to see how much water was taken up into the compost! I had to put an additional 9 litres of water in the reservoir 24 hours later, but the compost was really moist at depth – ideal to encourage roots to grow down into it.

For the plant selection I chose a range of vegetables to give this method of growing a good test for a typical patio planter situation.

6 No plugs French Bean  – ‘Delinel’

4 No plugs Lettuce ‘Solesion’

4 No plugs Beetroot ‘Boltardy’ – multisown with  4 seedlings each

8 No plugs Onion ‘White Lisbon’ multisown with 8-10 seedlings each

5 No plugs Basil (chosen as they like moisture but not wet conditions)

Radish ‘French Breakfast – to test out direct sown veg in the planter

The final thing was to water them to help settle the plants and equalise the moisture throughout the planter.

Once the plants are established I am envisaging that the only watering will be via the easy open filler tube – I will let you know how I get on!

SWA-Finished-planter

My thoughts on the Green Smart planter

My first impressions are that the Green Smart planter is quick to assemble and more importantly it is durable. It is also very easy to keep the water at the correct level.  Not having to use capillary felt means that it is also going to be very easy to clean before storage.

I really like it and can’t wait to see the plants grow as well as the quality of the crops it produces. My final tip would be to make the planter up where you want it to grow. Fully planted and with a full reservoir it is heavy – it certainly won’t blow around in the wind!

Introduction

Self-watering hanging baskets and street planters are regularly used in professional settings. Parks managers use them to great effect by using all shapes and sizes to decorate our parks and streets. The simple design comprises of a planter mounted above a reservoir for the liquid feed. It is then easy to connect the two using a capillary strip of felt. The benefits are significant with the reduced frequency of watering offering huge labour savings.

Imagine a similar type of planter on a domestic scale. A planter enabling a range of crops to be grown but allowing you a few days holiday without bothering the neighbours to water your plants!

I have been asked to trial an exciting new product in a home setting to grow a range of popular crops.

What makes up the planter?

The Green Smart Self Watering Planter is a large 60 litre planter and is available in black, cream or green. It is also both very easy to assemble, maintain and importantly to clean at the end of the season.

On unboxing there are only six parts that you need to put together before you are up and running. Here is my step by step guide to putting it together, choosing a suitable compost and planting it up.

Assembling the planter

The key to sealing the planter’s reservoir are a filler tube and a selection of washers and a lock nut. One of the washers has two notches cut into it, this is placed on the screw thread of the filler tube and forms the outer seal. The filler tube is then pushed into the corresponding hole in the lower side of the planter. It can only go in one way and locks securely vertically – a really well thought out feature.

The other rubber washer is located over the screw thread of the filler tube on the inside of the planter.

Next I attached and hand-tightened the locknut before filling up the reservoir up to the level of the side drainage holes.

Filling the planting reservoir

Another useful (and fool proof) feature are the side drainage holes which drain the planter’s reservoir to the correct level. This level corresponds to the max level indicator on the filler tube. The good news is that this makes the potential for overwatering (including rainfall) a thing of the past.

After the correct level is reached all you need to do is a quick check of the seals for leaks before giving the lock nut a gentle tighten with a wrench.

The next step is to put the base in to support the compost. I was also really impressed with the design of this simple structural platform. At the end of the season it will be so easy to clean as there is no capillary felt which can become choked with plant roots. 

The base platform is also perforated, allowing the roots to access water and the supports also act as capillary wicks when packed with planting media.

 

Creating the right compost

To get the right compost I chose the same mix as I use for my buckets of potatoes. This comprises of  40 litres of old tomato compost and 20 litres of garden compost. To add nutrients I added 300g of Elixir’s organic Bio Plant Vegan Fertiliser Pellets. These pellets have a similar nutrient value to Elixir’s EX4 but are totally plant based being produced from anaerobic digester solids of maize and sugar beet. The pellets look similar to pelleted chicken manure and break down quickly in use to provide slow release nutrients.

I was keen to try these pellets out in this situation to keep the amount of nutrient salts low. This can be problematic towards the end of the season.  After a quick mix my planting compost was ready to go. I placed the platform into the water and watched the support legs fill with water. This made filling the legs with compost easy which is essential for the capillary action to work.

On putting the planting base into the planters reservoir, the water level fills the support legs, this combined with filling the legs with your chosen growing media is key to getting the essential capillary action to work.

Planting up

I left the filled planter over night before I planted it up. You don’t have to do this, but I wanted to see how much water was taken up into the compost! I had to put an additional 9 litres of water in the reservoir 24 hours later, but the compost was really moist at depth – ideal to encourage roots to grow down into it.

For the plant selection I chose a range of vegetables to give this method of growing a good test for a typical patio planter situation.

6 No plugs French Bean  – ‘Delinel’

4 No plugs Lettuce ‘Solesion’

4 No plugs Beetroot ‘Boltardy’ – multisown with  4 seedlings each

8 No plugs Onion ‘White Lisbon’ multisown with 8-10 seedlings each

5 No plugs Basil (chosen as they like moisture but not wet conditions)

Radish ‘French Breakfast – to test out direct sown veg in the planter

The final thing was to water them to help settle the plants and equalise the moisture throughout the planter.

Once the plants are established I am envisaging that the only watering will be via the easy open filler tube – I will let you know how I get on!

SWA-Finished-planter

My thoughts on the Green Smart planter

My first impressions are that the Green Smart planter is quick to assemble and more importantly it is durable. It is also very easy to keep the water at the correct level.  Not having to use capillary felt means that it is also going to be very easy to clean before storage.

I really like it and can’t wait to see the plants grow as well as the quality of the crops it produces. My final tip would be to make the planter up where you want it to grow. Fully planted and with a full reservoir it is heavy – it certainly won’t blow around in the wind!

I’m based in Shropshire, and I’ve been a keen gardener since childhood. Throughout my career I have raised plants commercially, landscaped gardens, taught horticulture, built the odd show garden and managed public parks where I helped popularise the use of wildflowers. My passion has always remained with growing fruit and vegetables in my own garden and looking after my rare breed chickens.

Chris

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