These sub-irrigated planter (SIP) buckets (aka “self-watering) are not just for growing beets but that is what will be in them this fall. I have posted about this simple food growing method before, but it is worth repeating.
The small SIP at the top is a recycled 3-gallon food container that originally held ice cream. The water and oxygen reservoir system is made from 2 sour cream containers and 1 yoghurt container. They could be any recycled food container(s) that fit the space in the planter. They just need to be reasonably durable plastic to hold the weight of the soil.
The larger SIP in the lower photo is a recycled 5-gallon food storage bucket. The water and oxygen reservoir system is made from 2 Costco peanut containers. They are made of very durable clear plastic.
Note that the food container reservoirs have holes on the top and bottom. The holes at the top provide aeration (oxygen to the root system) and those at the bottom allow water to enter.
This is how these simple-to-use SIPs work. Pour water into the fill tube (made from recycled water bottles) until the water fills the reservoirs at the bottom. You will know they are full when you see the first sign of water coming out of the overflow drain tube. Much like an LED warning light, it is the "stop" signal.
There is no need for a connection between the individual food container reservoirs. Water will flow along the bottom of the planter and rise up into openings at the bottom of each container. The planter mix tamped down between the reservoirs acts as a wick system. Water will rise by capillary action and the plant roots will gradually grow down to the water source. These are simple to use and perfectly balanced, hygienic food growing systems.
The material cost (other then the planter mix) of these two SIPs is none and using them for this purpose is a plus for the environment. None is also the answer to the question “What local New York City institutions teach the subject of modern food-growing sub-irrigated portable micro gardens such as SIPs and simplified hydroponics?”
Simple SIPs will grow more healthy, productive plants while saving water and time. There is also no exposure to often-contaminated city dirt. They remove this widespread health hazard associated with growing food in the city.
Incidentally, I will use the same method to make the IKEA recycling sacks mentioned in this post into food growing SIPs.
These micro gardens are an excellent way for individual citizens to learn about growing some of their own food and experiencing the taste of fresh vegetables. Sub-irrigated micro gardens, simplified hydroponics and aeroponics are also an excellent path to the creation of new jobs akin to other trade jobs such as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc.
Thanks to our broken consumer horticultural education, a relatively small number of Americans know about these simple but productive methods that do not require tillable land. The process of educating teachers and spreading the word will eventually produce many new jobs in the food production trades. We need new institutions to do this. Community colleges rather than traditional land grant universities are likely the way to go.