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How to set up your Easy Self Watering Planter

The Easy Self Watering Planter Setup, Test and Review (Part 1)

Nearly all gardeners have had one of those "Oops!" moments when they've forgotten to water a container plant -- maybe it was a patio tomato or a favorite houseplant. Whatever contributes to our frantic schedules -- whether we're racing out the door to get to work on time or drop the kids off at school, many of us have those days when we just simply "don't have time" to give our green friends the attention they need to survive. Some of us resort to asking others to look after our plants while we're on lengthy business trips or a long-awaited and well-deserved vacation. In those cases, we have to impose upon a friend, neighbor, relative, or -- God forbid -- an in-law or a distracted high school student who thinks your Impatiens or Orchids are native to the Sahara desert! In your haste to leave town, you might even forget to water your own plants, making things especially critical for your them.

Thankfully, there is an easy solution that doesn't involve in-laws! The Easy Self Watering Planter is just what the doctor ordered for busy, watering-challenged gardeners. Whether you frequently take long trips, have a busy schedule or just plain forgetful like the author of this article, this planter can help keep plants in top condition, even if you're not.

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This planter has several features and functions that stand out:
  • Easy-to-find, peel-off instructions on the back of the front label. This also reduces paper waste. When you're done with the instructions, stick them back on, or place them in a spot for safe keeping.

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  • The pre-assembled watering wick and bottom reservoir system make assembly and planting simple. If the water reservoir chute and the watering hole are misaligned, just line them up and gently push into place.

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  • An easy-to-see yellow float can be seen just inside the water reservoir chute. The float allows you to see the current water lever without shaking or turning the planter.

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  • Unlike other self-watering planters, the Easy Self Watering Planter planter has slits in the reservoir top that allow excess water to flow out and air to flow in through the bottom of the planter. This helps to keep diseases under control.
  • The well-placed water reservoir makes it hard to overfill these planters, which could waterlog the roots. Even if overfilled, the reservoir drains easily when the planter is tilted toward the watering chute.
  • The watering chute is too small for most dogs and cats to get at the water or water/fertilizer mix in the reservoir, so they can't drink it all away!
  • The reservoir is large enough to keep the plants watered for up to 4 weeks!
  • The planter comes in a variety of naturally appealing colors.

    This is an instruction guide and review of how to set up, use and maintain the Easy Self Watering Planter. Nearly all of the products used to prepare these test planters can be found at Clean Air Gardening, except for the rock phosphate and potting soil.

    All plants placed into the planter should be soaked in a biostimulant such as liquid seaweed or compost tea, mixed at the proper ratio, before transplanting. The product Great Big Plants liquid compost which has both of these ingredients, was used to soak these plants.

    Use a high-quality, preferably organic, potting mix for your self watering planter. Using a mix with an organic fertilizer already added will help keep the plants healthy. I used a commercial container mix with no fertilizer and added my own plant food mix. First, I added a few cups of organic compost to the soil mix.

    Mycorrhizal Fungi Root Builder was also added to help the plants get started and absorb fertilizer and water more readily.

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    This will also help prevent fungal disease. Next, a half-cup of Liquid Bone Meal organic fertilizer and Rock Phosphate were added to give the plants a long-term food source.

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    If the potting soil being used has a slow-release artificial fertilizer charge and you are wondering if it might harm your plants or soil organisms, don't be too worried. The amount of artificial fertilizer is so small that it will not seriously upset your soil life or cause harm to the plants. Using a cheap, heavy potting soil or "topsoil" in your planter is a bad idea as it could cause drainage issues or breakdown into a soupy mess.

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    Once your soil has been prepared, fill your self-watering planter about half way and then lightly press the soil down. This is necessary to ensure the soil is in good contact with the watering wick. If this is not done, your plants may not get watered properly at first. Only pack down a half-full planter of soil. Packing down all the soil may make it difficult for the plants to grow.

    Then, add the remainder of the soil to two inches from the top of the planter. Now your planter is ready for the plants. You can completely fill your planter if you want to, or you can space out plants and let them fill in later. Always keep in mind, the maximum size of the plants you're planting -- do not over-plant your planter. Dig into the soil and insert your plants where the top of the root ball is about 1 inch below the rim of the planter. Set any excess soil aside. Make sure you have 1 inch of free space at the top of your planter when you're done.

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    Now, fill the remaining space at the top of the planter with a high-quality compost or mulch. Even though this planter waters from the bottom, the plants will still appreciate mulch over their roots to prevent them from getting too hot or dry on the surface.

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    Next, use biostimulant mix you soaked the plants in to water them from the top to make sure the soil is not dry.

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    Finally, move your planter to a location that best suits the plants and fill the water basin.

    Now your self-watering planter is ready to do the rest of the watering for you for up to four weeks.

    Give your plants a good foliar feeding with a liquid fertilizer product such as Terracycle Organic Liquid Plant Food, Great Big Plants liquid compost or Organic Liquid Tomato Fertilizer

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    If you planted cool-season annuals in your planter and it's starting to get hot, just replace them with plants that can take the heat. The other plants won't mind. When you're planting new plants in old soil, give them a fertilizer boost such as Organic Cricket Poop Fertilizer. (Yes, they really sell cricket waste, and it works great!)

    The brown planter has an ornamental Thai Basil and a couple of petunias. In southern, hot climates when the petunias peter out, they can be replaced with a heat-loving plant like Scaevola or Zinnias.

    In the other green planter, I mixed several different herb types for all-season harvesting and color. There are two cool-season annual herbs (Curly Parsley and Dill) and two warm-season perennial herbs (Italian Oregano and Mother Thyme.)

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    These planters would be a great way to grow tomatoes, cucumbers or other vegetable plants that need consistent and even moisture for best results.

    Southern gardeners will be happy to know that this container is nearly fire ant-proof (although nothing is 100% fire ant-proof). The round, smooth plastic edge at the bottom, along with the finely textured side and lip over the top should make fire ants scratch their lousy little antennae in frustration. Let's not forget that there are no holes at the bottom, so they can't get in that way either.

    Once the growing season is finished and cold weather sets in, make sure to keep your self watering planter out of freezing weather to keep it from cracking.

    If you need a larger self-watering planter, see the patio gardening success kit or other self-watering planters.

    This is an ongoing test run of the Easy Self Watering Planter, and an end-of-the-season progress report will be added later this year. So far, everything is working out wonderfully!

    This self-watering planter not only reduces the time spent watering. It also reduces stress levels!

    Happy gardening!