Here at YUF, one of things we’re becoming more and more excited about are self-watering containers – containers that have a reservoir of water built into the bottom of the system. There are numerous advantages of self-watering containers which we’ll get into below, but first, a primer on what self watering containers are and how they are different than regular containers.
What Are Self-Watering Containers?
Self-watering containers can be any size and shape, and feature a water reservoir for the plants. It also features some sort of wicking material to transport the water from the reservoir to the soil medium, and also an aeration screen to ensure the roots have enough oxygen and to keep the roots and soil separate from the reservoir, and from getting waterlogged.
Typical Container Gardens
Container gardening offers many benefits (small footprint, portability, flexibility, aesthetics, controlled growing environment, etc) for home gardeners and are a popular choice no matter where you live or what space you have to work with. One of the most common challenges we hear with container gardens is the challenge of keeping them adequately watered. Let’s face it – with so many competing pressures for our time and energy, sometimes we don’t want to or have time to go out and water our plants every day or even several times a day. And what if we go away for a weekend or extended trip?
With many containers, water/moisture retention is an issue with water seeming like it runs straight through the container. This causes the plants to dry out quickly and as a result, some people rely on a shallow watering technique (watering more frequently but with less water). Unfortunately this creates other issues, not to mention all the time it takes to water your plants daily or several times a day. The main reason why shallow watering is not recommended is that it encourages shallow root systems, which results in constant fluctuations in moisture, a poor foundation to support larger plants like tomatoes, inconsistent fruit development and not making use of all the available nutrients.
The flip side of this equation is deep watering, which adequately moistens the entire soil medium so your plants get enough water to promote deep root growth and good production. This is the recommended method for watering containers, but does suffer from some of the drawbacks of containers, namely that they can require frequent (daily or even multiple times per day) watering, especially in the hot and dry summer months. Deep watering can also start to flush nutrients from the soil, though many containers get new compost added each year to ensure a high nutrient content.
The Solution – Self-Watering Containers
Self watering containers use a combination of a wicking system and evaporation to ensure the soil medium stays moist and provides enough water to the plants. As the plants absorb moisture from their roots and lose it through evaporation from their leaves, this creates a “transpirational pull” where the plant can have a continual source of water, allowing it to grow continuously and at peak performance, In addition, because it is a closed system, rich soil nutrients and water are not lost to the ground, ensuring healthier, more vibrant plants.
Container gardens are perfect for those with a busy lifestyle and those who don’t have time to water every day. This is especially true for those who want to grow food on their balcony, deck, or patio, which often have great temperature changes, windier conditions, and generally tend to dry out faster.
Anecdotally, self-watering containers produce higher yields with less effort than traditional container gardens or even typical in-ground gardens due to the optimal nature of the growing media, moisture retention, and controlled growing conditions.
Like all containers, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your growing requirements and esthetics, can be reused for many years, and produce excellent results. Try one for yourself – you won’t be disappointed.
Advantages of Self-Watering Containers
- water less often (up to 1 week depending on the size of your reservoir/environmental conditions)
- flexible watering schedule (water anytime without worrying about the time of day or over watering)
- generate higher yields of vegetables
- ensure plants get the exact amount of water they need
- requires less fertilizer, eliminates a one-time quick setup at the beginning of the season
- available in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colours
Considerations of Self-Watering Containers
- more expensive than typical containers
- you still need to water your plants on a regular basis
Like all vegetable growing endavours, you will still need to make time to tend to and care for your plants. After all, part of the joy of growing your own food is being able to pick that fresh tomato still warmed by the sun for your summer salad, or being able to cut fresh herbs to spice up your meals. With self-watering containers, you’ll enjoy all the benefits with even less work than before. Check out our self-watering planters available in the YUF store.