Self Watering Wicking Buckets

self watering wicking bucketsI wanted to grow even more outside the greenhouse, especially some melons. What I have read about doing melons hydroponiclly is that it isn’t very economical. They drink up quite a bit and each plant only produces a few fruits. But like I said before I’m not into lots of work. So I put together a wicking bucket system that waters itself. It’s in line with the wicking containers from earlier posts but instead of filling each bucket when needed, all the buckets are connected to one reservoir barrel that I fill once in awhile (depending on the weather). Sort of like a hydroponic ebb and flow system but with out the pumps or need for electricity.

self watering wicking bucketsWicking Bucket Set Up

Each wicking bucket is made up of two buckets actually. The bottom bucket is drilled out for a 1/2″ grommet about 2″ up from the bottom, then fitted with a 1/2″ drip line T or elbow. The top bucket has a hole drilled out the bottom for a 3″ net pot that you use for hydroponics. Then connect all your buckets together using 1/2 drip line tubing. All you buckets will connect up to your control bucket. I also drilled a small hole in the bottom bucket just below where the bottom of the second bucket would be for air.

Just need one bucket for the control and you will drill a hole for a 1/2″ grommet just like you did for the other lower buckets, important its at the same height as well. Install your T or elbow and connect it to your line of buckets with another piece of 1/2″ drip tubing. In the control bucket you will also drill another hole about a third of the way up for a float valve. Then with drip line or other 1/2 tubing (I used a more flexible tubing I had laying around for this) you will connect the control bucket to your reservoir barrel. Be sure you have a lid for your control bucket to prevent evaporation.

For the barrel you will need a bulkhead fitting with a 1/2″ barb bulkhead fitting with a 1/2″ barb installed towards the bottom so you can connect the tubing to it. I also put a ball valve inline incase I need to shut the flow off.

Final Adjustments

Now you fill your barrel with water and make adjustments to your float valve. You want to adduct your float valve so that it shuts off the supply when the control bucket has water to about 1/4-1/2″ above the bucket feed hole. The cool thing about gravity is that ager will flow out your feed line and fill all your buckets until they are all at the same level. As your plants drink up the water and lowers this level your float valve in the control bucket will kick in ad top of the water. So you only have one place to fill up and you should only have to do it once a week or so depending on how many buckets, how big your barrel is and how hot the weather gets.

When you are ready to plant a bucket you first pack in some potting mix (important to use potting mix and not potting soil) in to your net pot in the bottom. Then add potting mix to your bucket about 2-3″ at a time through soaking each layer as you go, leaving a could inches from the top for mulch. You can plant seeds or an already started seedling but either way you will want to top water for a few days to a week to get the roots going and to help start the wicking action. From there on out your system should be on autopilot. I didn’t put in all my plants at once so on the ones that were empty I left the soil out and put a bucket lid on to prevent evaporation again.

self watering wicking bucketsI have a total of 11 buckets connected to a 35 gallon barrel right now and built it in two stages. That shows how well you can expand this as you go. Just change out an end elbow for a T and connect more buckets. The important part is that all the buckets are on the same level as each other.

So far I have a tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon and a pumpkin going.

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