Today I’m making my first SIP…subirrigation planter. This is the big movement with urban gardeners. Why? Because these little gardens can grow enough produce to feed a family of 5 with very little money and space.

I’m choosing the SIP method this year because we have had no luck growing tomatoes since we moved to this house. We have a lovely backyard but the only area in our back yard that gets full sun is on the old cracked driveway. Eventually we are going to have that driveway broken up and taken away (we already found a cement recycling center!) but that’s not going to happen this year so I had to think of a better way to garden.

The problem with conventional pots is that they have drainage holes in the bottom and you must top water. Not only is this a wasteful use of water but it’s never ending. We had to water the container garden every day last summer just to keep the tomatoes from dying in the intense heat. All that watering leads to washing away any nutrition in the soil and kept the roots too wet. Bottom end rot was a huge problem.

Sub-irrigation planters should alieviate those problems. The magic of SIPs is due to capillary action. You water your plants from the bottom…the water seeps into the soil and the roots reach down to take a drink. This illustration shows how SIPs work.
I plan to create 4 SIPs for my vegetable garden this year. Two will hold tomatoes, one will hold herbs, and the other will start with lettuce now and then squash and cucumbers in a month or so.
I’m starting with four 36 gallon rubbermaid tote boxes. Home Depot had a big sale on these a few months ago, so I bought those four with this project in mind. (Cost = $16)
For my first SIP, I’m using 4 recycled plant containers from the nursery, 2 one gallon water jugs, and 4 plastic water bottles.
The first thing I am going to plant is lettuce. I have an organic mesculan mix. This is actually going to be an experiement because I don’t know how lettuce is going to work in this plantar. Do the roots really grow that deeply for lettuce? Will I have to resort to watering from the top? We will find out. I am more confident with the tomato seedlings I’ll be planting in a few weeks.