wicking material for self watering containers

et14(7a-VA)March 19, 2011

I have been playing with wicks for use in self watering containers. I have a roll of drain tile sock (4 inch black slotted pvc pipe). This "sock" goes over the drain tile to keep to it clean.

I tested a small piece with a 2 liter soda bottle. I drilled 2 small holes in the bottle cap, filled the bottle with water and turned it upside down on the sock. The sock was as long as the bottle. I propped the sock up so that it was high as the bottle. The sock "wicked" very well.

My second test was with a soda bottle cut in half. I pulled a piece of the sock through the bottle cap opening and tied a knot. I turned the top upside down and stuck it into the bottom half and filled with potting mix. I watered the mix and I have a sweet potato slip planted. So far so good. The mix is moist.

Third test

I took a 1 gallon trade size pot that has a few holes on the sidea and one on the bottom. I ran the sock through the bottom hole about 2 inches. I pulled the sock up the sides of the pot to the top edge. Filled the pot with mix and soaked the mix. I placed the pot into a cut off milk jug and watered from the bottom. This one I planted 5 shallot sets (bulb) in.

So far so good. The sock stays wet to the touch and mix is moist. (shallots shot up about 5 inches in a week).

Fourth test

I took a small planter box, plastic planter from the dollar store which is 6 by 16 by about 5.5 inches deep. I drilled a 1/2 hole and ran the drain tile sock throught the hole. Inside there is about 2 inches of material and outside there is about 4 inches.

I have the planter up on a ledge on the deck. I thought Al had said something about having containers up off the ground a couple of inches. Anyway there is a 5 gallon bucket under the planter to catch the water.

I filled the planter and then soaked the mix and within a couple of minutes the water started draining into the bucket. After a day, I planted some shallots in the planter. The sock has stayed wet and drips form time to time. As a further test, I took a 2 liter softdrink bottle and drilled 2 small hoes in the cap and filled the bottle with and placed in the mix to see what happens. After a couple of minutes after pacing the bottle in, the water started to drip again and the stopped.

Been 2 days now and the bottle sides get sucked in as there is a vacuum as the mix pulls the water. I have refilled the bottle once. Through out this test the drain tile sock material stays wet and drips some but not much.

fifth test

Same planter box as test number three. This time I took a snall drink bottle about 20 oz. I hink and put a small slit in the side about an inch long. Filled the bottle and placed on the mix with slit sidw down in the mix. So far same as test 3. Drain tile sock stays wet and drips into the bucket below.

I think that the material shows good signs of being a good wicking material. Next test will be with the botlle underneath with the wick going from the bottle up into the planter.

Well what do you guys think?

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think we have another mad scientist at work/play! Keep up the good work & keep reporting what you find. I'm certain you're learning things that are helpful & getting a more intimate feel for how water behaves in soils ..... which is only going to play out as being decidedly in your favor!


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:32PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

What Al said!!

Can you post some photos of your trials?

Looks promising for SWC application!


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:58PM
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jwahlton(9B Kisimee)

Sounds interesting. Please update!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:00PM
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Test#1 completed The drain tile sock appears to wick very well.

Test#2 Continues to go well. The sweet potato is growing and is about 2-3 inches. It gets moved outdoors and the weather permits. This week will dump the water and fill with fresh.

Test#3 Completed and went well. The shallots were removed and transplanted in a raise garden bed. They were about 7 inches tall when transplanted.

Test#4 Continues very well. The drain sock continues to pull water from the planter. The 2 liter fill bottle continues and soil pulls the water as needed. This planter has stayed outside on the deck.

Test#5 Wind blew the small 20 bottle away when it was almost empty. Worked well when it was there. wick continued to pull water from the mix.

So far the drain tile sock material appears to be working well. The material is made of 100% polyester fabric.

I will continue the tests and add some more as time goes on.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 9:18PM
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I started using SWC wicks made from synthetic mop material last year with very good results. I use the same mop Al Tapla recommends for wicking excess water out of containers (Mainstays brand at WalMart). I like them in my bucket SWCs because it's easy to adjust the amount of wicking (even after plant is in place) by adding or removing wicks. This year I want to try using binder clips to temporarily 'cut off' wicks until they're needed. I also like the fact that the soil buckets remain flat on the bottom so it's easy to move them around, work on, sit on the ground without worrying about crushing a wicking cup. I use my SWC's as top watered containers at first (until the plants get well established), and the wicks really help drain excess moisture out at the early stage. Peppers and Eggplants did best last year with 2 wicks, tomatoes in 5 gallon buckets 4, and cucumbers needed 8! (possibly more-or a better wicking mix).

Keep up the experiments!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:20PM
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