Newbie looking to do first SIP - needs advice

ljbrandt(8)April 3, 2011

After watching the videos on, I immediately caught interest in trying this method on my patio. I'd like to do this as quickly and cheaply as possible using products from local big box retailers. I just had a few questions on which retail products are best.

Here's what I have and need:

I'm getting free 5 gal buckets from a local bakery.

Already have all the tools and pvc pipe/cover.

I have some Scott's Organic Choice lawn fertilizer on-hand (12-2-2). Would this work for tomatoes in this application?

If not, what is the best and possibly cheapest fertilizer? Home depot had some 5-2-2 tomato specific fert. on sale for $3..worth it? Do I even need fertilizer if it is already in the potting mix?

I also need potting mix and this is what I have available to me locally:

Miracle-Gro (non-moisture control), Scott's organic choice potting mix, Sta-Green all purpose potting mix and Jungle growth vegetable/flower stuff. Which works best?

Dolomite? Home depot only had the big bags of gardening lime for $ this okay or do I need something more specific.

Thanks for any info you can give!

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Lj, I would like to make some too, let us know how you do. I have earthboxes which are a larger, and more expensive self watering containers (SWC) Not sure what SIP stands for? I dont know much but I am sure the lawn fert is not going to work. too much nitogen, which is the first number will give you all green growth, desirable for a lawn, for tomatoes, not so much. I am using both MG and Sta-Green. If what you use does not have plenty of Peat you can add some to help with the wicking. There is quite a bit of discussion in this forum and others about growing mix for SWC. I have always used dolomite lime in a box so not sure about what you are looking at. Good luck to you! LInda

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 12:23AM
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Thanks Linda! I belive SIP stands for "sub irrigated planter"
which is just a fancy name for SWCs. I'm going to get some Epsoma gardening lime and some jungle growth flower & veggie mix to use in the bucket. And I'll probably keep an eye out for some 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer.

How is each of the potting mixes working for you? Have a preference between the MG and Sta-Green? I'm hoping not to have to add any peat to the Jungle Growth mix, but I'm worried that the main ingredients in the store bought mixes is partially composted forest mulch (or something like that)

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 11:56AM
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lj - Last year was my first year w earthboxes so I am pretty much a newb myself. Last year I used the mix that came with the EB which (to me) seemed to be all peat moss. I set up other EBs with mostly Peat, ferts, dolomite lime. Got toms before everything gave in to heat and bugs. This year I am mixing MG or Stay Green with bark fines and perlite in a (I think)3-2-1 ratio which is widely used on this forum. Go over to Tomato forum and search Earthtainers and you will pick up Raybos posts. He is pretty much the resident expert on SWC. Also will have lots of discussions about growing medium. I think a lot of them use peat with perlite and vermicullite. Linda

    Bookmark   April 5, 2011 at 12:59PM
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Did alot of reading today - thanks for pointing me in the right direction Linda. I noticed Raybos' 3:2:1 (potting mix/pine bark fines/perlite) mixture seems to be a winning combination. He also recommends using a dupont landscape fabric to prevent the roots from entering the reservoir...but I'm not sure if I'd need this a well with the 5-gal bucket.

On the other hand, a guy by the name of engineeredgarden (or EG), suggested a wicking cup with just a small 7/64" hole drilled at the bottom (for 5gal bucket SWC) and mentioned that less expensive growing media (e.g. MG potting mix) could be used as this would throttle back water absorption/retention which seemed to be a problem with the big box potting mixes.

Thirdly, there was the 6:3:1 ratio of Sphagnum Peat,
Vermiculite & Perlite I saw some recommend. I guess I'll continue to do some more reading to see what works for people in my area.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 1:20AM
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How do you get a wet/dry cycle with these self irrigating planters?

I let my plants dry out before the next watering to allow air to get to the roots etc. and was wondering if this is possible with these planters? If not, is this an issue?

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 7:31PM
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Well, EB says never to let the unit dry out. I had to water my EBs once, sometimes twice a day to keep them from running out of water in the summer, thus, the soil stays evenly moist. This would be a good one for Ray or somebody with more experience than me to answer! LInda

    Bookmark   April 7, 2011 at 10:56PM
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organic wonderful,

SWCs really aren't designed to dry out and yes this is an issue. I've used them for over 10 years with good mixes and the wetness does reduce plant vigor. A plant in a regular pot, will do better than a plant in a SWC that has the same volume of soil mix.

There are 2 advantages to SWCs though:
1. If hand watered they reduce the number of times you must water.
2. They don't drain out the bottom onto your wooden deck, if this is an issue for you.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2011 at 3:21PM
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