Is Al's 5 1 1 appropriate for self watering buckets

sciguy191June 3, 2013

I'm sure that there is information regarding this if I were to take the time but I'm shopping tomorrow and so here goes.

I've put together several 5 gallon self watering buckets which I'd love to plant veggies in tomorrow. We're talking tomatoes, bush cukes and beans for sure plus likely some others.

I accidentally came across Al's 5 1 1 mix while researching potting mixes and it really intrigues me. What I have not been able to ascertain is whether it has sufficient capillary draw to self water plants from below with not need of additional watering.

The system I've put together is a bucket within a second bucket with the upper bucket's bottom well perforated with 1/4" holes. There is a 3" net pot projecting downward from the center of the bucket to wick water up from below. I know that many gardeners just go ahead and use one of the standard big box store potting mixes but would like to go with a 5 11 mix if that would work,

Thanks for any informed replies/advice.


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I am interested as well!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 6:39PM
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edweather(Zone 5a/b Central NY)

There is a better mix that some use for the SWC's. It's a 3:2:1 mix of peat, pine bark, and perlite. You'll also need to add quite a bit of lime and fertilizer when you fill your buckets. There are alot of good videos on youtube. Look for the Global Buckets videos and they will show you how to fill them.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 7:47PM
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Thanks Ed,

That makes good sense that one would need a greater amount of fines via the peat in order to have sufficient capillarity. Good tip on the mix and Youtube. for information.



    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 8:10PM
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Hi sciguy,

If it were me I wouldn't go to the trouble of mixing it myself for just 5 sub-irrigated (bucket) planters (SIPs). If you decide to buy bagged mix do NOT go by the product name (i.e. planter mix, container mix etc.) Read the ingredients on the bag. Make sure there is NO top soil...look for peat or coir, perlite, bark. I prefer that it not contain fertilizer/nutrients. Brand names that professionals use...ProMix, MetroMix, Fafard. Be leery of the word 'compost'. Who knows what it is.

There is about 10 years worth of information about sub-irrigation on my blog I have been professionally involved with sub-irrigation for the past 40 years, originally in the interior plantscaping business in L.A.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 12:22PM
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Thanks for the common sense advice. I was able to find ProMix HP fairly close by and purchased that. Reading the ingredients label on MG and a couple other potting mixes sold at the big box stores was very enlightening or should I say not so much as the mystery forest floor material is as number 1 ingredient on each.

Off to your web page now for some actual enlightenment.


This post was edited by sciguy191 on Wed, Jun 5, 13 at 21:52

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 3:10PM
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chilliwin(EU DK 7)

You have already many good feedback.

I would like to share my opinion too. It depends on the SWC features, container size and climatic condition, indoor or outdoor. SWC without a drainage hole is very problematic when accidentally or by rain over-watered the container there is no way to fix the problems as far as I know. For regular container we can use wick to solve the over-watered problem. SWC with overflow feature such as the EarthTainer v. III will be the best, it has overflow hole and it has space between the water reservoir and the medium for air, only the Wicking Basket connected between the medium and the water reservoir. It is an awesome system.

I have used homemade SWC without overflow holes, they are about 23 gallon. I have use medium 3:2:1 (homemade) I do not have problems in the rain, my stem cabbage and chili plants enjoy it.


This post was edited by chilliwin on Thu, Jun 6, 13 at 9:06

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 9:04AM
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