Diary of an Average Gardener

Indoor Herb Garden

– Posted in: Garden Projects

Usually, I have a couple of pots of basil and thyme going in my kitchen window. This year I used up all the basil over the holidays and the thyme leaped off the sill and dove straight into a sink full of hot sudsy water.  One could say it suffered a “clean” death.

I decided to go one step further. I went to my favorite online garden supply store, www.gardeners.com and ordered a mobile self watering planter cart that I plan to use for an indoor herb garden that I can keep inside for now and move outdoors when it warms up (if it ever does).  Well, a happy surprise. the cart that I got was much larger than I anticipated.

mobile_cart

Self Watering Mobile Planting Cart

 

It measured aprox 40 inches long, 20 inches wide, and 30 inches tall.  Luckily, it still fit under the window. I plan to put herbs on one end and start some chard, onions, and tomatoes on the other end.

 

Immediately after opening the box this cart came in, I miss placed the assembly instructions. Fortunately, it was pretty simple. However, one thing I should have done was soak the planting mix before I put it into the cart…..The result was that I had to keep adding water until the mix was completely damp.

floating_pebbles

Floating Pebbles

After assembling the cart, I put the pebbles in the container,  added enough water to cover the pebbles, which to my surprise….floated. The little rocks are actually volcanic.  I guess I added at least 3 gallons of water to start (about an 1 and 1/2 inch of water).

 

Next I placed the wicking fabric over the pebbles and pushed it into the water until it was pretty well saturated. Then I poured the dirt over the fabric and spread it out evenly over the fabric.  That’s when I discovered I should have purchased two bags of dirt.  My local big box stores do not carry a mix that works optimally with self watering containers. The mix needs to be one that absorbs water quickly and has particles that can store moisture.  I am going to do some research so that I can make my own.

potting_mix

Not Quite Enough

 

There was plenty of potting mix to fill a little over half the container.

 

 

 

 

Smoothed out and pushed to one side.

Smoothed out and pushed to one side.

That made it easier to add water until all the mix was wet. Let me rephrase that….not wet, not soggy, not saturated to the point of soaking wet….just damp on the surface.  The mix underneath will be wet enough to pull the roots to the bottom. Just be sure not to let the mix dry out completely. When you see the surface getting dry, add a little water. Don’t be afraid to poke your finger down into the mix. Check to see how moist it is. If the lower mix feels dry or barely damp,  you’ve waited to long to add water.  As this is the first time I’ve used this particular planting device, I’m not sure how often to add water yet. Each phase of growth will require me to re-examine how often to add water. Based on past experience with other self watering containers, I am aiming for once a week for the seed germination phase through the seedling phase. I will adjust if necessary. I’ll keep you posted with pics and observations.

 

As I was waiting for the mix to become damp, I had an Ah Ha! moment.  How was I going to continue to add water once I planted the seeds without disturbing them? I have a self watering flower pot that has a watering tube that extends to the bottom of the pot so that water is absorbed from the bottom up. So I adapted that concept to work in this cart.  Check out my solution.

Self Watering Gadget

Self Watering Gadget

A soft drink bottle with the bottom cut off.  I simply put it in the corner. I lifted the wicking fabric and place the mouth of the bottle directly into the pebbles.

I added water to the bottle slowly It will pour into the bottom of the container as fast as you pour it in. So to avoid a flood under the bottle, pour in water sloooooowwwly.

You can also see that the potting mix is just about all damp.  When I add the second bag of mix, I’ll add another watering gadget to the other end.

For the herb portion of my prepared indoor herb garden,I’ve planted basil, parsley, and spring lettuce in the finished end. As soon as I get more planting mix for the other end, I’m going to start a few tomatoes and peppers. I’ve done some reading on starting onions from seed…..it takes longer than I have. They are slow to start. So, this year I’ll buy spring onions already started.

Lou February 7, 2014, 3:50 pm

OK, I found some seed starter mix that was very close to the self watering container mix. It had a little higher ratio of vermiculite, but the ingredients and lack of soil and ground mulch made it a contender. I found it at my local nursery, Pikes. I’m guessing I might find something similar at Home Depot or Lowes if I look for starter mix instead of container mix.

I’m still going to research making my own. I’ll keep you posted.

I also decided to go ahead and experiment with the onion seeds. I planted them this afternoon.

Lou December 30, 2014, 2:20 pm

I needed to replace some of the “rocks” for the bottom of the cart, so I went to http://www.gardensupply.com to find out what kind of rocks I needed to order…..and sadly, the cart is no longer available. It may be available again, but no time frame was given. So, I have done some research to build one from scratch. Check out this post: How to build a self watering container.

Also, I discovered that the rocks are not volcanic, they are clay. I didn’t think clay would float. Perhaps, it’s because they are so porous.