Many of us are concerned about food security and where our food is coming from. Much of the world’s food is imported and exported, and big factory farms consistently use only a few different varieties of seeds, which leads to far less biodiversity overall. This means that we are risking losing important heritage varieties of fruits and veggies.
Some of the best ways to combat these huge issues is to ease our reliance on the imported food system by supporting local farmers wherever possible and also by growing your own food. Finding heritage seeds/seedlings and saving your own seeds is also an awesome thing to do too (After a year or two you’ll be able to have a completely self supported garden. Even better is contributing to a local seed exchange so you can share with friends or neighbours and have the advantage of trying the things they have grown in your garden as well.)
Sometimes, if you live in a city though, gardening can be difficult. Space is always at a premium and many people may not even have a patch of ground that they can call their own. Fear not though! There are many options for urban gardening. Many cities have community gardens that you can join. These can work in lots of different ways. Some gardens may provide you with a small patch of land in a local public space that you can take full responsibility for. Others may have a shared space and the gardeners take turns taking responsibility for it and share the harvest at the end of the summer. Other community gardens may work by asking landowners (read:people with houses and backyards) to share their space with someone who doesn’t have one to garden together and share the harvest. Even if any of those options don’t work you can still garden successfully in small outdoor spaces like decks and balconies that many apartments have.
This year for the first time in my life I found myself an avid gardener with no backyard to call my own to garden in. I started connecting with community gardens and became determined to find a way to fit urban gardening into my hugely busy life. I only have a tiny little balcony off my bedroom (It’s 63” x 63”) so I wasn’t working with a lot of space, nor a lot of time. Enter the idea of sub-irrigation planters. They are easy to make – the first one took me about 90 minutes, but as I got it figured out I easily halved that time, and the bonus of them is that they are self-watering. The water is stored in a tank underneath the plant and it encourages the plants to grow stronger roots and grow better overall, because of their consistent access to water rather than depending on me to have time to water my plants. Basically, you build the planter, plant your plants, pour in a bucket of water and let the sun do it’s job.
Here is everything you need to make some planters for your own space:
-One storage container with lid (Mine was a 66L one that was on sale at Home Depot for $5). It’s best if the lid isn’t too rigid since you are going to have to cut it -One Xacto knife -A Sharpie or something else to mark where to cut with -2 yogurt containers (750 g) -A piece of pipe about 6 inches taller than the container (Mine were 2 feet tall) with one end cut on an angle -30 L of triple mix soil
1) Use the Xacto knife to trim the lid down so that it fits inside the container. For me this meant cutting it just inside the second ridge and just having the centre of the lid. If you are unsure leave it bigger and you can trim it down to fit afterwards with scissors. That’s what I did until I figured it out.
2) Lay the two yogurt containers on top of the cut out lid and trace around them with the Sharpie.
3) Next, cut the circles out. Before you do, it is important to make sure that you are cutting inside the circle that you drew. The yogurt containers are going to help support the false bottom (aka the lid you just cut) in the container, so it is important that when you cut out the circles the containers can’t fit through them at the top.
To cut out the circles, cut a ‘+’ sign into the lid in the middle of the circle. Trace the circle you are going to score a curve into the lid, for one of the 4 segments you created, using the Xacto knife just inside the line that you drew.
Then, push that one piece out through the middle and it will just snap off leaving a wedge shaped hole.
4) Repeat this process for the second circle.
5) Trace the outline of the pipe onto the lid. The process for this is exactly the same as with the yogurt containers only this time, you want to make sure that you trace outside the black line since we want the pipe to fit through the hole. Don’t worry if the hole is a bit too big for the pipe because when you put soil in the planter, it will help stabilize it.
6) Now cut holes in the yogurt containers. That’s how the soil will absorb the water. I used the Xacto knife and just cut out triangles. You could also poke holes with a drill bit or an awl.
7) Place the yogurt containers in the bottom of the storage container and place the false bottom with the bias side of the pipe facing downwards in the container on top of the yogurt containers. Be sure to line up the yogurt containers with the holes for them.
8) Place the planter where you want it to be. Once you fill it with soil, it will be heavy, so moving it will be difficult.
9) Fill the planter with soil.
10) Plant things in planter.
11) Pour in a bucket full of water through the pipe at the top and let the plants grow!
View the slideshow below to see photos.