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Self-watering plant pots

Published on August 2nd 2021
self watering pot plants containers
Self-watering containers rushed onto the homeowner's scene in the 2000s to revolutionise the way we care for our plants. Such mechanisms are ideal for aroids and thirsty ferns making it easier to keep track of a plant's needs.
Today we will touch on some advice regarding wick-hydroponics and how to construct them at home.

Self-watering explained

The term describes containers of many shapes and sizes that use a wicking agent to transfer water (and nutrients) to a substrate (soil, PON, LECA, Coir etc.). It encompasses a wick connecting a reservoir of water to a potted plant and ensures the soil stays moist at all times.
Some frequently asked questions:
Can you use plain soil in self-watering containers?
The short answer is, it depends on the soil. If the soil contains the wrong type of bacteria or fungi, the consistent moisture will cause bacterial or fungal rot. Secondly, not all soil mixtures absorb water the same or allow enough air to penetrate. That said, it is possible to use soil in self-watering containers with success.
rockwool hydroponics
Many hydroponic facilities use rockwool to germinate and grow crops.
What is the difference between PON, LECA, Soil, Coir and Rockwool?
These are all different types of substrates used to grow plants. Each differs in its capacity to absorb or transfer nutrients and water. For a better understanding, see the articles below:
A hand holding a knife

Succulent Soil Guide


A hand holding a baby

Types of soil


Do I need to add special nutrients, or can I use any fertiliser?
A fertiliser contains nutrients or plant food. It can come in many forms including, pellets, liquid, crystals, teabags, balls, or plain old compost. Many hydroponic shops recommend an inorganic fertiliser as organic fertilisers (like seaweed extract) encourages rapid bacterial growth and gives off a bad smell. Each plant species will need different quantities of nutrients during its growth cycle. You might be able to get away with a balanced fertiliser (10:10:10), but it is better to ask your local specialist what the best options are.
Does pH really play an important role, and should I be measuring it?
Yes, certain nutrients can only be absorbed at a specific pH. Some plants grow in acidic soil, while others prefer neutral or slightly alkaline. The tapster you use can influence this as well. New unwashed/unbuffered LECA, for example, can increase the pH drastically when first used. It is best to check the pH after making up solutions and every couple of days to make sure it does not go off.
Want to know what others experience was with self-watering? See the posts below:
self-watering container

Creating a self-watering container

The process is easy, in that all you need is two containers (one with a drainage hole and one without) as well as a wick. Many household items can act as a wick.
Here is a list of household alternatives:
  • Nylon rope
  • Jute twine
  • Wool rope/strip
  • Mop strings
  • Strips from old clothes or blankets
You can also opt to buy wicks from the local grocery store. To test how well your homemade wick works, place one end in a glass of water and the other end in an empty glass. The wick should pull water across slowly.
See what Candide gardeners came up within the posts below:
To create a self-watering container, you place the smaller pot with drainage holes in the larger (making sure to leave some space at the bottom for the water). Feed the wick through the drainage hole, so one end is in the water and the other threads upwards through the substrate. Add the substrate and plant. Start with pure water in the reservoir and transition to nutrients after a week.

Is my water good enough?

You might have thought about the quality of your water and if it is a problem for self-watering. That is a very good start, and to learn more about water quality, visit the link below.

Have any questions of your own? Leave it in the comments below.

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