Monday, July 6, 2009

Haiti Container Garden Project

Some people have asked me to go further in depth regarding the container garden project that I contrived (with the help of google) and the outstanding group from Texas A&M executed with excellence. The idea started when Jen and I were visiting the boys. John mentioned that he would like to use the roof of the boys' house to plant a garden to improve the diversity of their nutrition (he would like me to let you know that they eat well, but this can only supplement the excellent care that they are already receiving). We tossed around a few ideas and concluded that it would be a bad idea to place soil on the roof due to drainage, mold, roof leak, and weight issues. Instead it was obvious that containers would be best and we thought that buckets may be our best bet. I took this a step further using the library...I mean, google, and found plans to make self watering bucket gardens. So, here is how it works, a resevoir for water is created in the bottom of the bucket and is filled with water through the 1" pipe. The 3 inch pipe and everything above the resevoir is soil. The soil in the 3" pipe is in contact with the water and will act as a wick bringing moisture up to the plants. Another 1" pipe with holed in the bottom of it passes completely through the middle of the bucket horizontally to provide aeration to the roots. The bucket's water resevoir needs to be topped off only once every few days and the soil will only uptake as much water as the plants need. I'll try to instruct and tell you why/how as we go:

Using a 5 gallon bucket with a lid, the lid is placed on the bucket and a 1.25" (hole towards a side) and a 3" hole (in the middle) are drilled using a hole saw drill bit. Then the lid is cut away from the rim of the lid using a reciprocating saw, or a Dremel with a 1/8" cutting bit (my preference), it is cut so that it will sit snugly inside of the bucket about 3" from the bottom.

Underneath the 3" hole, a 3" piece of 3" PVC pipe with small holes drilled in it will be placed using zip ties. This "cup" is where the soil will touch the water and wick it towards the roots. Through the 1.25" hole, a 18" long piece of 1" PVC will be pushed through, this will be the tube through which the resevoir is filled as needed:

The set will then be placed inside the bucket. On the sides of the bucket, two more 1.25" holes are drilled opposite of eachother and a 1" piece of PVC that has small holes drilled lengthwise on one side is pushed through and the holes turned facing down so soil doesn't come through.

A small hole is drilled in the side of the bucket just below where the lid sits to act as an overflow spout to know when the bucket is filling and to allow extra water to drain in case it rains. The bucket is then filled with soil. After the bucket is full, remove the lid rim, place plastic over the bucket and use the rim to hold it in place. Then poke a hole in the plastic, stick your finger in the dirt, and plant a seed, covering it with soil. For the first week or so, water the bucket from the top to make sure the soil stays extra moist for the seed to germinate, then just keep the resevoir filled. If you have access to fertilizer, you can add about 4 oz of 7-7-7 and 4 oz. of Dolomite to the top of the soil, it will slowly release during the course of your plant's life. We didn't have this, so we used compost that had been made from the food scraps of the two children's homes with mango leaves, etc. In only 3 days we had about 30-40% of the 231 buckets that we made germinating and showing signs of life!

Hopefully this explains it a little better for you, we learned and adjusted as we went, set up a pretty efficient assembly line using about 10 people and were able to construct all 231 buckets in one full day, then filled and planted on the second day. These results could not be accomplished with just any group, we had a SUPER group that worked with determination and intelligence even though they had never constructed one of these before, and I had only made one myself. Special credit also goes to David Cole who by default became our agriculture expert and made a huge difference in our level of success by using his knowledge and experience with planting.



Lani said...

That's amazing! Great job!

Proud Momma said...

Fantastic! Brilliant! Impressive! Wow!

Rachel said...

I'm going to link to this post soon! Thanks for the how-to!

Anonymous said...

Awesome work Tim and Texans!

Grant Buster and Max Buster said...

Check out our nonprofit website devoted to growing food in 5 gallon buckets for developing countries:


Max Buster

Aubrey said...

whoop for Texans!

I love seeing that garden grow- actually tomorrow I'm giving a speech to my accounting class about our experience in haiti. These pictures brought me back...

also, isn't that guy making the bucket cute!? I think I'll marry him. : )