Making a water trough planter

A welcoming way to break in garden equipment – invite it to a party and put it to work

This wasn’t why we bought the trough, but as a happy coincidence it arrived at our house just before a Big Birthday. Post-Prosecco we put it (and another just like it) to work in another way: growing veggies in our driveway to replace our tiny community garden plots. Here’s how we did that.

This year’s crop included lettuce, beans, cherry tomatoes and loads of basil

We made what’s often called a “self-watering” planter. Sadly, it doesn’t actually water itself – humans (that’s us) need to have a hand in it. How ours worked is that we added a circular water reservoir attached to a vertical tube extending above the soil level. That makes it easy to water, while the large volume of soil retains moisture and gives plenty of room for plants to develop extensive root systems.

Our galvanized water troughs measure 2′ x 2′ x 4′. We bought ours from The Incredible Country Hardware Store (to find one, check the store locator). With some encouragement, two nested troughs fit into our rented minivan. The online catalog lists them under “Animal & Equine” as “stock tanks.” The white plug at the bottom is designed to fit a water hose, but also makes a good drainage hole. We used eight hockey pucks each to raise the troughs off the ground.
Here’s a closeup of our finished contraption. Picture a Big O of the covered tubing around the trough base and the vertical watering tube going straight up. Wormscrews hold the pieces together.
Essentially, this is weeping tile – permeable tubing (this one comes pre-covered in a landscape cloth sleeve to keep soil particles from filling the Big O) that acts as a reservoir for water and allows water to infiltrate from the bottom up.
And here’s the T-connector used to link the circle of weeping tile and attach the upright watering pipe using the type of flange that adapts two different sizes of tubing. Any plumbing supply place could help you there. Then we filled the troughs with (lots and lots) of soil-less mixture.
Even in part shade we’ve been able to produce a decent supply of veggies in the troughs.
Last winter, we also grew an excellent crop of snow!


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