Creating Sub-Irrigated Planters


One of the many lessons Garden Educator, Jacqui Roytman instills in her students is the importance of recycling. She has told her classes that when we re-use materials we are helping to create ecological balance between our carbon foot-print and the environment. In other words, we are building sustainability in our community.

In the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC), Roytman uses rainwater collectors to help water the plants. She also takes the vegetables that have become rotten or were squashed, and then places them in a compost bin. After a while the vegetation turns into compost, which is then used for soil in the garden beds. When spring-time comes around, Roytman gives classes a tour of the UGC and tells them by creating a sustainable garden we are developing a cycle that helps the vegetables grow without depleting too many natural resources, such as water.

Since it is still too cold to hold classes outside in the UGC, Roytman has been instructing her students indoors. IS 364’s middle schoolers have been learning all about indoor planting and germinating seeds for spring planting. Roytman showed Ms. Saccomanno’s sixth graders how to create their own sub-irrigated planters with recyclable materials.

“What do we think of when we hear the word sub,” Roytman asked the class. Many of the students said submarine. “Submarines go below water, and that’s kind of like a sub-irrigated planter,” Roytman said.

A sub-irrigated planter is a container that is self-watering. “This is one way to water plants, but by doing so below the soil line. It is through capillary action that helps the water rise up from the bottom and into the soil,” Roytman said.

Roytman proceeded to show the class how to create a planter with just a plastic seltzer water bottle. The first step is to take off the cap and then measure and mark three and one-half inches from the bottom of the bottle. Once a marking is made in the middle of the bottle, students were instructed to make ten dots around the neck of the water bottle. “These holes will create aeration for the plant. The air spaces allow the water molecules to cling to the roots and up into the soil,” Roytman said.

Roytman asked the class to form a line, and as each student ap-proached, she safely showed them how to use a soldering iron. While Roytman guided their hand over the bottle with the soldering iron, they melted ten small holes at the neck of the bottle and one small whole where they marked three inches.

“The next step is to take scissors and cut the bottle in half,” Roytman said. After the children finished their project, they learned that next week they will be placing soil and planting seedlings into their sub-irrigated planters. ”

Photos by Amanda Moses