Step 5: The Cup

The cup is what the soil goes into and where the plants grow.

Roots do better in darkness than in light, so they need to be blocked from sunlight.

To do this, I've tried three different materials. I have used a piece of black plastic from a garbage bag, aluminum foil and newspaper. I have found that newspaper seems to work best since it is biodegradable and helps to retain moisture. It is also easy to remove from the cup for transplanting. Best of all, it's the cheapest of the three since used newspaper can easily be obtained for no cost at all.

I put the light-blocking material all the way into the cup, trying to flatten it against the sides of the cup to increase the amount of soil that I can fit in later. Once it was in there nicely, I poked a hole in the bottom for the wick.
<p>Hey there, does the algae growing in the reservoir cause a problem for the plant? I'm considering growing both and stumbled upon this instructable. Would intentionally growing algae in the bottom be detrimental to the plant? </p>
<p>I will be gathering these items for next years garden. I used rolled newspaper for some starter pots, and the plastic containers berries and lettuce are packaged in. built in drainage! </p>
please i would like to know if it is suitable for planting Romain lettuce. is the 2 liter plastic bottle enough to grow such herb?
<p>Thanks! You did a good job. I just spent my afternoon doing it. It was really nice ;) I will post some pictures soon.</p>
Thank you
I don't the print would be a problem but the newspaper seems like it would work like a peat pot. Water a peat pot and within 24 hours the pot itself has soaked up all of the moisture, leaving the roots to dry out. To me, the black trash bag would be the best choice, as it does not soak up moisture and does not run the risk of letting light in.
the trouble with a black trash bag is if the sun comes in the window it can overheat the soil and the plant roots. it's possible it could kill the roots, and the heated soil might dry out sooner as well.<br>FWIW
perhaps i did not read this article clearly but do we put water in the soil or in the reservoir so that the the soil will suck up the the water from the reservoir via the strings?&nbsp; i am not so clear about this.&nbsp; so when we plant the herbs do we fill the reservoir or water the soil?&nbsp; sorry if the questions are idiotic.&nbsp; thanks!<br />
You want to have water in the reservoir at all times. When you put soil in the cup, wet it also. As the water evaporates from the soil, it draws more water up the strings - kind of like priming a pump. Re-moisten the soil periodically.
Great instructable! I really like recycling, but only as long as they serve a purpose. Would it affect it on any way if the whole container was permanently decorated? <br />
Nope. I once made construction paper sleeves to go over the outside of the pots. You might not be able to see your water levels, though.
<br>I first tried out with pebbles at the bottom.then graduated to two piece ones.Now I make two piece ones but with decoupage covering the whole bottle Cant pull out the top part to see how much water there is left. to overcome this problem I have left the flat part of the bottle clear and drilled a hole about two inches from the bottom for the excess water to flow out . The bottles are all placed in a basin of water for a while and once they are full ,they are taken out and left out for the excess water to drain out. I used fabric and jute and also paper napkins to decoupage the bottles. Also mat and bamboo screens.Plan to grow lettuce and herbs, but at the moment I have all sorts of plants.Just one had a problem- the roots found their way into the reservoir because I had drilled an extra hole in the lid for water to drain into the the bottom part .Couple of plants wilted a bit -the soil was dry.Dont know what happened.
Recycling, yay! <br /> <br /> &nbsp;I just made four of these today after having some trouble with my oregano and thyme washing away when I try to water from the top and not staying moist enough in general. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> I left the newspaper out, though. &nbsp;<br /> <br /> <br />
This would be great for seeds like coriander, too.
You can view my sub-irrigated instructable here:<br /> <a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-Your-Own-Growing-Containers/" rel="nofollow">https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-Your-Own-Growing-Containers/</a><br /> <br /> Using the Google search feature with &quot;sub-irrigated&quot;, my instructable was #3 . . . I&nbsp;think yours was #1! My thinking has evolved towards using a five gallon bucket for larger plants, but you could do the same thing on your smaller scale by removing the tapered neck of the clear bottle. Drill a small overflow hole at the desired maximum water height and fill with pea gravel to 1/2&quot; above the overflow hole. This guarantees a crucial air gap between the potting mix and the water reservoir, so over-watering is impossible.&nbsp;Then a piece of Dupont's 15-year landscape fabric is used to keep roots from drowning in the reservoir. Then the bottle is filled with planting mix and is ready to plant. It's important to fully saturate the mix as you go -- any excess drains out the overflow. The bottle should be painted or&nbsp;shaded with a decorative cyclinder. I have ideas for auto-watering too so the water level remains constant. I hope to detail all this in my 2nd Instructable SOON but haven't put it together yet.
Genius!<br />
&nbsp;Thank you so much for posting this instructable, now I have a new home for my Oregano and Rosemary plants :)
Contrary to popular belief, plant roots do just fine in sunlight :)&nbsp;The reason that 99% of pots are opaque is because it helps nurseries control algal growth in their soil. I have over 20 plants in transparent pots, with various exposures to sunlight. All of them are thriving.<br /> <br /> Cheers, <br /> <br /> Tim<br /> <br />
This is really cool! It addresses the problem that recycling plastic isn't very profitable. This way your local recycling center doesn't loose money sorting it, and it still stays out the landfills. Bravo, sir! You've also solved a problem for me.&nbsp;I've been using the bottom parts to catch excess water but a plastic cup for the pot.&nbsp;This way one bottle will make a complete pot.<br />
Did you try a coffee filter?<br />
This is a good idea, well thought out and presented--also some good suggestion and comments from others. Good luck with your big project!<br /> <br /> There are some serious environmental questions about the use of peat moss: look at the whole picture on Wikipedia. It's a question of choice, but you it's always a good idea to look at both sides of the picture.<br /> <br /> Personally, if there's a rational argument regarding environmental issues, I try to find an alternative. Maybe a compost bin and making your own homemade &quot;peat.&quot;<br />
The instructable so nice it was featured twice!<br /> <br /> Cool!<br />
&nbsp;Excellent. &nbsp;Clear, concise, complete. &nbsp;Ideal instruction on the how and why. &nbsp;There are some young children I will introduce to in-home planting with this idea. &nbsp;Thank you. &nbsp; Can you add water to the reservoir via that air hole you make if your watering 'can' had a fine enough nozzle? &nbsp;Say, water pistol size? &nbsp;
Sure you could.<br />
Hey, <br /> <br /> Did you know that it is actually a common misconception regarding roots and darkness? The reason 99% of plant pots are opaque is due to commercial growers preferences. Plant pots are opaque to limit the amount of algal growth that is possible. In a home environment, algae is not likely to bloom in your soil. I have over 20 super healthy plants, all of which are planted in transparent pots. Having a transparent Sub Irrigated Pot is actually very handy, as you can see where the water level is, which allows you to KNOW when to rewater, as opposed to simply guessing. <br /> <br /> Great instructable!&nbsp;<br /> Tim <br />
All I have to say is I am stoked to to try this.&nbsp; Imagine all the applications: genius!
Great post, but may&nbsp;I suggest:<br /> <br /> 1. Use 2 ply acrylic yarn for the wick, it wont break down as fast as&nbsp;natural fibers. Cost - $2-3 for about 40-50 yards.<br /> <br /> 2. Place a copper penny in the reservoir to&nbsp;deter algae growth.
What kind of soil do you use for plant your Venus Fly Trap?
Straight peat moss. Nothing else.
Thanks for the tip, your Fly trap looks healthy. :D
Does anyone know if BPA can leech into soil and then plants from plastic containers? I know this sounds paranoid, but it worries me sometimes.
Probably. It's persistent stuff.
This is a fantastic instructable. It was very clear. I made a different type of self watering planter with plastic milk cartons and I think this will work better. I especially like the idea of the newspaper "cup". That will make transplanting less traumatic for the plant. Thanks.
OMG!!! I'm so doing this tonight. I have some mesclun, cilantro and other herbs I was about to start in Jiffy pots, but hell... this is way awesome.
Great****This saves time and gas. I will keep my recycled bin at home and make my own treasures. Thanks. This made my day +++++++
Cool. I'm glad you like it.
i have been using this model since august for marshmallow, spearmint, and chamomile and i just transplanted them outside. the plants all grew in a window to a few inches and they are doing fine in the garden now.
Whoa! This is awesome! Really, what a great thing for someone like me who forgets to water plants but loves to cook with fresh herbs! It would make a great gift too! Or a project for a workshop!
thank for every body
I'm trying this with mint. First sprouts at 8 days. Cool! But I have a question. I had to get out for a whole weekend. When I got back, the soil was half dry and the cotton wick had some sort of transparent slime on it, is that the algae? I took it off the wick, washed the bottom part twice and re-watered. Mint seems fine now, but Id like to knwo wether someone else had this problem and what to do with it.
Ha Ha on me I should have read all of the posts before I posted my last one someone already suggested something similar to my idea. Oh, well : )~
This is a great idea, and i love the little instructable guy! I do have a suggestion, a way to keep down the algae problem and you can decorate them too! Anyway you could wrap a piece of paper around the base it would block the light and be neat to look at. I would make it removable so you can check the water level or leave some space (don't wrap it all the way around) so you could see the level at all times. Good luck!
I made one of these about a month ago, only I used a strip of white cotton t-shirt coiled through the soil instead. The problem occurred when I let the reservoir run dry for two days, and after adding water again the soil developed mold. When I tried to change the soil I found that the shirt had deteriorated to the point that it could still transport the water to the soil, but I would need to get a new strip as it didn't survive the removal of the old soil. Any ideas for preventing this guys? Thanks.
Great idea-i wouldn't have thought to coil the wick on serveral levels of soil. I was thinking-with a gass cutter,a drill,couldn't you make a more asthetically pleasing version with a colored glass bottle? Might require some minor modifications-but I think it could work.
great idea.. yes the paper is good to keep the roots from direct light, I've exerimented with a similiar project with bottles as a green house without any paper and the roots got exposed causing a growth issue. might I add its best to stay away from paper with color ink, dont want it exorbing into the soil and the plants. as i understand alot of black ink is some how soy based these days, dont know how true that is..so it is less of a problem.. I'm going to have to give this a try for a small herb garden during the colder months to keep me into gardening when the snow hits.. :) a great reusing of resources.. A++
I was looking for ideas to keep my mint plants watered if I go away for a few days, and this is perfect. Plus, its very cost effective to make.
If your mint plants are in pots you can try putting the whole pot in a plastic bag (preferably transparent) and tie up the mouth of the bag. Or you can use a zipper-lock bag. Put it out of direct sunlight but have sufficient light and heat. A micro-climate for the plants will be created in the bag and the plant will thrive. The concept is like for terrariums. You can try and see the results before actually going on holidays. Make sure the soil is not too wet though.
Thanks for the suggestion! I already made the featured project, but I have another little mint plant that will be perfect for your idea.
I'm making a modified version of this using a type of plastic jug that can't be recycled (yet) where I live. Same basic idea it just ends up being shorter and square shaped. And makes use of a material that would otherwise go to the landfill. Not sure how well it will work as I've only just constructed it. Haven't added the potting mix or seeds yet. One thing I did differently was I put a scrap piece of cloth over the drain holes before screwing the cap back on. Then trimmed the excess. The string is then threaded up through the center hole using a needle. The cap still fits snugly and water still drains properly. That way if any dirt gets past the newspaper barrier it still doesn't get into the water below. A couple of cotton balls wadded into the neck of a pop bottle like in the instructable would probably work well as a secondary barrier and do the same job.

About This Instructable




Bio: Just your average handyman.
More by iPodGuy:Installing a ball valve on a Coleman cooler How to make a wort chiller for homebrewing Reuse wine corks to make fun place cards 
Add instructable to: