Introduction: Wine Box Wicking Planter Boxes

Picture of Wine Box Wicking Planter Boxes

Welcome to my 'ible!!  Over the winter, I aquired a couple of wine boxes from a local wine shop with plans on turning them into decorative planters for my deck.  While browsing around Instructables for raised bed garden box ideas (another project in itself...), I saw a couple instructables that integrated wicking type systems and thought that here in the high desert, that sounded like a great idea.  Well the raised bed garden boxes aren't coming along like I planned.  Since the planting season is well upon us, I decided to use the wine boxes as mini raised bed planters for my patio.  I also decided to incorporate a wicking/self-watering system into them.  I am just starting with lettuce and strawberries to see how well the system overall works for the long haul over the summer.  I figure this will be a good trial for the wicking system for when I finally DO get around to doing full size 4x4 planting beds.

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies

First step was a trip to the local hardware store for the supplies.  I purchased enough supplies for 3 boxes as you can see in the photo.  The below list is what I gathered.  The more you can dig out of your garage the cheaper it will be.  Most of the supplies were purchased and cost less than $20 to fit and fill all 3 boxes.


-Wine Boxes
- A couple feet of 3/4" PVC pipe (lenght will vary based on the height of YOUR boxes of course)
- 3 3/4" PVC caps (not absolutley necessary, but helps keep dirt out when filling)
- 3 3/4" PVC couplers.  I used ones with a smaller threaded male end and a smooth 3/4" female end.
- 1 Roll of Duct Tape
- 1 Roll of 2 mil plastic sheeting 
- Hacksaw
- Silver marker
- Scissors & Box knife
- Measuring tape
- 1 10ft length of perforated irrigation pipe 3" dia.
- 1 bag of organic garden soil

Step 2: Cutting Drainage Pipe and Lining Boxes

Picture of Cutting Drainage Pipe and Lining Boxes

The first thing I did was measure the lenght of the boxes and cut 2 pieces of drainage pipe to fit.  Test fit them into unlined boxes, since the pipe is corrugated you can collapse and pull it wider to get a nice snug fit.  Next, the wine boxes need to be water-tight.  I chose to use 2 mil plastic (2 layers) and used the duct tape to secure the plastic to the top of the boxes (which can be seen in pics further down). 

If the insides of your boxes are rough, you can put in a pre-liner of landscape fabric or something similar, but the wine boxes have pretty smooth interiors.

Lining the boxes is probably the most time consuming part.  I took my time and got nice neat folds in the corners, not that it matters since they are covered in dirt!!

Step 3: Inserting Fill Tubes

Picture of Inserting Fill Tubes

Next, in one of the  two lenghts of corrugated tube, trace a hole using your coupler as a guide.  Place your hole where you think it will be easiest to fill the resivior.  I chose the far end.

Once the hole is cut, insert your PVC coupler.  Insert the 2 lenghts of corrugated tube carefully into the lined box.  Be careful to not tear the plastic liner.

Now you can measure for the lenght of PVC conduit.  You can measure, or you can just put one end of the PVC pipe into the coupler and just eyeball about 1/2" above the top of the box and make a mark with your marker for your cutting point.

Cut the PVC to your desired lenght with the hacksaw and insert it into the coupler.

Place on the PVC cap. 

**If you are placing these in an area that will receive a lot of rain, you will need to drill a drainage hole in one side of the wine box.  The drainage hole should be placed where it will fall into the void of one of the bottom resivior corrugated pipes, about 3/4 the way up the pipe.  Just be sure to waterproof the inside of the box where you drilled thru.  This will prevent them filling with water and killing the plants.

 My boxes are in an area where they will not receive any rainfall so I did not put in drain holes.  I will add them if I move the boxes.

Step 4: Fill and Plant!

Picture of Fill and Plant!

Once the fill tube is together, just fill with the dirt of your choice and plant.

When plants are in, I filled the resivoir about 2" high with water.  You can just look down the PVC pipe and eyeball the amount, or you can do as I did... I cut a piece of a wine cork and stabbed it with a bamboo skewer cut to reach just the top of the PVC pipe.  I stuck it down the PVC pipe and viola!! Instant bobbing measuring device.  Just make sure your water bob goes ALL the way thru the PVC pipe and drainage tube.  When I take off the cap, if the bobber is floating, no water needed, if it is below the top of the PVC pipe, then I know it is time to add water.  If you wanted to get really fancy you could make the bamboo stick just a bit longer and drill a hole in the top of the cap and insert the bobbing device thru that.  Then you don't even need to take the cap off to see the water level.  I would have, but I didn't think about it until typing up this instruction!! I may do that when I get home.. :-)

Here are 2 of the 3 boxes I made with plants in them.

Comments

jclemensberger (author)2015-09-03

It looks like you left out the main component of a wicking bed, the "wicking media". Usually it's gravel, some people use sand, but it goes below the dirt/potting soil and is separated from the dirt/potting soil by something like landscape cloth to keep the dirt from seeping into the gravel area.

I think you've created a planter with a underground water reservoir, and hopefully that will work out fine. But leaving out the overflow tube might result in soil that is always wet, and that kills plants.

But maybe I missed the gravel in your box...my bad if that's the case.

asteadman (author)2014-03-13

I made one! Thanks so much for posting this! Can't wait to scale this up and try some bigger boxes.

As you can see... This one is going gangbusters!

alaaji (author)2013-04-11

Question: Is it necessary to have two pieces of drainage pipe in each box? Would it work with just one or is there an advantage to having two?

star1270 (author)alaaji2013-04-11

Two provides a larger under dirt reservoir for water storage. With only one, you would just need to fill it more often. One could also be used if you were planting something that had a larger root structure, like carrots. I would put the reservoir on say the left, and plant something will smaller roots above the reservoir, then plant the carrots on the right where there would be more dirt, just remember the dirt will be waterlogged on the bottom so you would want to use a taller container so the roots don't rot.

tholopotami (author)2012-04-26

I like the execution and the final result! I intend to do something similar.
A question: . I am not quite sure I understood how the conduit pipes supply water. You fill them with water and then they leek from their ends to the soil? You make any more holes on them? What about the excess water?

tholopotami (author)tholopotami2012-04-26

Do you fill them both?

star1270 (author)tholopotami2012-04-26

I will try to answer both comments...

Both of the corrugated pipes on the bottom? Yes they both get filled. But they are filled with only the one fill tube. The corrugated pipes are perforated with slits by the manufacturer and open on the ends. They are against the side of the wine box, but not water tight. So when you fill thru the one fill tube, the water seeps out that pipe through the perforations (and open ends), through the dirt inbetween them, and seeps into the 2nd tube through the perforations and open ends in it. Hopefully that explains a bit better. I will try to attach a close up image of the perforations in the pipe... The water that is sitting in the bottom will wick up thru the dirt and keep the roots of the plant wet. If you are afraid of excess water, you can put the drain hole in the side (maybe 2-1/2" up from the bottom). When filling, once water starts dripping out the drain hole, you will know to stop adding water. Also, if it rains, any excess water will drain out the hole also so you don't end up with a soupy mess of mud.

tholopotami (author)star12702012-04-26

Now it makes sense. Thank you for your prompt answer.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-04-25

Awesome! This makes for a really cute planter!

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