Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Travel SIPs (aka Portable Microgarden): An Experiment
We're hitting the road and I want to see if we can get our daily greens from a couple of quickly made travel SIPs. Is it obsessive to want all the nutrients of New Zealand spinach, chard, collards, tatsoi, and cress while we wander the wilderness?
I don't think so.
For guidance, I asked Bob Hyland at Inside Urban Green, whose sub-irrigated window box + salad bar SIP concepts intrigue me for next spring. He coined the term "portable microgarden" and it's truly descriptive.
I already had these years-old Earthbound farm spinach boxes, and I found a sturdy brown plastic carrier that will allow me to lift them in and out of our camper easily (you don't need a carrier unless you want to move around a couple of these at once).
The guys at the tire shop provided the plastic drink bottles, which I made vent holes in, for water and air (mine might be a little large, but as with most SIPs it doesn't really matter). Then, two larger holes for the fill tube and the overflow.
The soldering iron I used made it easy to line up/melt the overflow hole on the container right in line with the exit tube. Below are my results. On the right I centered the bottle and it's a bit unstable (see the fill tube tipping to the right?). On my second attempt, at left, I nestled the bottle into the corner instead so it stays in position.
Once I packed these with damp potting mix, though, it didn't seem to matter.
Next I turned to the cool-weather greens I'd started a few weeks back in some of our bucket SIPs. Here are some nice-looking young collards, perfect for transplanting into the travel SIPs.
Happily, Bruce and Chef Art had popped up to the roof, where I was working, for a surprise visit. As we thought about the new travel SIP they suggested I dig down and lift a chunk of soil, root, and plant, transferring the whole handful to the travel SIP.
I top-watered these babies (for the trip I have a funnel that fits into the fill tube) and left them out in the nice overcast day to settle in. As we travel, they'll move with us, inside on road days and outdoors in the cool sun when we pause. And I'll clip clip clip for greens.
Quick-ref instructions, courtesy of Inside Urban Green:
1. Poke some small holes around the circumference of the bottle for air and water circulation (like the perforations in the corrugated drain pipe).
2. Add a piece of plastic tubing for a fill tube (or use something recyclable from the trash).
3. Make an overflow drain hole in the box and connect it to the bottle with a piece of (clear) plastic tubing.
The overflow drain hole is a primitive valve that determines the capacity of the reservoir depending on how high you install it in the reservoir.
Click here for a step-by-step on how to plant your personal microgarden.