Sunday, November 8, 2009

From Salad Bowl to Bowl of Salad: SIPs from Garbage-Picked Olive Garden Plastics

Remember the garbage-picked cloche we used on the sub-irrigated planter (SIP) from Menard's? Found that 15.5-inch beauty on the way out of a graduation party where Olive Garden salad had been served in the #1 plastic bowl. The cloche is doing a fine job, by the way, with seeds already sprouting.

Well that wasn't the only one we got. Art also grabbed a bunch of smaller 12-inch bowls, and these came with lids. So with the smaller version we're going to literally punch things up and make the salad bowl into a salad grower.

You'll see below I cut down the lid to (sort of) fit into the bowl to create a platform for the potting mix. It doesn't have to be perfect--just make sure there's enough room underneath for the water reservoir. How much water you need depends on how quickly your plants will take it up. I'm putting this planter inside upstairs where it will get mondo sunlight but the temps will be cool, around 40 degrees. So it won't be drinking heavily.

Now cut a hole to size in the lid for a trimmed-down liter bottle bottom to act as wicking chamber.
Then use a hot nail, soldering iron, or woodburner to make holes in the lid and wicking chamber.
For this experiment I'm going to try a side-watering approach, so I melted a larger hole and inserted a bit of plastic tubing into the reservoir. Now I can water directly into it via a funnel. I'll trim and tape it up later. In addition, I melted a couple of overflow holes, which also let air in to circulate.

To set up your salad planter, proceed as for any SIP: pack the wicking chamber with wet potting mix, position it in the platform, and add damp potting mix on top. Though we use a ring of fertilizer on our two-bucket SIPs, for these smaller versions I just blend a little organic fertilizer into the potting mix a couple inches below the surface. Then top it up with plain potting mix. I like to water the top before planting seeds.

We're using up leftover seeds, and surprisingly I still have a few of my favorites: Renee's Garden Pan Pacific Greens. In the dead of winter, clipping fresh leaves upstairs and bringing them down to toss for a salad is my idea of heaven.
If if you've got another Olive Garden 12-incher, cloche it up and wait for the magic.