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Topic # 150193 14-Jul-2014 18:57
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I'm building home made versions of the earthbox, which is a self watering system for plants. I want to grow vegetables for us to eat, plus strawberries, tomatoes, that sort of thing. I'd appreciate some help finding parts.

The way it works is water is sucked up into soil by capillary action from a reservoir in the bottom of the container, but it's separated to avoid getting too much soil in the water. There's a good diagram here, which I'll try to include below.

I have some 90L Sistema containers from The Warehouse, I got them on a two for one sale. I have supports, 100mm PVC pipe. The part I'm having trouble with is the rigid screen, which is what the soil sits on.

The two major materials the DIY people seem to use is:
 - The lid of the container. I've tried this, but the plastic of the containers I've chosen is quite bendy making it difficult to work with, and also cracks quite easily when you cut near the edges. With solid plastic you have to drill lots of holes through it, so air can get into the roots of the plants, and to let water come up. Example image here.
 - Plastic grate, as shown on this page by this image. This example uses ceiling tile grate, which is cheap in the US. I can't find anything similar in NZ though.

Can anyone suggest a rigid waterproof plastic or grate that might work well in there? The box size is approx 650 x 400mm. I want to make quite a few, so it can't be super expensive. Perhaps:
 - Some kind of a grate, that can be cut to fit the box
 - Rigid plastic, but that can be drilled and cut to fit the container
 - I thought about thick wire mesh, but it would rust out eventually, and probably not be great to have in the soil
 - Some other creative idea? I considered wood but it would eventually rot, plus treated wood has awful chemicals in it
 - A couple I found are safety flooring and walkway grating, but I suspect they could be pretty expensive

Any bright ideas anyone?






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  Reply # 1088853 14-Jul-2014 20:13
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Hi timmmay, have you had a look at some aquarium undergravel filter plates. Used to be the mainstay of aquarium filtration many moons ago but modern external filters are now more common. In essence they create a space between the bottom of the aquarium and the substrate, so are relatively rigid. I'm not sure of costs or sizes but you may be able to put 2 or 3 together and pick up some second hand.

P.S. they're already "slotted" so water passes through, so no drilling required



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  Reply # 1088870 14-Jul-2014 20:23
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Thanks, interesting idea. Unfortunately it'd cost at least $32 per container, which is more expensive than the containers themselves, making them a bit too expensive I think. Cheap is important in this jury rigged effort! Thanks for the thought :)




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  Reply # 1088895 14-Jul-2014 21:06
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Have you looked into Seratone yet? If you can't find pre perforated sheets, you could easily drill them out in whatever size holes suit the project, and they are firm and plastic too :)



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  Reply # 1088904 14-Jul-2014 21:28
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I've never heard of it before you mentioned it. Looks like you can get big 2400mmx1200 sheets for $89 on trademe, retail more like $200-300. Any building product like that would likely do the job. It's 5mm thick so it's probably pretty rigid, maybe a bit more difficult to work with is all, given all the holes and cutouts I need to do, but possible. A sheet that size should do 6-8 containers. Good suggestion!

I wonder if it'd be worth a trip to the wreckers, they might have something similar.




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  Reply # 1088923 14-Jul-2014 22:17
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PhantomNVD: Have you looked into Seratone yet?

Seratone is one brand of bathroom wallboard IIRC.  It has the shiny waterproof stuff on one site, but the other side is compressed wood fibres that doesn't like being wet.




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  Reply # 1088945 14-Jul-2014 23:16
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If you are going to drill holes what about a piece of core flute. The stuff real estate signs are made from.
You can buy large sheets of various thickness http://www.awardplastics.co.nz/shop/Sheet+Plastics/Corflute.html
o
r recycle real estate signs :)

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  Reply # 1088947 14-Jul-2014 23:22
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That's a great idea. Perhaps 2 layers with the grain running opposite directions for extra rigidity.




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  Reply # 1088963 14-Jul-2014 23:52
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If these will be outside I wouldn't worry about life of subsoil components. The limiting factor will be the life of the plastic exposed to UV. This is like pot plants in the bath. Could you just stick any container with a hole in the bottom in a tray of water?



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  Reply # 1089009 15-Jul-2014 08:25
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grb67: If you are going to drill holes what about a piece of core flute. The stuff real estate signs are made from.
You can buy large sheets of various thickness http://www.awardplastics.co.nz/shop/Sheet+Plastics/Corflute.html
o
r recycle real estate signs :)


Dynamic: That's a great idea. Perhaps 2 layers with the grain running opposite directions for extra rigidity.


Corflute may be the best idea I've heard so far! So long as it's fully plastic and not paper. Is it rigid enough to hold a hold of soil on top?

Bung: If these will be outside I wouldn't worry about life of subsoil components. The limiting factor will be the life of the plastic exposed to UV. This is like pot plants in the bath. Could you just stick any container with a hole in the bottom in a tray of water?


They'll be in a greenhouse, which is UV shielded, and the plastic box is probably UV protected as well.

In theory any container with a hole in the bottom will work at least party. The idea of this is you have a large amount of water available, set up so it doesn't get waterlogged, and the holes you add provide oxygen to the soil which helps them grow.




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  Reply # 1089448 15-Jul-2014 18:46
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Bar-B-Q grill ??? :-)



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  Reply # 1089532 15-Jul-2014 20:29
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ubernoob: Bar-B-Q grill ??? :-)


I need maybe 20 very large, plus they'd rust. Probably not practical.




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  Reply # 1089537 15-Jul-2014 20:36
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timmmay: Corflute may be the best idea I've heard so far! So long as it's fully plastic and not paper. Is it rigid enough to hold a hold of soil on top?

Depending on the weight, I would think you would need to support it in the middle.  That should be easily done, potentially with a round section of PVC piping that can happily sit in the water.




"4 wheels move the body.  2 wheels move the soul."

“Don't believe anything you read on the net. Except this. Well, including this, I suppose.” Douglas Adams



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  Reply # 1089543 15-Jul-2014 20:46
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Dynamic:
timmmay: Corflute may be the best idea I've heard so far! So long as it's fully plastic and not paper. Is it rigid enough to hold a hold of soil on top?

Depending on the weight, I would think you would need to support it in the middle.  That should be easily done, potentially with a round section of PVC piping that can happily sit in the water.


Yeah, I'm planning on five supports, including one central.




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