Why You Should Use Sub-Irrigated Planter Systems

SIPs in an apartment

SIPs are perfect for the urban homesteader

Sub-irrigated planter systems are becoming extremely popular among homesteaders in all parts of the country, and there are many reasons to use them. With sub-irrigated planter systems, plants absorb water from the bottom. When plants receive water in this way, they absorb moisture more efficiently and more evenly. Sub-irrigation also allows plants to develop stronger and healthier root systems because the roots do not become overly saturated with water. This type of watering also pushes salts away from the plant’s soil and allows for longer periods of time between watering.

As spring rapidly approaches, and you’re getting ready to start working in your garden, consider growing some of your vegetables in sub-irrigated planters. Aside from its inherent benefits to your plants, there are so many reasons for all types of homesteaders to use sub-irrigated planter systems.

For homesteaders with large garden areas, having a few sub-irrigated planters will protect more delicate varieties of vegetables and herbs from becoming overpowered by stronger, heartier crops. If you are planting anything that requires frequent and consistent watering, sub-irrigated planter systems are one way to ensure that your crops receive enough water, even in the driest, hottest summer.

For the urban homesteader, sub-irrigated planter systems are a great way to grow plants in the smallest of areas, even on your back porch or balcony. Like any container gardening system, sub-irrigated planters are one way to avoid planting your crops in poor soil. Finally, because sub-irrigated planter systems do not require watering as frequently as conventional methods, you’ll be able to take weekend getaway or business trip without worrying about your plants.

Sub-irrigated planter systems can be purchased online. One reputable and well-known brand of sub-irrigated planters is EarthBox, but planters can be purchased from gardening supply sites as well, including Gardener’s Supply. When purchasing a sub-irrigated planter, make sure that you purchase the proper size for your crops and that the planter includes some means of aeration for the plants.

If you’re feeling handy, you can make your own sub-irrigated planter systems with a few tools and knowledge. While there are many methods of constructing this type of system, here’s one way:

You’ll need:

  • Two buckets or tubs that can stick inside one another; one tub should be at least two inches taller than the other
  • PVC pipe or other tubing that is at least two inches tallest container
  • Small plastic container (like a yogurt or cream cheese container) or a plastic cup
  • Box cutter
  • Drill


  1. With the small tub nested inside of the larger tub, determine the height between the bottom of the large tub and the bottom of the smaller tub. Add 1/8” to this measurement and cut your small plastic container to that height.
  2. Cut a few slits in the small plastic container.
  3. Measure the diameter of your newly cut plastic container. Draw a circle with that diameter on your smaller tub and cut the circle out of the tub.
  4. Drill several smaller holes into the bottom of the smaller tub for aeration.
  5. Drill one more hole in the smaller tub that will fit your PVC pipe through it.
  6. Drill two small holes in the larger tub to allow for water overflow. These holes should be 1/4” below the bottom of the smaller tub when the tubs are nested inside one another.
  7. Place the smaller tub inside of the larger tub. Fill the small plastic container with very damp potting soil and place that container in the hold you drilled for it in the smaller tub.
  8. Cut the PVC pipe so that the bottom end is angled and place it through the hole you drilled for it in the smaller tub.
  9. Fill the smaller tub with potting soil and your plants or seeds. Run water through the PVC pipe until it overflows through the overflow holes in the larger tub.
  10. Water regularly and watch your plants grow, grow, and grow!


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