THE SIP.tech SUB-IRRIGATION SYSTEM
Our patented self-watering system is called "SIP.tech" - named after our Sub-Irrigated Planter technology!
The SIP.tech self-watering system allows for the watering of veggies (or any other plants) from the bottom up, by the 'wicking' inserts in each garden. Each one-square-foot SIP insert contains a flat surface and a sunken 'well'. It's unique and patended design not only creates a clean separation between the soil and the hidden water reservoir below, but also allows water to move naturally through the well and up into the soil via capillary action - the natural drawing up of water through the wicking agents in the soil.
Each garden’s water reservoir is safely contained within the garden by a specially-selected, technically-woven, foodsafe and waterproof liner. This liner creates the ability to have a water reservoir inside the planter and, by design, covers and protects the inner walls of the planter, significantly prolonging it's life. The water reservoir is filled by pouring water into the WaterStem which sits vertically in the garden, leaving the top few inches exposed and covered with a removable StemCap. Finally, the amount of water in the reservoir is measured by a FloatGauge which bobs inside the StemPipe, and indicates the water level down inside the reservoir at any given time.
This is the perfect environment for veggies to grow as the plants' roots are able to access just the right amount of water they need - all day every day - without want and without waste. This makes for a plant that is happy, healthy, not stressed - and is able to grow to it's full potential because of it!
The water reservoir holds 7 litres per square foot, or in other words - per 'SIP' insert, which is 12" x 12".
Example: A garden that is 1ft W x 3ft L holds 21 litres of water. That's a lot!
A Garden with a SIP.tech irrigation system use less than 50% of the water used in traditional top-watering methods.
The maximum effective soil depth to get the most out of SIP.tech's capillary action is 8-12". If the soil depth is beyond 12", then the soil starts to get drier the higher you go. The soil depth we use for CondoFarm gardens is 8” and for larger custom garden styles, it's 12".
8" of top soil is enough to grow almost any veggie you could think of... from indeterminate tomatoes to pumpkins. A ready source of nutrients (good soil) and consistent moisture levels (self-watering) are really what are most important. Root systems change when there’s a constant water source. They do not need to reach deep down to find water.
Deeper planters can be used for trees or shrubs, in 16-20" of soil, with the additional soil supporting the larger plants weight - and the SIP.tech system providing consistent water supply to the lower 12".
PREPARING YOUR GARDEN
There are three major factors to consider in the placement of your LifeSpace Garden.
- Sun: Most vegetables thrive in 6-8 hours of sunshine. Take into consideration trees, buildings and other sources of shade that may affect the light your garden receives.
- Level Ground: The SIP.tech self-watering system relies on a level surface for the wicking system to work properly. After you’ve selected your location, place a level on the ground where your garden will sit. If the ground is not quite level, we can easily help you with custom installation or instructions for leveling.
- Convenience: Make sure your garden is in a place where you can most enjoy it! What space do you spend the most time in? Can you see your garden from there? LifeSpace Gardens have presence and style, and being surrounded by the vitality of plants has many health benefits.
Most garden vegetables thrive in 6-8 hours of sun. However, there are shade tolerant veggies that you can still grow even in less than 6 hours of sun. Take into consideration trees, buildings and other sources of shade that may affect sunlight. Plan a day to monitor the sun, check every few hours and make note of how much sunlight reaches your selected spot. This will inform your decision on what vegetables to grow.
The SIP.tech self-watering system relies on level ground for the wicking system to work properly. After you’ve selected a location taking into consideration sunlight, place a level on the ground where your garden will sit. If the ground is not quite level our team can help you with custom installation or instruct you on how to level your LifeSpace Garden.
Our Patio & Balcony series are designed specifically with condo balcony restrictions in mind. Each garden is lined with a technical weave, foodsafe and waterproof liner, keeping the soil neatly contained and water exactly where it should be. The reservoir is filled directly through the WaterStem with a hose, jug or watering container to assure a spill-free process. All excess water is directed to the OverFlow spout which can easily be hooked up to a hose, or have any overflow contained by placing a small bowl underneath.
INSTALLING YOUR GARDEN
Wicking Medium Installation
Why? The wicking medium is necessary to help absorb water from your gardens reservoir up into the soil above, through capillary action.
How much? Add a scoop (approximately 400mL) of wicking medium to fill the center contact point of each SIP.tech.
What? Suitable wicking mediums include:
- Peat Moss & Coconut Coir mix
- Container Blend or Potting Mix
Why? To be successful in your garden, it all starts with growing in a strong foundation of organic soil to keep you producing nutritious vegetables year after year.
How Much? Each square foot of your garden holds about 25 Litres of soil. Fill the garden to the top of the cedar edge, as the soil will settle down an inch or so after installation to the depth of the inside foodsafe liner.
What? We recommend using high-quality organic Container Blend or Potting Mix such as Container Complete by Sea Soil or MySoil Organic Potting Mix, available at local nurseries or GardenWorks locations. To build your own lightweight, nutrient rich soil see our recipes below.
Soil Mixture Recipes:
- 1 part organic compost or well-rotted mushroom manure
- 1 part peat moss or coconut coir
- 1 part vermiculite
- 1 part organic compost
- 2 parts peat moss or coconut coir
- 0.5 parts perlite
- Top Water Before Planting: top water the soil of your garden slowly and deeply to saturate. This kicks in the SIP.tech self-watering system. Let rest overnight. If you plant with seeds, you will need to top water for about the next 2 weeks. Once the seeds develop roots, they will be able to utilize the self-watering system for retaining water, and no more top watering is required.
- Fill Reservoir: Fill the water reservoir by pouring water in through the WaterStem pipe. The reservoir is full when water starts coming out of the OverFlow valve.
- FloatGauge: Keep an eye on the FloatGauge and fill the reservoir when the Hummingbird sits flat on the StemCap, indicating there is no more water in the reservoir below. Refill again until water begins coming out of the OverFlow valve. The Hummningbird will rise up 3" to show that the reservoir is full once again!
- Planting: Time to get planted! For our Veggie Database and seasonal Growing Guides… see our website’s Garden Help section.
MAINTAINING YOUR GARDEN
LifeSpace Gardens require significantly less maintenance and watering than traditional gardens. The amount of time between water reservoir fills varies - on the size of your garden, weather patterns, and your unique space - which means it could range from a couple days to months between fillings.
Each square foot of every LifeSpace Garden holds 7 litres of water - and the larger the garden, the less often you need to fill.
Just keep an eye on the FloatGauge and it will tell you exactly when to fill. When it sits down low and is no longer bobbing it is empty. By the end of a season, you will get to know your LifeSpace Garden’s unique personality and its exact watering needs.
If you happen to over-fill your garden’s reservoir, the water will simply begin dripping out of the OverFlow, as a kind of fail-safe drainage. Under-watering may occur when your garden’s water reservoir is left dry and plants cannot absorb moisture from below. To avoid allowing your garden’s water reservoir to dry out, keep an eye on the FloatGauge and remember to fill up when it sits low. If this occurs, you will need to refill the reservoir and then top water for a few days until the soil is again primed for capillary action self-watering.
The SIP.tech's water reservoir can be connected to any water source, such as a downspout, rain barrel, plumbing, or filled through our easy WaterStem when the FloatGauge indicates it’s low or empty.
The SIP.tech self-watering system depends on level ground for the wicking system to work properly. Place a level on the ground where your garden is located to see whether it is level. If the ground is not quite level, we can easily help you with custom installation, or instructions for leveling your garden. Make sure your reservoir is not already full by checking the FloatGauge - remember that any rainwater is also captured by the reservoir, and can fill your garden for you!
If the weather drops below zero, it may cause your water reservoir to freeze. This will not impact the quality of the system or damage any components. The components of the system are put together to allow for flexibility and movement. Once the water thaws the system should function as normal.
LifeSpace Gardens experience much less soil compaction than traditional methods, as the soil is never stepped on, and there is no need to dig up the ground as you grow. Due to rain washing through your soil and your hungry veggies, you will find that you will lose a couple inches of soil per growing season.
So expect to top-up your soil by a couple of inches with organic matter every year. We recommend home composting to reduce household waste and fill up your LifeSpace garden! Follow best practices for ensuring your compost is fully ready to be used for gardening before mixing it in.
Each 1’ x 1’ SIP.tech clips together to creates a clean separation layer between the soil and water reservoir. It is advised to use vermiculite in the centre cup of each SIP.tech to keep the system clean. However, even with some mixing of soil and water, the wicking system is designed to continue functioning properly, so you don’t have to worry about soil clogging and preventing the self-watering system from working.
LifeSpace Gardens are built to last, so even our large garden styles will survive the winter. All of the elements of your Lifespace Garden both internal and external are resilient against the weather. Cedar is native to the West Coast and is accustomed to our winters, it does not need any extra protection from the cold. If you live in the coastal regions of British Columbia, your fall veggies will be done around early November. Pay attention to the frost dates in your region - once the frost hits, it’s time to get your Lifespace Garden ready for winter. If you choose not to grow over the winter, here are some tips to provide extra protection for your garden:
If you wish to prolong the life of your garden covering it with a tarp, BBQ cover, or wood board is a good idea. This will also help protect the stain, meaning there will be less need for touch ups and you won’t need to re-stain your garden as often.
For our CondoFarm series of gardens, we recommend pulling them back under the roof line and against your house to further protect plants and the cedar box from intense winter rains.
DRAIN WATER RESERVOIR
If your garden is under cover, we recommend draining your reservoir. If it is not under cover, your reservoir will drain and refill naturally with the rain - this is absolutely fine. The foodsafe liner, SIP inserts, and Cedar Box will micro flex and bend with the ice and the rain - without cracking or breaking. However, a good clean of the reservoir with Enzyme Complete or a light soap is recommended, as pests and disease can overwinter in your reservoir.
It is so important to clean up your garden after your fall veggies have ended their cycles. Pests and disease can over winter in the soil. Make sure you clean up the debris and decaying plant matter and do a thorough weeding to ensure your garden will not carry anything into the next growing season. An Enzyme Complete cleanse of your soil is recommended.
If you choose to overwinter your garden, here are some tips to protect your crops:
MULCH: Mulching your garden over the winter is a must, especially if you plan on growing through the winter months. Also using cold frames, cloches or row covers will extend your harvest into the winter months.
Mulching is used to slow the temperature changes in the soil, and not necessarily to keep the soil warmer. The soil will still freeze, it will just happen at a slower rate. This will prevent shock to root systems if you are overwintering veggies. Using a thick layer of leaves on your garden is the easiest and most cost-effective mulch. It also provides a wonderful nutrient fix come spring. Gather leaves from your neighborhood and spread over your garden - be sure to pile it up around the plants you intend on overwintering. If you do not plan on keeping veggies growing over winter, wait until the ground freezes to prevent rodents from burrowing. Other mulching options include cardboard, straw, bark chips and sawdust.
MOVE UNDER COVER If you have a CondoFarm garden, roll it against a wall or under cover to give a little extra protection for your plants. If you live in a colder climate, extending fall veggies may not be an option. Check for your areas climate "zone" and follow best practices. It may well take a little experimentation to see what works best for your space.
CROP COVERS Overwintering crops in colder climates presents more of a challenge, and we absolutely suggest doing some experimentation. However, cover crops may be a more achievable option than edibles. Some cold weather cover crops include fava beans (hardy to -17), winter field peas (hardy to -23) and crimson clover (hardy to -23). Avoid planting garlic and fava or broad beans together, it will stunt growth!
- WHAT TO PLANT If the plan is to grow food over the winter, there are a few options. Endive, radicchio, spinach, bok choi, radish and mustard greens are great examples of crops that you can plant mid-october and protect for a winter harvest. Brussel Sprouts become sweeter the colder it gets, they can tolerate -10 for a couple of days, and if planted in the fall, will be ready for Christmas. Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower will also overwinter in coastal climates, ready for a January or February harvest. Just get them in the ground before the end of September, so they can establish a healthy root system for the colder months. Broad beans will over winter and be ready for you come early spring. Choose a dwarf variety, especially if you live in a colder climate, tall and tender plants will not survive. They are also a nitrogen fixer, adding nutrients back into the soil for your new season of planting.
We build LifeSpace Gardens with sustainability at the forefront. The cedar we source takes a long time to grow, so we make it our mission to build your garden to last for years and years. Just as you would do with a deck or fence, refinish the Garden every few years to help them last to their full potential. Your LifeSpace Garden will become as much a part of your family as your home.
Everything we use to build your garden has been designed to withstand the elements. With that being said, over time you may find that the finish of your garden will begin to wear... this is unavoidable. At this point you can apply a new exterior stain to your garden, or you can allow it to weather naturally. Do to the quality of the cedar we use, the exterior stain finish we use is almost entirely for aesthetics.
Check out our carefully laid out Growing Guides designed specifically for LifeSpace Gardens and featuring plans for each season to help you plant and grow ingredients to your favourite recipes!
Follow the Growing Guides link to explore all of the plans plus helpful tips and info in our Veggie Database.
The majority of vegetables grow better in SIP.tech self-watering environment than they do in traditional containers, with the exception of some herbs like dill and cilantro who prefer fairly dry soil conditions. Most plants need more water than is available in a traditional container, and they don’t like the constant cycle of wet to dry.
Here is a list of vegetable and herbs that absolutely thrive in self-watering conditions:
There are many shade-tolerant vegetables that will still grow well, provided they receive at least 4 to 6 hours of sun a day. Some of the best vegetables for a partially shaded area are:
The SIP.tech self-watering system waters plants from the bottom up, which builds resilient root systems and healthy plants. The gardens are contained, and when combined with nutrient rich organic soil, it greatly minimize weeds, soil compaction, and conserves nutrients from traditional methods.
LifeSpace Gardens are designed for square foot gardening methods which reduces the wasted space of traditional gardening so that weeds don’t have the space to compete and gardens can produce very high yields in a small space.
Absolutely. We’re just really big on helping people grow their own food. So that’s what we always suggest. But any flower will reap the very same benefits of a sub-irrigated, self-watering environment!
LifeSpace Gardens are designed for high-density growing. By using Square Foot Gardening methods, your garden can produce very high yields in a relatively small space. Using this method can help eliminate wasted space used in traditional row gardening, which can also leave space for weeds to compete.
LifeSpace Gardens use only 20% of the space of traditional methods to produce the same amount of food!
One 4’x4’ Heirloom garden can produce enough greens for a salad for one person every day of the growing season.
To illustrate what this looks like, here is what can be produced in a single 4’x4’ Heirloom in one spring season:
Two 4’x4’ Heirlooms can produce a salad and daily supper vegetables for one person.
Three 4’x4’ Heirlooms can produce a salad, daily supper vegetables, and enough left over to preserve.
The design of our gardens and the SIP.tech self-watering system helps protect plants from the added pressure of balcony heat and wind. All of our CondoFarm models can be mobile on strong, low-profile wheels, allowing the balcony farmer to move their garden easily underneath the roof line on exceptionally hot or windy periods, or adjust their location to best suit the seasonal position of the sun.
We suggest planting heat-loving plants if you are on a southern-facing balcony (tomatoes, peppers, basil, cucumbers, herbs) and shade tolerant plants if you are on a northern facing balcony (lettuce, spinach, peas, arugula, radish, broccoli).
To prevent pests, follow these tips:
- When buying plants at the nursery, check the undersides of all leaves for infestation before buying and bringing home.
- Attract beneficial predators like ladybugs, praying mantis and green lacewing to the garden to feed on pests by planting flowering foods like sweet clover, white alyssum, nasturtium, yarrow, fennel, chervil, coriander, morning glory, and caraway.
- Mix up plantings to encourage biodiversity and practice crop rotation.
- Specialized crop protection or crop covers is your best defense against larger pests like deer, raccoons, and skunks.
Common pests and removal tips:
- Aphids: Hot pepper wax or garlic spray on plants will help repel aphids. Yellow sticky traps capture aphids during winged phase. After they have arrived, a spray of water directed at the underside of leaves can help with removal.
- Cabbage Worms: Cover brassicas with lightweight row covers. (Brassica is a genus of plants in the mustard family including cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and turnip). Those cute little white moths with small black spots are the culprit - they are always on the hunt for places to lay their eggs!
- Colorado Potato Beetle: Check undersides of leaves for bright orange eggs and crush them. Handpick any adults or babies and remove.
- Cucumber Beetles: Cover cucumbers with lightweight row covers, removing for 2 hours in the morning a couple times a week for pollination to occur.
- Earwigs: Trap in moist, dark places like moistened, rolled up newspapers left overnight.
- Flea Beetles: Keep plants well pruned, take off old, wilted leaves around stems, and dispose of all organic waste away from the garden. Cover susceptible plants with a lightweight row cover.
- Snails and Slugs: Raised gardens generally won’t experience slugs. If these pests reach your garden, surround garden with sawdust or crushed eggshells to prevent infestation. Planting a small mason jar of beer with an inch left at the top will attract and drown slugs.
- Tomato Hornworms: Handpick and remove.
LifeSpace Gardens are lined with a specially-selected, technically-woven, foodsafe and waterproof liner. It is 100% safe and approved for growing food. We offer wood finishing stains that are pet and human-friendly, and/or all-natural oil and plant-based, to protect your plants from any undesireable chemicals. We advocate the use of organic soil and chemical-free gardening methods so that you can grow safe and nutritious food.
LifeSpace Gardens are contained and raised up off the ground, and when combined with nutrient rich organic soil, it greatly minimizes weeds and soil compaction. This means less time weeding and maintaining healthy soil!
Your garden is designed for square foot gardening. There is less wasted space and less weeds when using the square foot gardening method so your garden can produce higher yields. You may find yourself spending about an hour a week maintaining and harvesting from your garden.
You may find yourself wanting to spend much more time watching and enjoying being around your growing veggies!