SIP Garden Installation Guide | SIP Gardens

sub-irrigated garden diagram

Designed for skilled DIYers and Garden Pro's to unlock the power of Sub-Irrigation.  Building a Self-watering Garden with SIPs is a simple, intuitive and straightforward process.


Follow these 9 steps for professional Self-Watering results.

Step 1: Preparing the Location

Key Take Away: Make it level and free from obstructions.

Picture of inside a self-watering gardenSub-irrigation relies upon the reservoir at the bottom of your garden. Water naturally self-levels, so your main challenge is to make sure your reservoir is level! If it is not, either your reservoir will not fill evenly, or the water from the reservoir will flood up into the soil, drowning the roots and creating anaerobic rot - which isn't good!

      Leveling the site can be done by digging down or building up. During this process consider what your garden will be resting on. Ensure that whatever surface you choose, it’s free from obstructions or anything that could puncture the liner.
        For placing reservoir liner directly on grade, ideal surfaces are:
          • Pavers
            • Decks
              • Concrete/Patios
                • Rounded river rock or pea gravel
                  • Outdoor tile

                  Compressed earth, wood chips and grass are okay.

                  Crushed rock and gravel with sharp edges is to be avoided. These can cause the liner to become punctured over time.

                  If leveling the site itself is difficult, framing in a bottom to your garden is an excellent option. This allows you far more flexibility in leveling, by either elevating your garden on legs, or by building foundational frames that can be scribed to site.

                  Step 2: Building the Box

                  Key Take Away: Build a garden with an interior free from obstructions. Put any structural framing on the outside - make it easy to fold in your liner and install the SIPs.

                   

                  Building a SIP gardenClick here to download woodwork plans for our most popular SIP Garden sizes.

                  SIPs are designed for building gardens to the full square foot. Each SIP is 12"x12" and clips together to form a grid of any size. They can be trimmed with a saw if necessary, but building the garden to suit tends to be easier. When you're building the raised bed, use a design that has all the structure on the outside. It's ideal to build the interior dimensions of your garden to the full foot, with no interior obstructions. This will make folding in the waterproof liner much easier.

                  Step 3: Drilling the Hole for the OverFlow

                  Key Take Away: Center the overflow hole at 3" up from the bottom of the INSIDE of your garden. Correlate the overflow hole with the top of the SIPs.
                  Drilling overflow for self-watering gardenClick here to shop our most popular SIP Kits
                  The overflow valve is very important. It ensures your garden never floods, and allows you to control the drainage to wherever you want it to flow. It also sets the maximum height/capacity of your reservoir, and allows aeration between water and soil.
                    Be conscious of where you drill the Overflow hole as this is where ALL of the excess water will be directed.

                    Step 4: Installing the Liner

                    Key Take Away: DO NOT puncture the liner! Make sure all liner folds are folded UP to the top of the garden.

                    • Step A: Place your pre-folded liner into your garden. Make sure it’s tucked nicely into the corners.  Over time, water pressure will push it into the corners anyway.
                    • Step B: Begin by folding the flaps UP. All folds should end up at the top of the garden… think about how water travels and make sure you’re creating a sealed unit.
                    • Step C: Dry fit your liner so that you’ve got a nice, tight fit. The next step is stapling, so do any adjustments now.
                    • Step D: Staple the liner into place along the top of your garden. Try not to go below 1” from the top of your garden. If you’re going for a nice professional finish, consider the aesthetics of the staple pattern, or plan for a trim piece or cap for a nice, clean finish.
                    • Step E: Trim excess liner - once the top of the liner is stapled, take a utility knife and trim off any extra liner above to top rim.

                    Step 5: Installing the OverFlow

                    Key Take Away: Take your time. The OverFlow should be the only hole in the liner.

                    Installing overflow for self-watering gardenClick here to shop our most popular SIP Kits

                    • Step A: Find the hole you drilled in the box for your OverFlow. Use your finger and press around on the inside of your garden to find the pre-drilled hole.
                    • Step B: Use your utility knife to cut a small X in the center. You want the X just a bit smaller than the size of the hole. Consider the size of the rubber washer and be careful not to cut an "X" larger than the gasket can cover.
                    • Step C: Insert OverFlow valve and tighten. Ensure that it is fastened snugly, and the rubber gasket is compressed to form a watertight seal.

                    Step 6: Click your SIPs and install your SIP grid

                    Key Take Away: Use the logo on the SIPs to help you orient them in the same direction so they clip together properly. Identify the one SIP with the hole cut in it - this is where your WaterStem will go - and position this SIP in the grid where it will be the most convenient to water your garden.

                    SIPs sub-irrigated planter system being installedClick here to shop our most popular SIP Kits

                    Click the SIPs together to form the grid size ideal for your garden. If the SIPs prove difficult to clip together, turn them upside down an press down firmly. Your SIP grid should fit snuggly inside your garden.

                    Step 7: Insert the WaterStem

                    Key Take Away: If you don't have a SIP with a hole for the WaterStem, remove your SIPs from your garden before cutting the hole. IT IS NOT worth risking a cut into your liner – it will ruin your day. The WaterStem requires a 2" holesaw.
                    WaterStem for SIPs self-watering gardenClick here to shop our most popular SIP Kits
                      When inserting the WaterStem into the pre-drilled hole in your SIP grid, it should be nice and snug as you insert the tube all the way to the bottom of the reservoir, resting lightly on the liner.

                      Step 8: Fill Your SIP Garden with Soil and get Planted!

                      Key Take Away: Use the right soil! To create ideal growing conditions, an organic container blend is what you're looking for.
                      Selecting the right soil for your self-watering gardenClick here to shop our most popular SIP Kits
                      Click here to learn how to find the right soil for your SIP Garden

                      Step 9: Water your Garden and Get Growing!

                      Key Take Away: The WaterStem allows you to water directly to the reservoir. It's also doubles as a float gauge, indicating the water level in your garden. If in doubt - simply fill the reservoir until water begins coming out of the OverFlow.

                      Filling up a self-watering garden