Archive for March, 2010

The Gift of Life

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Just wanted to let you guys know why I’ve been MIA for a few days. Well two days ago, my wife gave birth to a beautiful 8 pound 9oz baby girl (I’m still in the hospital with her writing this from my phone).

It so wonderful holding that little girl in my arms. I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world, sky dive from 17,500 feet, scuba dive, hike Mount Fuji and live in a self-built shelter out in the woods for a month, and none of those experiences measure up to the joy of holding my daughter for the first time. What a gift.

It was interesting to ponder that experience. My wife went through so much pain to deliver so much joy. This got me thinking that it is very much a metaphor for our lives. I really believe that there must be an opposite in all things; A yin and yang if you will.

Our lives are filled with ups and downs, good and bad, pain and joy. Without understanding what is bitter, we can’t fully appreciate what is sweet. Our trials refine us and enlarge our context so that we can be filled with more happiness.

From my experience, I’ve noticed that when I’ve met and overcome my trials of faith and difficulties, afterwards my life would always seem to become so much more beautiful and enriched. It was as if that hardship enabled me to experience more of life.

Brittle metals, when forged into alloy, become stronger. The soul’s alloy, forged in the refinery of trials is no different. So the next time you’re faced with extreme difficulty or hardship, think about the possibility that God may be refining you, enlarging your context, so that you may experience life at a greater level than before.

The Importance of Having a Survival Seed Bank

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Along with storing food, storing garden seeds should be of primary importance for any well-prepared individual or family. There are many indications that there is a major food shortage right now and that it will continue to grow worse in the coming years (see here and here for some good explanations into this crisis).

Given the right conditions, it could get bad enough that food becomes more valuable than gold or silver. In times like these, having a backup of seeds that can be planted as a “crisis garden” to supplement or support the needs of your family will be worth more than its weight in gold.

What Types of Seeds Should I Store?

The most important types of seed you’ll want to store are seeds that consistently put out the same type of plant/fruit generation after generation. In other words, if you were to plant the seeds of the parent then the fruit/vegetable that is produced by those seeds would maintain the characteristics of the parent plant.

For the beginning gardener this includes purchasing open-pollinated seeds instead of the typical hybrid seeds found in your garden center. As a general rule (there are exceptions), hybrid seeds are first-generation seeds and if you were to use the seeds produced by one of these plants they will be sterile or more likely fail to breed – not a good option if next year’s crop is dependent upon the seeds produced by this year’s. This also requires a yearly visit to the garden center — a dependency that’s great for the seed dealers but not so great for the survivalist.

Heirloom seeds are a type of open-pollinated seed that have been conserved by repeatedly growing them out again and again over the years. These are perfect for seed storage.

Where Can I Buy Them?

With all the seed sellers out there here are the companies where I recommend you purchase your open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. I’ve broken them down based upon the climate where the seeds are produced and tested. This will ensure the greatest success of germination and production in your area. (Be sure to order the open-pollinated or heirloom seeds as these companies also sell hybrids).

Short Season Climates (northern U.S. and Canada)

Moderate Climates (middle-American states)

Maritime Climates (Cascadia)

Other Sellers
These companies I’m not sure where they are best grown but I’ve heard good reviews nonetheless (both deal exclusively in non-hybrid open-pollinated seeds):

How Do I Store Them?

Now that you’ve grown your open-pollinated seeds and have fruits and vegetables that are producing their own seeds, you’ll now want to be able to store those seeds for the next year. If seeds are stored properly, they can last for years (10+ or more).

The three big killers when it comes to seed storage are temperature, moisture, and oxygen with the most important being temperature and moisture. For the ideal temperature, store them in an area that is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below (refrigerator or freezer) and to combat moisture, the best process is to dry them to 8 percent moisture or less by drying them at 100 degrees F for six hours.

You can do this by drying your seeds in the sun, with a food dehydrator, or by using a conventional oven (never use a microwave oven):

  • Sun Drying: Spread the seed out in the sunlight and try to obtain 100 degree temperature for 6 hours. Longer times are expected if the temperature is less.
  • Food dehydrator: Set the dehydrator to 100 degrees F. Dry for six hours.
  • Conventional oven:Keep the oven door open several inches, and make sure the seed is not heated to more than 100 degrees for 6 hours.

Seed Moisture Tests:

Here are 2 methods that are a easy way to tell if the seeds have been dried to a proper moisture level of around 8 percent or less:

  1. Longer seeds should snap smartly and cleanly in half when bent.
  2. Wheat, beans, peas, corn and other large seeds should shatter and turn to powder when hit with the head of a hammer.

Once your seeds are dry, you’ll want to place them in an airtight moisture-proof storage containers. Be sure to mark the containers with the seed names and date of packaging, then store them in a cool dark place (again a refrigerator or freezer are ideal for this purpose).

All-In One Solutions

If you would rather have an all-in-one solution that takes the guess-work out of choosing what types of vegetables and fruit seed to buy, dries and stores them to last for years and packs them in a container that can be stored for years then I would check out the following resources:

  • Survival Seed Bank: They also provide a book that describes in detail how to plant your seeds, cultivate them as well as how to gather and store your seeds for the next growing season.
  • Heirloom Organics: These guys provide multiple “seed packs” based on the size of your family and needs.


Long Range Shooting in the Comfort of Your Home

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Every serious shooter (hunter, LE/Military) should understand concepts such as minute of angle and exterior ballistics. If you’re looking to learn the concepts and principles behind long-range shooting but don’t have the big bucks to shell out for an expensive civilian class or ammunition then you’ll want to check out the Long Range Shooting Simulation program developed by

With its realistic controls, elevation, atmospheric conditions, and scenery this simulation is as close as you can get to practicing in the field all in the comfort of your home and all without wasting a single round of ammunition!

Here are some of the subjects you will learn and practice in the simulator:

  • MilDot ranging and use
  • effects of elevation
  • effects of windage and how to adjust for it
  • minute of angle/milliradian applications
  • how to use a range card
  • how to engage moving targets
  • exterior ballistics
  • and more…

The Long Range Shooting Simulator depicts a variety of sample backgrounds in ranging, wind estimation, and mil dot use with simulated ranges out to 1000 yards. There are also options for .223, .264 .308, .338, 300 Win Mag, and .50cal caliber weapons with their associated ballistic behaviors.

Keep in mind that this is not a sales pitch. I do not get any compensation for recommending this to my readers. It’s really an excellent product that can give you a solid foundation in long-range shooting and has found favor in many law enforcement and military circles. It’s also recommended by the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA).

As of this writing, the Long Range Shooting Simulator costs $44. You may think it’s a bit steep, but if you consider the cost of ammunition, gasoline to the shooting range, cost of admittance to the shooting range (or even finding a 1000 yard range), as well as practicing with rifles in the caliber of your choice, this program is quite inexpensive.

As a final note, I realize that a computer simulation is no substitute for actual time in the field however, it’s an excellent training tool for keeping your range estimation, hold-off, and moving target engagement skills sharp when you cannot make it out to the range.

The Importance of Self-Reliance

Monday, March 15th, 2010

There have been quite a number of programs set up by the government in addition to well-meaning individuals to aid those in need. The problem with most of these programs is that they are stuck on the short-sighted view of “helping people” as opposed to “helping people help themselves”.

Consider this story taken from the October 1950 issue of Reader’s Digest:

Gullible Gulls

“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved…

“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the…sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.

“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ’something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout.

“A lot of people are like that too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ’shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?

“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We…must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.”

It’s hard to believe that article was written over 60 years ago! Yet, this story’s message is as relevant today as ever.

Wealth Without Work

Mahatma Ghandi wisely said that one of the seven deadly sins is “wealth without work”. This practice of desiring and receiving benefits which haven’t been earned has become so prevalent in our society that even the wealthiest expect the government to give them a handout (does Bank of America, Citi, AIG and GM come to mind?). This practice, if allowed to become universally accepted in a society, will force its citizens into slavery.

The problem of entitlements and handouts isn’t exclusively a government problem. Many well-meaning parents dole out resources and keep their kids on the “family udder” well beyond what is necessary. This in many ways is worse than a government handout because it teaches that dependency is acceptable.

Some key questions that should come to the minds of any responsible parent are, “Am I teaching my children self-reliance?” or “Am I leading them to be independent?”. Of course, you can only teach what you know yourself so remember that achieving self-reliance yourself should be your first priority.

Becoming Self-Reliant

Self-reliance is not so much the gaining of a particular skill-set (although that is part of it), rather it’s a mindset.

To become self-reliant requires a conscious effort of replacing an “I need help” attitude with an “I can do it myself” attitude. And the best part of becoming self-reliant is that it rewards you along the way. As you achieve even a small portion of it, you feel really good about yourself.

Self-reliance and Liberty

Developing self-reliance is what leads to independence and independence is at the core of liberty. Liberty and self-reliance are so closely intertwined that a nation whose citizens lose their self-reliance will eventually lose their liberty — a sad truth we are witnessing today.

For this reason it’s so important that each of us take an honest look at ourselves and our families and ask whether we are striving to be self-reliant or looking for a handout. With that said, don’t be a “gullible gull”. Look for areas in your own life where you can become more self-reliant and less dependent upon the government or others. Our nation depends on it…

How to Create Secure Digital Copies of Your Emergency Documents

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

This article is a follow up to Identity Survival: The Importance of Emergency Documents.

Storing your important information online need not be risky. Today I’ll be going into detail on how you can create secure digital copies of your important documents and where to store them online.

The Benefits of Online Storage

With the onset of the internet, people began to see the huge potential for commerce and information sharing that “cyberspace” offered. This resulted in the creation of large businesses dependent upon the internet for their livelihood.

To prevent against data loss in the event that their data center is destroyed (by natural disaster or otherwise), large companies like Google or Microsoft will build multiple data centers far away, in different ‘threat zones’. This provides a seamless disaster-recovery option to protect the integrity of data so crucial to their business.

By piggy-backing on these large businesses’ multiple data centers, you can have a cost-free storage option with practically no risk of losing your data. This of course is assuming the internet still exists (If it gets so bad that the internet dissapears, then you have a lot bigger problems than worrying about the loss of your drivers license or a medical card).

The Problem of Security

Now I know what you’re thinking. What about security? Couldn’t anyone just steal the file online and use it for their nefarious purposes? Sure, if it’s not secured. In the next section I’ll be detailing how you can create and secure your digital documents.

How to Create and Secure a Digital Emergency Document File

What You’ll Need

  • a computer
  • a scanner
  • Bullzip (a free pdf creation program that you can download here)
  • 7-Zip (a free compression/archiving program that you can download here)

Step 1: Scan Your Important Documents Into Your Computer

The first thing you’ll want to do is gather together your documents, passports, SS card etc and scan them in to your computer. Your scanning software should allow you to save them as individual images to be used in the next step.

Step 2: Convert Your Scan into a PDF File

To convert your scans into a pdf file, you’ll need to have a pdf conversion program like Bullzip. The benefit of Bullzip is that it acts as a print server — basically allowing you to open any document, webpage, or scanned image (as in our case) and “print” it into a pdf file.

Open your scanned image and print it as you would any other document. When the print form pops up select “Bullzip PDF Printer” as your printer and print.

Select 'Bullzip PDF Printer' as your printer and print

A new form will pop up. On this form you’ll want to select PDF as your format, indicate the filename/destination and click “Save”:

Select PDF as your format, indicate the filename/destination and click 'Save'

Step 3: Merge the Remaining Documents into one File

For this step you’ll repeat what you did in the last step but this time instead of saving the scanned document into a new PDF, you”ll merge it with the previous one you made in step 2.

To do this, follow step 2 again but this time when the Bullzip form comes up, select the “Merge” tab. Under the Append PDF section look up the PDF file you made in Step 2 (this will be the file you’ll merge into) then click “Save”:

Under the Append PDF section look up the PDF file you made in Step 2 (this will be the file you'll merge into) then click 'Save'

This will create a new pdf file with the two images merged. Continue steps 2 and 3 with the remaining scanned images until you are left with one PDF that contains all the images.

Step 4: Securing Your PDF

The final step is to encrypt your pdf file. To do this I would recommend using an archiving software like WinZIP or, what I’ll use in this example, 7-Zip.

After installing 7-Zip, right click your merged PDF file and select ‘7-Zip’ -> ‘Add to Archive’:

When the ‘Add to Archive’ form pops up, set your Archive format to “Zip”, enter a password, and select “AES-256” as your encryption method:

Set your Archive format to "Zip", enter a password, and select "AES-256" as your encryption method.

Click “OK” to create your .zip file and delete the original pdf. You now have a secure, password protected file that can be opened with 7-zip or any other standard archiving software (WinZIP etc) provided you supply the proper password.

As a side note, AES-256 is a very secure encryption cipher that has been approved by the U.S. Government for Top Secret documents — more than enough for your personal documents.

Uploading Your Emergency Document to the Web

Now that your document has been encrypted, you are safe to transfer your .zip file to the web.

Here’s where I stress the importance of redundancy. The more locations/servers you have the file located on the less likely you would be to lose it. Here are the servers I recommend :

  • Google Docs – This is one of my favorite places to create and store documents.
  • Gmail – I would recommend creating a draft email and attaching the file to it. This way it won’t accidentally get deleted or buried in your mailbox.
  • Hotmail (same advice as GMail)
  • AOL mail (same advice as GMail)
  • Windows SkyDrive – Allows up to 25 GB of data!

As mentioned above, the benefit of storing your important documents on large company storage is that you take advantage of their disaster recovery data centers.

Other Helpful Tips

Another benefit of using Bullzip is that you can always add or delete pages from your PDF file. To add, just use your Emergency Document PDF as the source file used in Step 3 above.

To remove unwanted pages from your document, just open your latest PDF file in Acrobat Reader, select Print (selecting Bullzip as your printer) and in the Page Range section specify what pages you want to print. Bullzip will then create an updated PDF file using only those pages you specify.

Identity Survival: The Importance of Emergency Documents

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

One often overlooked area of preparedness is having copies of important documents which would prove your identity and possessions to the authorities should your originals get destroyed due to disaster.

Katrina is a perfect example. Many families who were otherwise prepared failed to follow this advice and ran into a host of issues.

When the waters receded, some residents tried to return to their homes. The national guard and police, who were guarding against looting, prevented people from entering their homes unless they could provide proper identification and proof of ownership.

There were also difficulties in getting families back together after becoming separated following the disaster. Children were often put in a secure location and would only be released to parents/guardians if they could prove their identities.

Even trying to file insurance claims were frustrating since most did not have their policy numbers available.

Having access to your important documents is absolutely essential if you were required to rebuild your life following a disaster.

What Documents Should You Have Backups Of?

Here’s a list of documents that you should have a copy of for each family member (where applicable):

  • drivers license (front and back)
  • passports
  • insurance cards
  • social security cards
  • credit cards (front and back)
  • proof of ownership or lease of your residence
  • vehicle, boats etc. proof of ownership (copy of title, bill of sale etc)
  • bank account numbers and other financial information
  • legal documents and wills
  • a recent family photo with names
  • phone and address information for in and out-of-state emergency contacts
  • birth, death, marriage, divorce certificates
  • important business documents
  • photos of valuables for documentation of insurance claims
  • medical records (immunization etc.)

Where You Should Store These Backups?

Having more than one backup for these important documents is essential. For example, if you choose to put your emergency docs only in your bug-out bag, it may be that a disaster prevents you from getting to that bag.

Here are some options for you:

In Your Bug-Out Bag

Besides food, water and gear, your bug-out bags (72 hour kits) should also contain these important documents. I prefer to put them in Ziplock brand (they’re more durable) freezer bags. This keeps them completely waterproof and prevents damage.

With Trusted Friends/Family

Another option where you can store your emergency documents is with a trusted friend or relative who lives outside of your area. This provides another failsafe in case your area is completely destroyed. You obviously don’t want these documents to fall in the wrong hands so it’s of primary importance that you can trust that individual and that they take the necessary precautions.

Safe-Deposit Box

For around $15-$20 a year you can store copies of your important documents in a safe deposit box. Again, I would recommend keeping them in a bank outside your immediate area. If your a customer of a national bank this gives you many options.

Keeping Electronic Copies

This is one of my favorite methods. Basically you create digital copies of your important documents and then upload them to a remote server (like Gmail, Google Docs, or Hotmail). By keeping a copy on various remote servers you benefit from the fact that your document is safe from disaster. Many large companies like Google and Microsoft have disaster-recovery servers that if one server location were to be completely destroyed another would take its place without any data loss.

As a graduate of computer science I am well aware of the importance and vulnerabilities of digital security. But transferring digital files across the net and keeping digital copies need not be risky. In my next article, I’ll be sharing with you how you can securely keep copies of these documents on the web. Read it here.

The Tactical Intelligence News Brief: Chileans Arm Themselves Against Looters

Friday, March 5th, 2010

What is Happening

Efforts to prevent looters from entering neighborhoods after Chile's disaster include barricades like this one in Concepcion

In the wake of the earthquake, hundreds of Chilean survivors are forming organized neighborhood watch groups, arming themselves and barricading streets to protect their homes from looters.

The groups have taken over the role of security since the police were overwhelmed by looting and soldiers were not able to restore order quick enough after the disaster.

What this Means

Looting seems to be a common theme in natural disasters. When the grid goes down for a period of time and the first responders become overextended, 1) the less savory people of society see it as a free for all and go on a looting spree, and 2) when people become desperate enough due to lack of food and supplies they often resort to looting as well.

This is especially problematic in an extended grid-down situation.

To reduce inventory and the associated carrying costs, modern grocery stores receive their inventory “just in time” for the next day’s demand. When that supply line gets held up for whatever reason, those who are dependent upon the goods in that store go without.

These Just in Time (JIT) supply strategies allow for no extended stock of food and supplies — which is why we see the shelves become empty prior to impending storms. The longer the supply is gone the more desperate people become.

How Does it Effect You?

A neighbor guards his block from looters in Lota, Chile, on Wednesday. (Aliosha Marquez / AP)

That wouldn’t happen here right? After all aren’t we a “civilized” country?

Think again, it happened in Louisiana after the Katrina disaster and if another major disaster comes — economic or otherwise — it will happen again.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from this:

  1. You must be prepared: Food (and water) storage is absolutely essential. A minimum of 3 months but ideally one year’s worth or more. For more info on how to get started with food storage be sure to read my Food Storage Basics article series.
  2. Get to know your neighbors: Similar to these Chileans, banding together provides safety and security and besides, you can’t expect to man a 24/7 watch all by yourself.

    Get to know your neighbors now, before disaster strikes. If possible, come up with neighborhood disaster plans and discuss the possibility of how the neighborhood would respond to looters.

  3. Arm yourself: When the law is not around and the lawless run amok, you are the last line of defense for your family.

    Just having firearms is not enough. Be sure to get the proper training. There are numerous civilian training schools around the country that teach personal defense with a firearm.

  4. Beef up the security of your residence: Having a secure home is a good idea even without a mob of looters running around. Now’s the time to increase the security of your residence before the zombies come a’knocking.


This is by far THE best book out there for building a secure home. 700 pages of hard-core information (no fluff):

The Secure Home (by Joel Skousen)

Here are some links to articles about the Chilean looting problem:

Homemade Firewood: How to Make Logs from Newspaper

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

This post is sponsored by Prepper Academy, the only preparedness program that shows you step-by-step how to rapidly prepare for the coming hard times — no matter what your income or where you live.

I’m always looking for new ways of of using common household materials in a survival situation. The other day I came across how you can take old newspapers and turn them into logs that can be used for fuel similar to any other log.

How to Make Logs from Newspaper

Step 1: Soak the Newspaper

The first thing you need to do is soak the newspaper it a sink or bucket. It helps to separate the newspapers into its smaller sections.

Step 2: Drain and Lay Out the Paper

After completely saturating the paper (usually by soaking for at least an hour) pull the paper from the water, let it drain completely and then lay it out into sections of 1-3 sheets — staggered much like fallen dominoes.

Step 3: Roll the Wet Newspaper Around a Dowel

Then take a dowel and roll the wet paper around it squeezing the paper as it’s rolled to ensure that it sticks together.

Step 4: Continue Rolling Until Desired Thickness is Acheived

Continue with the above step until you’ve rolled the newspaper log into your desired thickness.

Step 5: Thoroughly Dry your New Newspaper Log

Slide off the paper log and let it dry for a few days (a lot quicker if you place it on a woodstove, outside in the sun or in front of the heating vents. Basically anywhere where the moisture will come off quicker.

Lighting Your Newspaper Firewood

If you’ve made these correctly, they should be pretty dense. Because of this, you cannot simply take your bic and light them up like you would newspaper. Treat them just like any other wood log in that they require smaller sticks or kindling to light. And just like wood logs, you’ll need a good bed of coals or at least a pair of logs to maintain the burn.

These paper “logs” will also produce more ash than traditional logs. Just be sure they are completely dry before burning and you’ll be able surprised at the heat output that your old newspaper can give off.

Urban Gardening the SIP Way

Monday, March 1st, 2010

For those living in cities or areas where you don’t have access to land for growing your own fruits and vegetables there is still a solution for you. It’s found in the sub-irrigated planter.

Image from

Just because you live in a city doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own fresh fruits and vegetables.

What the Heck is a SIP?

The sub-irrigated planter or SIP is a modern form of a raised bed with the added advantage of a self-watering irrigation system. The water is introduced from the bottom of the container, allowing the water to soak upwards to the plant through capillary action.

SIPs can be made from many different containers ranging from large to small. And once you understand the principle of how one is made you can apply that to practically any container and be well on your way to growing a fantastic garden.

Here’s a great video put together by high-school students showing you the principle of 5-gallon bucket SIP and how you can make your own:

Advantages of Sub-Irrigated Planters (SIPs)

Not only is there an 80% decrease in water usage in a plant to plant comparison than found in a typical garden but it also doubles the production output of a garden and on top of that it is weed free! Best of all this system allows city dwellers to essentially bring their own land with them and place it on their balconies, patios or a city roof.

This type of design allows for a bottom up watering approach rather than a top down approach that is typical in potted plants or plants growing in a standard garden. Since the water is pulled up from the bottom, as long as the water reservoir remains full the plants will draw the water as needed. There is no risk of over- or under-watering the plants.

How to Make Your Own

What You’ll Need

  1. 2 five gallon food-grade buckets that can stack inside one another
  2. 1” plastic pipe or tubing (pvc pipe works fine) about 3” longer than the height of one of the buckets
  3. smaller plastic container (a plastic cup or used hummus container works great)
  4. power drill with ¼ inch drill bit
  5. box-cutters
  6. plastic bag large enough to cover the opening of one of your buckets
  7. snips or hacksaw to cut the pvc pipe

Step 1: Prepare the Buckets

Place one bucket inside the other and put them in front of a light source to see the space created between them – this gap will act the reservoir that will hold the water. Measure the height of this space and mark that measurement on your smaller plastic container, starting from the bottom. Add 1/8” to this height and measure the diameter of your container at that height.

Step 2: Drill your Holes

Turn the first bucket upside down and mark the center. Around the center draw a circle whose size to the diameter you just measured on your plastic container. Using this circle as a guide cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket that is just smaller than the diameter of your small plastic container. If you have a jigsaw, use this to cut the hole. If not, drill a series of small holes around the perimeter of the circle and use your snips or scissors to finish the job.

On the same bucket drill roughly 25 ¼” holes evenly spaced around the larger hole you just made.

Step 3: Prepare the Fill Tube

Drill or cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket that corresponds to the diameter of your watering pipe or tubing. Cut the bottom of your tubing at a 45-degree angle to prevent the tube from clogging in your bucket.

Step 4: Cut Slits in your Small Container

With your box cutter slice 4 vertical slits in the sides of the smaller plastic container making the slices evenly spaced around the perimeter of the cup. Do not cut through the bottom or lip of your cup.

Step 5: Stack the Buckets Together and Drill the Overflow Holes

Place the bucket with holes in it inside the other bucket. Place the buckets in front of a light source as you did earlier and drill two ¼” overflow holes on opposite sides of the outside bucket. These holes should be a quarter inch below the bottom of the inside bucket.

Step 6: Add your Potting Mix and Plant your Seedlings

With the buckets stacked together, place the plastic tube through the hole you made for it angled end first. Pack the small plastic container with wet potting mix and set it inside the large hole in the center of the bucket.
Fill the first bucket ¾ full with damp potting mix making it fairly compact. Plant your seedling and top off the bucket with potting mix.

Step 7: Add Fertilizer

Water your seedling from the top, for the first and only time to saturate the soil. After that point, water your plant using the fill pipe. Take one cup of fertilizer and sprinkle it around the outside edge of the bucket leaving as large of a space of plain soil in the middle as possible. Take your plastic bag and make two slits in it, large enough to fit your seedling and watering tube through, respectively. Place the plastic over the top of your bucket while gently feeding your seedling and watering tube through the slits. Secure the plastic with a zip tie or string.

Step 8: Suggestions on Watering

When watering you’ll want to fill the reservoir until the water comes out of the overflow holes. As mentioned before this self-watering system makes it impossible to over-water your plant. Every few days take a look at your reservoir and fill as necessary. During the growing season there may be times when you need to water every day so be sure to pay close attention.

A Word on Soil

It’s important that you do not use standard garden soil in the SIPs. Why? Well in order for SIPs to function correctly the water must be wicked from the bottom to where the roots of the plant can soak up the moisture. Ordinary soil does not provide the capillary action (wicking action) needed to move the moisture upward. You’ll need to purchase potting soil (with the main ingredient being spagham peat and/or coir). Here are some homemade recipes provided by Global Buckets:

Recipe #1: Sphagnum Peat
70% Sphagnum Peat
20% Vermiculite
10% Perlite

Recipe #2: Sphagnum Peat and Coir
35% Sphagnum Peat
35% Coir
20% Vermiculite
10% Perlite


If you prefer not to make your own, there is a commercial variant of a SIP called an Earthbox which can be purchased at the site for $50 per box (a homemade one is much cheaper).

Also, here is :

  • Global Buckets: A great site which teaches you how to make an automated watering system as well as fertilizer and soil recipes
  • Green Roof Growers: A blog about three people’s experiences growing heirloom vegetables on the Chicago rooftops using SIPs.