Industrial designer and erstwhile TreeHugger contributor Joey Roth is known most recently for high tech with his Ceramic Speakers ; now he goes most decidedly low tech with his latest, a self-watering planter.
The idea is thousands of years old; Joey explains:
The idea for this design came from planning my outdoor garden. While researching irrigation methods, I discovered the Olla. This is a simple clay vessel that's buried near a plant's roots to provide a constant trickle of water. Farmers in arid regions have used some form of the Olla for thousands of years. and it remains a very efficient way to irrigate without much water lost to evaporation.
TreeHugger Sami covered the Olla in Unglazed Clay Pots Create Efficient Drip Irrigation, writing "many cultures have been perfecting more efficient, labor saving irrigation systems for centuries. In fact, unglazed terracotta pots have been used for over 4000 years to create slow release watering systems." Joey brings it back with a modern twist.
Soil and plants are placed in the outer donut-shaped chamber, and the center chamber is filled with water. The unglazed terracotta's natural porosity allows the water to move from the center chamber and into the soil, based on the soil's moisture (and thus the plant's need for water). The terracotta wall both regulates and
filters the water. A simple lid on the top of the water chamber prevents evaporation.
I loved how the material's physical properties enabled the entire system to function. Olla irrigation involves just the slightest human intervention in natural processes. I wanted to bring the elegance of this irrigation method indoors, and my planter design was the result.
And I love how simple it is, you don't need your plants tweeting you when they need water. Recently we have shown Mairi's 8 Best Indoor Self-Watering Planters For the (Black-Thumbed) Design Lover and Ramon's 5 Self-Watering Planters [that] Make Vegetable Gardening Easy; I don't think any one of them is as elegant and simple as this.
More at Joey Roth.