Elevated Rolling U-Garden and Watering System: Product Review
Overall, this is an excellent “self-watering” elevated planter – with a few caveats.
Available at Gardener's Supply Company
The Elevated Rolling U-Garden from Gardener’s Supply Company is an elevated planter with two wheels and a handle (similar to a wheelbarrow) so it can be easily moved around. It’s the same as the (non-elevated) Rolling U-Garden, except for the base – so this review applies equally to both models.
The optional watering system consists of a waterproof tray, platform and soaker hose that sit in the bottom of the planter, effectively turning it into a self-watering planter.
- Butcher-block, SFI-certified North American cedar sides
- Aluminum corners
- 2′ x 4′ planting box, 14” deep
- 31” tall
- 16″ semi-pneumatic, never-flat wheels
- Holds 200 quarts of container mix
- U-Garden Watering System sold separately
- Made in Vermont (except the handle, which has a “Made in China” label on it)
Out of the Box
The Elevated Rolling U-Garden and watering system arrived in two separate cardboard boxes. It looked like the heavier box with the planter in it had been tossed around a bit – one end was torn and when I opened it several of the parts had been slightly damaged on the edges. Some padding inside the box would’ve been helpful.
Assembling the Planter
Read the instructions and lay out all the parts before beginning assembly. You’ll need pliers and either a drill and Phillips screwdriver or an impact driver (or drill) with a Phillips bit.
The assembly process isn’t difficult but it can be a really fiddly trying to line everything up correctly. And the orientation of pieces isn’t always clear in the instructions (or perhaps I just misread them) – I ended up putting some of the screws in the wrong place. And, although I assembled it by myself in about 30 minutes, a second person would’ve been helpful.
The instructions suggest pre-drilling holes before inserting the screws as this will make it easier if you’re using a screwdriver. What it didn’t mention is that the thinner floor boards can split if you don’t pre-drill the holes. Since I used an impact driver I simply drove in the screws – and split the floor boards in two places (the thicker side panels were fine). It shouldn’t affect the structural integrity of the planter but I wasn’t happy about it.
I’ll also mention that the screws are rather soft (I’ve found this on other Gardener’s Supply Company products as well) so be careful to drive the screws in straight and not overtighten them. I wound up stripping the heads on two screws and couldn’t drive them in all the way (and couldn’t back them out to replace them either).
If you’re using the Elevated Rolling U-Garden without the optional watering system, you’ll need to staple or tape the fabric lining in place before filling it with planting mix. It seems rather flimsy but should prevent the planting mix from falling out of the gaps between the floorboards.
Setting Up the Optional Watering System
The watering system consists of a connector that attaches an external garden hose to a soaker hose inside the planter. The soaker hose sits inside a tray (with a platform placed on top) that’s similar to what’s used in several of the Gardener’s Supply Company seed starting systems, although it comes without a capillary mat.
The idea is to use the quick-connect coupling to attach a hose and then fill the planter tray with water through the soaker hose.
Gardener’s Supply Company doesn’t market this as a “self-watering” or “sub-irrigated” planter. Instead, they say that water will “evaporate” from the water tray up into the planting mix. I was skeptical – in our extremely dry Tucson conditions I’ve never found that to be an effective way to keep plants watered in our environment. So I cut four wide strips of a capillary mat and laid them across the platform with both ends of each strip wrapped underneath and placed in the water tray below.
Getting the tray into the bottom of the Elevated Rolling U-Garden planter was a very tight fit and it didn’t lay quite flat. The soaker hose didn’t lay flat either and, as a result, the platform wasn’t flat – especially at the end where the hose was attached.
Before putting any potting mix into the planter, I tested the watering system to make sure it worked. It’s a good thing I did because the system was a total failure. No matter how I connected the hose, it leaked massively at the connection point. I tried a new washer, I removed and replaced the whole connecter twice, I used Teflon tape – nothing solved the problem.
In the end, I gave up and simply placed a PVC pipe inside one corner of the planter and used that to fill the water reservoir (similar to the fill tube you’d normally find on a self-watering planter). Besides, unless you have a garden hose that you can devote solely to the Rolling U-Garden’s watering system, it’s not very practical. The quick-connect coupling doesn’t work with other couplings so you’d have to put it on the end of the hose each time you want to water the planter. Using my improvised fill tube was much easier.
Planting the Elevated Rolling U-Garden
At 14 inches deep, there’s plenty of space in the 2’ x 4’ planter box for a lot of plants. To help you along, it comes with several planting plans that specify the types and number of plants for optimal growing. It’s best to start with smaller plants, although you can probably fit a 2-gallon plant into the 14” depth (anything larger likely won’t fit).
Use a high-quality potting mix, not garden soil. Some companies make mixes specifically for self-watering containers but I simply used Miracle-Gro Organic Moisture Control potting mix and it has worked extremely well.
The planter is large – it holds 200 quarts of potting mix – so be prepared to buy a lot of bags of mix!
I planted some Tropicana cannas that I salvaged from a dried out flowerbed in my garden, a half-dead philodendron, various coleus, a fuschia, Purple Heart and Creeping Jenny. For good measure, I dug up a sweet potato vine tuber and stuck that in too. Basically, I decided to put the Elevated Rolling U-Garden to the test with a bunch of plants that hadn’t performed well for me and/or weren’t supposed to perform well in our climate.
How Well Do Plants Grow?
Guess what? Everything is growing like a weed and looks fantastic! Four months later, the cannas are blooming, the philodendron has come back to life, and even the Creeping Jenny, which dries out and quickly dies without consistent moisture, is growing well.
I fill the reservoir (through my PVC fill tube) about once a week and very rarely water from the top. The soil has stayed consistently moist although I can’t say how moist it would be without the capillary strips I added.
The planter itself has held up well to the baking Tucson heat and shows no sign of deterioration. Although it’s heavy (especially when filled with water), I can wheel it around as needed.
The Elevated Rolling U-Garden is “100% guaranteed,” which means the Gardener’s Supply Company will exchange or refund your purchase price—excluding shipping costs—if it’s not what you expected or does not work as described during its lifetime.
If you run into any problems, just give them a call at 1-800-876-5520 – their Customer Service department is usually very good.
Overall, this is an excellent “self-watering” elevated planter – with a few caveats. The planter itself looks great, is mobile and holds up well. I like that it’s made with cedar that’s certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Assembly is a little tricky and some of the parts are substandard (especially the screws). The optional watering system has some drawbacks (like the defective coupling, poor fit, and lack of fill indicator) but by adding a self-made fill tube and some capillary strips, it ended up working very well. I would definitely buy another one.
Where to Buy It
The Rolling U-Garden is exclusive to Gardener’s Supply Company so it can be purchased on their website. The Elevated Rolling U-Garden retails for $369, and the Elevated Rolling U-Garden with Watering System is $398.95. The Rolling U-Garden with casters is $199, and the Rolling U-Garden with Watering System is $228.95.
Last update on 2019-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
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