US 20020189163 A1
A self-watering plant holder having a central, upright post with four horizontal radial arms extending outwardly thereof. A plant container, such as a bucket with a handle, is mounted on each radial arm. A base extends radially outwardly in a preferred embodiment from the lower end of the post to support the post. A manifold is mounted to the post, and houses a chamber with a closure for the addition of water and/or fertilizer. Watering lines extend from the manifold into one or more of the plant containers for watering and/or feeding the plants.
1. A plant holder comprising:
(a) an upright post having an upper end and a lower end;
(b) first and second arms extending radially from the post;
(c) first and second plant containers connected to the first and second radially extending arms, respectively, the plant containers containing plants;
(d) a manifold mounted to the post, the manifold having a housing defining a chamber for containing water; and
(e) at least one watering line having a sidewall defining an internal passage, said watering line being mounted at a first end to the manifold with the watering line's internal passage in fluid communication with the chamber, and said watering line having a nozzle at a second end near a respective plant container.
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19. A plant holder comprising:
(a) an upright post having an upper end and a lower end;
(b) first and second arms extending radially from the post;
(c) first and second plant containers connected to the first and second arms, respectively, the plant containers containing plants;
(d) a manifold mounted to the post, the manifold having a housing defining a chamber formed therein for containing water, and a closure formed in the housing, said closure being adapted to permit matter to be placed in the chamber;
(e) a plurality of watering lines, each line having a sidewall defining an internal passage, each of said watering lines being mounted to the manifold with its internal passage in fluid communication with the chamber, and each of said watering lines having a nozzle near a respective plant container;
(f) a water source adapter in fluid communication with the chamber for connecting a water source conduit to the manifold;
(g) a base mounted to the post's lower end, the base extending radially outwardly from the post for supporting the post; and
(h) a third plant container positioned beneath the first plant container, for receiving water that falls from the first plant container.
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22. A plant holder comprising:
(a) an upright post having an upper end and a lower end;
(b) first and second arms extending radially from the post for connecting first and second plant containers containing plants to the first and second arms, respectively;
(c) a manifold mounted to the post, the manifold having a housing defining a chamber formed therein for containing water;
(d) a plurality of watering lines, each line having a sidewall defining an internal passage, each of said watering lines being mounted to the manifold with its internal passage in fluid communication with the chamber, and each of said watering lines having a nozzle near a respective one of the arms.
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/296,713 filed Jun. 8, 2001.
 (Not Applicable)
 (Not Applicable)
 1. Field of the Invention
 This invention relates generally to an apparatus for holding plants, and more specifically to an apparatus that waters the plants which are held by it.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 In order to have the soil and light that gardens require, most gardeners plant their gardens in the soil around their homes. However, as real estate becomes more expensive, and as more people dwell in apartments and condominiums, the previously common house with a yard has become more rare. Thus, those who desire a garden may be limited in their choices.
 One alternative to a garden in a yard is potted plants, which ordinarily can be grown anywhere. However, potted plants must be watered frequently if they are indoors, and potted plants take up a lot of floor or shelf space relative to their production of flowers or fruit compared to plants grown in the ground.
 In order to make efficient use of space, various structures have been invented that hold potted plants. However, these structures do not provide an optimal gardening environment. Therefore, the need arises for a plant hanging structure that maximizes the convenience of gardening while minimizing the space consumed by the plants.
 The invention is a plant holder. The plant holder includes an upright post having an upper end and a lower end. First and second arms extend radially from the post, and first and second plant containers are connected to the first and second arms, respectively.
 A manifold is mounted to the upright post, and the manifold has a housing defining a chamber. The chamber is formed in the housing and is for containing water. A closure, such as a lid, is formed in the housing. The closure is adapted to permit matter, such as fertilizer, to be placed in the chamber.
 A plurality of watering lines is mounted to the manifold with each line having a sidewall defining an internal passage. The internal passages of the watering lines are in fluid communication with the chamber. Each of the watering lines has a nozzle near a respective plant container.
 In a preferred embodiment, a water source adapter is mounted to the manifold in fluid communication with the chamber for connecting a water source conduit to the manifold. A base is mounted to the post's lower end and extending radially outwardly from the post for supporting the post.
FIG. 1 is a view in perspective illustrating the preferred embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a side view illustrating the preferred embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 3 is a view in perspective illustrating the preferred manifold.
FIG. 4 is a view in perspective illustrating an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is a top view illustrating an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 6 is a view in perspective illustrating an alternative base.
FIG. 7 is a view in perspective illustrating a sun shade for the present invention.
FIG. 8 is a view in section illustrating an adapter that supports a plant container over a base member.
FIG. 9 is a top view illustrating an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 10 is a side view illustrating an alternative embodiment of the present invention.
 In describing the preferred embodiment of the invention which is illustrated in the drawings, specific terminology will be resorted to for the sake of clarity. However, it is not intended that the invention be limited to the specific term so selected and it is to be understood that each specific term includes all technical equivalents which operate in a similar manner to accomplish a similar purpose. For example, the word connected or term similar thereto are often used. They are not limited to direct connection, but include connection through other elements where such connection is recognized as being equivalent by those skilled in the art.
 The preferred plant holder 10 is shown in FIG. 1 having a central upright post 12 extending upwardly from a base 14. The base 14 is a rectangular, and preferably square, arrangement of attached structures. The central post 12 extends telescopically at its lower end into an upwardly extending receiver 26 in a base hub 20. The radial base members 16, 17, 18 and 19 extending radially outwardly from the base hub 20. The radial base members 16-19 insert telescopically into four radially directed receivers 22 on the base hub 20. Screws insert through the receivers 22 and seat against the outer surfaces of the radial base members 16-19 in order to hold the radial base members in the receivers. A square circumferential member extends entirely around the radial members 16-19 and mounts at ends of the radial members 16-19 opposite the base hub 20 in a similar manner to the attachment of the radial base members 16-19 to the receivers 22.
 Of course, other bases will be understood to be equivalent by the person having ordinary skill from the disclosure herein. For example, the base can be triangular, circular or any other geometric shape that provides stability to the central post, thereby preventing it from falling over. Alternatively, the base can comprise radial members only, i.e., without a circumferential member (see FIG. 9). Furthermore, a smaller base can be used if it is attached, such as by stakes, to the ground on which it rests. These alternative bases are examples of some other possible bases. A person of ordinary skill will recognize that other bases are possible, but are too numerous to list.
 The structural members of the plant holder 10 are preferably steel square tubing that is welded together in a conventional welding process. For example, the narrower members can be one and one-half inch square tubing, and the wider members can be two inch square tubing. Square tubing of these dimensions fits together telescopically as described above. However, it will become apparent that the members can be made of other metals, plastic, wood, composite or virtually any other structural material. The members can be injection molded, cast, extruded, pultruded or formed in other conventional forming processes.
 At its upper end, the central post 12 extends telescopically into a downwardly extending receiver 28 of a hanger hub 30. The hanger hub 30 is essentially identical to the base hub 20, except that the hanger hub 30 is inverted, and is preferably positioned about six to seven feet above the lower surface of the base 14 due to the height of the post 12. The hanger receivers 32 extend radially outwardly, and preferably horizontally, from the downwardly extending receiver 28 and the radial arms 36, 37, 38 and 39 insert telescopically at inner ends into the hanger receivers 32. Screws are mounted through the receivers 32 to seat against the inserted radial arms 36-39 for fastening the parts together.
 The radial arms 36-39 extend radially outwardly of the central post 12, terminating at ends spaced about two feet from the axis of the central post 12. Of course, this distance, the number of radial arms and the shapes of the arms can be changed from the preferred embodiment shown, as will be recognized by the skilled artisan. Rigidly mounted on the upper edge of the radial arms 36-39 are U-shaped retainers 40, 41, 42 and 43, which serve a purpose described next.
 As shown in FIG. 2, the plant containers 46 and 48 are mounted to the radial arms 36 and 38, respectively. Each of the plant containers 46 and 48 is preferably a conventional bucket having a handle that extends upwardly from rotational attachment at one side of the container, over the respective radial arm (near its end), to rotational attachment at the opposite side of the container. The uppermost points of the buckets' handles are preferably inserted within the U-shaped retainers 40-43 to prevent rolling of the handles off of the radial arms 36-39.
 A manifold 60 is mounted on the exterior of the central post 12 intermediate, and preferably about halfway, along the post's height by conventional threaded U-bolts. Of course, the manifold 60 could be mounted within the central post 12 or formed integrally with the central post. A chamber 62 (see FIG. 3) is formed within the manifold 60 for receiving and dispensing water. The preferred manifold 60 is made of one and one-half inch PVC pipe with a lower end that has a hose fitting 64 onto which a conventional garden hose can be mounted. The fitting 64 has a passage through which water in the passageway of a hose can pass. The passage in the fitting 64 extends into the chamber 62, thereby directing water flowing under pressure through a connected hose to flow into the chamber 62. The preferred fitting 64 is a quick-connect fitting, but can be a simple conventional threaded garden hose fitting
 The upper end of the manifold is angled at 45 degrees and a closure, which is preferably the screw-on cap 66, is removably mounted to the upper end of the housing of the manifold 60. Upon removal of the cap 66, the chamber 62 is accessible to add material, such as fertilizer, insecticide, selective herbicide, minerals, or other matter that is desired to mix with or be suspended in water flowing into the chamber 62 through the fitting 64. The water preferably flows into the chamber 62 somewhat turbulently, thereby mixing the water with the added material.
 Four branched tubing outlets 70, 71, 72 and 73 are mounted to the sidewall of the manifold 60. The outlets 70-73 are rigid, T-shaped tubes that have passages extending from fluid communication with the chamber 62 to two opposing ends spaced from the manifold 60. Thus, the outlets 70-73 permit water in the chamber 62 to flow out of the manifold 60.
 Referring again to FIGS. 1 and 2, the flexible watering lines 80-83 are mounted to the ends of the outlets 70 and 72 that are spaced from the manifold 60. The watering lines 80-83 extend upwardly to the outermost ends of the radial arms 36-39. The watering line guides, preferably metal washers, are mounted at the outermost ends of the radial arms 36-39, and the watering lines 80-83 extend through the apertures thereof. The guides maintain the positions of the ends of the watering lines 80-83 above the plant containers, and prevent the watering lines from flailing when the water first begins to flow.
 The watering lines 84-87 are mounted to the ends of the outlets 71 and 73 that are spaced from the manifold 60. The watering lines 84-87 are able to extend downwardly into plant containers that are positioned on or around the base 14. For example, if plant containers are positioned in the openings in the base 14 between the radial members 16-19, the watering lines 84-87 can be placed with their ends in the containers.
 Of course, watering lines 80-87 could be integral with the central post, or they could extend along the inside of a hollow central post. Additionally, the watering lines could have fittings on their ends that attach the lines together when the plant holder is assembled.
 Once the plant containers with plants therein are positioned on the plant holder 10, the manifold 60 is filled with water and the water is directed out of the manifold 60 under pressure through the watering lines 80-87 into the plant containers. Any material added to the chamber 62 mixes with the water when it enters the chamber and is conveyed to the plants via the watering lines 80-87. The water or water/material mixture pours out of the watering lines 80-87 into the plant containers.
 The water and fertilizer in the manifold 60 flows more easily through the lower watering lines 84-87 than the upper watering lines 80-83. Therefore, it may be desirable to eliminate the lower watering lines 84-87 and water lower plant containers by water dripping down into the lower containers through openings in the upper containers. Alternatively, it is possible to mount manually actuated valves 76 and 78 to the outlets 73 and 71, respectively. The valves 76 and 78 can control the size of orifices through which water can flow out of the manifold 60 into the lower watering lines 84-87. By increasing or decreasing the size of the orifices, the resistance to the flow of water is correspondingly adjusted. This adjustment permits the amount of water going to the upper plants to be equal to the amount of water going to the lower plants.
 The manifold 60 can be filled merely by filling the chamber 62 through the cap 66, such as with a pitcher of water. Alternatively, the manifold 60 can be filled manually by turning on a spigot to which a hose connected to the fitting 64 is attached. Water will flow into and out of the manifold 60 until the spigot is turned off. Alternatively, the watering action can be controlled by a conventional watering timer mounted to the plant holder 10, the water spigot, the manifold 60 or otherwise interposed between the water source and the manifold 60. This timer turns the flow of water into the manifold 60 on and off, thereby permitting regular, automatic watering of the plants.
 The ends of the watering lines 80-87 have nozzles that cause the water flowing out to form a stream that gently waters the plants. Alternatively, the watering lines 80-87 can have nozzles that form a mist that not only waters the soil of the containers, but also falls onto the leaves, flowers, fruit and stems of the plants.
 In an alternative embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 7, the plant holder 310 has a shade 312. The shade 312 is preferably a fabric on a frame 314 that is mounted to the hanger hub 330. The shade 312 is positioned to block or reduce the sunlight falling on one or more of the plants in the plant containers mounted on the plant holder 310. The fabric is preferably a conventional shading fabric or netting.
 In an alternative embodiment of the present invention shown in FIG. 4, the upright post 112 is mounted in the Earth beneath the plant holder 110. This is contemplated to be any ground surface, such as soil, sand, gravel or a mixture that is normally present for walking upon. However, concrete, asphalt pavement, wooden and plastic decks and other materials are walked upon and the upright post 112 can be mounted therein. Therefore, the definition of Earth for the purposes of this invention includes any surface that can be walked upon by an average person, included, without limitation, those that have been discussed above.
 The upright post 112 is preferably a common “four by four” made of wood but could be a metal, concrete, composite or other kind of post of any size. The post 112 inserts at its lower end into the Earth and at its upper end inserts telescopically into the hanger hub 130, which is essentially identical to the hanger hub 30 described above except for the dimensions of the downwardly extending receiver 128. The receiver is enlarged to accept the larger four-by-four wooden post 112. The manifold 160 mounts to the upright post 112 with conventional fasteners, and has a pair of T-shaped outlets 170 and 171 to which the watering lines 180-183 are mounted.
 The plant holder 110 functions essentially the same as the plant holder 10 described above, except that there are no lower watering lines. This is because any lower plants can be placed directly beneath the upper plant containers to receive any water that drips out of openings in the floors of the upper plant containers. Of course, lower watering lines could be added as an alternative.
 Also contemplated is a plant holder 210 having a base that is made of a pan 200 that is mounted to a central post 212, as shown in FIG. 6. The pan 200 has a floor 202 with a rigidly attached upwardly extending receiver 204 into which the central post 212 extends telescopically. A pan sidewall 206 is formed at the peripheral edge of the floor 202, thereby forming a reservoir with the floor 202 in which soil and plants can be placed and retained. The weight of the soil, plants and water in the pan 200 keeps the plant holder 210 from falling over.
 In the embodiment shown in FIG. 5, the radial arms 36-39 are positioned directly above the radial base members 16-19, respectively, of the base 14. The plant containers that are hung on the radial arms 36-39 can have apertures in the bottoms thereof to permit the water poured into them to drip out into containers positioned on the base directly beneath. However, because the radial arms 36-39 are positioned directly over the radial base members 16-19, it may be difficult to place plant containers directly beneath the radial arms 36-39. However, an adapter can be used that enables one to place the plant containers directly over the radial members 16-19 of the base. Such an adapter 400 is shown in FIG. 8.
 The adapter 400 rests over a radial base member 402 of a base. The adapter 400 has a lower U-shaped member 404 and an upper U-shaped member 406. The lower member 404 extends over the radial base member 402 and rests upon the radial base member 402 and the ground on which the radial base member 402 rests. The upper member 406 is rigidly mounted to the lower member 404, and has an upper surface 408 upon which a plant container can rest. The wider upper member 406 provides much more lateral support for a plant container than the radial base member 402.
 Alternatively, the hanger hub 30 can be formed with a rotatable joint between the receivers 32 and the downwardly extending receiver 28. Such a joint would permit rotary motion of the hanger hub 30 relative to the receiver 28, which contains the upright post 12. This rotary motion permits realignment of the radial arms 36-39 directly over the open portions of the base 14 between the radial members 16-19 (or any other part of the base) so that water poured into the plant containers mounted on the radial arms 36-39 drips down into the plant containers mounted in the open portions of the base 14. This eliminates or decreases the need for watering lines extending downwardly from the manifold 60.
 In a still further alternative embodiment, the arms 636, 637, 638 and 639 can be positioned rigidly over the openings in the base 620. This is shown in FIG. 9 in which an alternative set of arms for holding the plant containers is also illustrated.
 It is also possible to have more than one vertical level of horizontal radial arms on which plant containers can hang. For example, the plant holder 510 has a first level of radial arms 536 and 538 at the top of the central post 512, and another level of radial arms 540 and 542 mounted to the central post 512 between the bottom and the top of the central post 512. The radial arms 540 and 542 can be longer or shorter than the radial arms 536 and 538.
 While certain preferred embodiments of the present invention have been disclosed in detail, it is to be understood that various modifications may be adopted without departing from the spirit of the invention or scope of the following claims.