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Self-Watering Planters

Posted on May 26, 2011

I have a recycled gardening project to share with you all. I’ve heard about self-watering planters that you can make yourself and after searching around the Internet, I found several different versions. For my planter, I used 2 recycled plastic buckets, a tin can, and a piece of plastic piping I found in my basement.

Here is my recycled self-watering tomato planter. I say recycled as I didn’t buy anything for this project and all the items were either recycled, repurposed, or re-used. Now for the details…

I get these buckets for a dollar at my local grocery store’s bakery. They are food grade so they are perfect for making the self-watering containers. I used this DIY tutorial link at urbanorganicgardener.com to make the planter with the pipe. There is also a tutorial at the same link that shows how to make the planter without the pipe and also a plastic pop bottle version too.

Here is a closeup of the can I used for my wickering can. It’s a 15 oz bean tin can with lots of holes drilled into it. This can was the perfect height for inside my self-watering containers as it just reaches inside the top of the stacked containers.

I made two of these planters in the past 2 weeks. Now I’m just waiting and hoping for lots of tasty tomatoes to grow in my self-watering containers. I’ll post again later this summer to let you all know how it works out using this method.

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4 Responses to “Self-Watering Planters”

  1. Linda Cortez
    May 28, 2011

    Your site is awesome. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Sharon Mathew
    Jun 01, 2011

    Self watering planter is a better ideas than the plants we grow usually. Using recyclable materials makes you ideas very eco-friendly. Thanks for sharing the information.


  3. Diana
    Jun 02, 2011

    There’s no better project than this for the summer, nice share!


  4. TacoMagic
    Jun 14, 2011

    One thing that is important to note about the DIY self-watering planters: The soil you use in them is HUGELY important. Specifically you need a soil that is fairly dense (medium to high clay content) so that the capillary action (wicking) actively pulls moisture up into the plant fast enough for the plant to be watered and to prevent the basin of water from stagnating and becoming foul.

    A lot of the potting soils you can pick up at the store are TERRIBLE for this. Generally the looser and lighter the soil, the worse capillary action the soil will have. Companies tend to have a lot of peat moss and vermiculite (or similar) in their potting soils, which is great for water retention but kills the wicking ability of the soil.

    You’re actually better off mixing 2 parts topsoil with 1 part compost then you are using most potting soils. Put a scoop of bone meal in as you add it to the pot and you’ll be ready to go.*

    I had 1 tomato plant die in a self-watering pot because I used off-the-shelf potting soil. The basin at the bottom of the pot remained full of water, which spoiled after about a week (Unbeknownst to me until I dumped it out and it was stagnant and foul). Meanwhile the plant dried up because the potting soil couldn’t wick the water up to the roots fast enough. However, the little Japanese Maple I had sitting next to it in the exact same type of DIY self watering pot did fabulously. The difference was that when I was potting the Maple I had run out of potting soil and had just filled the pot with topsoil out of the garden; I’d planned on putting it in the ground next spring anyway so I wasn’t worried about contamination. The end result was that the Maple got plenty of water wicked up to it and the tomato died of thirst while I was away for a hot weekend. The reason was because we have a lot of clay in our soil, which is fabulous for wicking water up far and fast… not so great for drainage.

    So yes, these self-watering pots are great… provided you use soil with a high enough clay content. Otherwise, when using looser/lighter potting soil you’re actually better to use a bucket with a lot of holes in the bottom for drainage and just watering from the top once or twice a day. I grew tomatoes that way last year, and, while they required daily watering, they did fantastic.

    I’ve been told that adding cloth (Old strips of T-shirt) helps a lot if you don’t have a good soil alternative to potting soil. I may try that next year and see if I have better luck… or I’ll just use more top soil mixed with compost and bone meal.

    *The recipe given by my Father-in-law. He has a miniature tomato orchard in DIY self-watering pots every year. He was the one who guided me through why potting soils are horrible for wicking and why topsoil should be used instead. Sandier soil will not work very well for wicking either, so you may have to doctor up the clay content in those situations.



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Hello, Iā€™m Cindy or aka RecycleCindy. Welcome to my blog site that is dedicated to recycling and crafting. I love to crochet and create crafts and other useful things from recycled materials. I share many free tutorials and patterns for creating recycled projects as well as other handmade items.


Here is a direct link to all my free patterns available here on My Recycled Bags.


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