Introduction: Awesomely Automatic Garden Watering Buddy - Complete With Reservoir for Nutrients.

I have the worst luck with remembering to water my tomatoes on a regular basis. I've nearly killed them 3 times this spring already. So my roommate decided if left to my own devices we'd never get any this year. We looked into drip tape systems, but they still would have required me to turn the water on and off.

And since we don't have a ton of room on our porch, I couldn't use as large pots as I should have to hold my tomato plants. To make up for the lack of nutrition available in the soil, I've been supplementing with hydroponic nutrient solution. So we needed a drip system that also had a reservoir that would allow us to mix the nutrient solution into the watering system. When we started looking around online we couldn't find one for sale and no instructions anywhere to build one. Thus we give you our prototype, the Awesomely Automatic Garden Watering Buddy - Complete with Reservoir for Nutrients.

I've had a couple people comment about the possibility of using this system inside. Great news! Now you can! Check out the last step for the supplies you need to connect this waterer to indoor plumbing. This is a great method to use especially is you live in an apartment building and you want to do an indoor garden. You can use this waterer in conjunction with my Self Leveling Light for a completely low maintenance indoor garden.

Step 1: Supplies

Picture of Supplies


  • 1 Tube of Silicone Caulk - Bathroom and Kitchen
  • 5 - Gallon Bucket with a lid
  • Submersible Mini Pump
  • Watering Drip Starter Kit
  • Lamp and Appliance Timer
  • CVPC Primer and Glue
  • Fluidmaster Flow Valve
  • Small Sealable Container


  • 2: 12" pieces of CPVC
  • 6: 2" pieces of CPVC
  • 1-1/14" piece of CPVC
  • CPVC T joint
  • 4: 90 degree CPVC elbows
  • 2: CPVC Slip to Male
  • 2: CPVC Slip to Female
  • CPVC Slip to Steel Male
  • CPVC Slip to Steel Female
  • CPVC Slip to Low Profile
  • Threaded Hose Nozzle Female
  • Threaded 3/4" to water hose 3/4"


  • Slip to Male Threaded
  • Female Threaded to Male Slip
  • Female Slip to Female Threaded
  • Male Plug asasdf

Step 2: Tools

Picture of Tools
  • Hacksaw
  • Utility Knife
  • Tape Measure
  • Pliers
  • Caulk Gun
  • Drill
  • Pencil
  • Electrical Tape
  • Wire Cutter
  • Teflon Tape(Plumbers Tape)
  • Straight Edge
  • Various Sizes of Drill Bits
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Straight Pin

Step 3: Assembly of Parts - Inside the Bucket

Picture of Assembly of Parts - Inside the Bucket


2 of the Elbows

The T

2 of the 2" pieces of CPVC

The 1-1/4" piece of CPVC


As shown in the picture above:

The 2 2" pieces into the top of the T.

The 1-1/4" piece into the bottom of the T.

The elbows to the 2" pieces, facing down the same as the T.


The two 12" pieces

CPVC Slip to Low Profile


Each of the two 12" CPVC pieces into the remaining holes in the elbows.

Glue the slip end of the low profile to the other side of the 1-1/4" CPVC piece in the bottom of the T.

Step 4: Marking the Bucket Lid

Picture of Marking the Bucket Lid

If you use the buckets from Lowes, the lids have marks around the edges. You can line up two of the marks and straight edged between them. If not, just eyeball it and strike an X across your bucket lid.

Set the CPVC Slip to Male Threaded on the ends of the 12" pieces of CPVC and roughly half the distances on either side. Lightly mark where each are placed on the bucket lid. To make it easier to get a tight mark on it, pull the CPVC slips off and trace tightly around the threaded portion on the bucket, on the marks you just left. On the opposite leg of the X, trace a tight line around the threaded portion of 1-1/2" CPVC Slip to Male Threaded.

Use a utility knife to cut the circles out. We started out with just scoring the lines and slowly working the plastic out. You want these seams tight, so do this part carefully.

Step 5: Joining and Sealing the Bucket Lid

Picture of Joining and Sealing the Bucket Lid

Caulk around each of the holes on the underside of the bucket. Seat the threaded portion of the pieces from the previous step against the bottom of the bucket. Use your finger to smear the excess caulk around the edges of the pipe pieces, sealing the edge of the bucket.

Spread caulk around the threaded parts of the two 3/4" Female to Male CPVC pieces and the 1-1/2" Female to Slip piece. Screw them down on each of the male pieces sticking thru the bucket lid. Add extra caulk around the gaps and smear it sealed with your finger.

Step 6: Modifying the FlowMaster

Picture of Modifying the FlowMaster

Measure down an inch from the flange and cut the excess off with a hacksaw. Caulk around the threaded part of the low profile, screw in the FlowMaster, it may try to go crooked, a little crooked is OK, but try not let it lean way over. Then fill the left over gap with more caulk. This needs to be water tight.

Prime the tops of the 2 two 12" pieces of CVPC and slip pieces that are inside the bucket lid. Glue together.

It's important to make sure the FlowMaster has some clearance.

Step 7: Prepping the Drip Tubing

Picture of Prepping the Drip Tubing

Use a drillbit that is roughly the same size as your tubing. It's better to go a size smaller so the tubing is snug in the bucket lid. Drill a hole through the bucket lid and thread the drip tubing through that hole. Then switch out bits for one that is roughly the same size as the pumps electrical cord. Drill a hole a few inches on around the bucket lid, like shown.

Then glue the plug from the back of the pump onto the end of the tubing now sticking through the bottom of the bucket lid. I propped mine in a pair of pliers to dry. This is a good step to stop on and let all the glue set overnight both in the tubing and in all the CPVC pieces. It's not totally necessary, but I think it helps avoid some future problems down the line with leakage.

Step 8: Electrical

Picture of Electrical

With the same bit you just used to drill through the bucket lid, drill through the side of the Tupperware container. Then cut a notch in the opposite side for the extension cord. Measure down about 2" from the plug and cut the power cord for the pump. Thread the cut end through the bucket lid and through the hole in the Tupperware container.

Step 9: Electrical Cont.

Picture of Electrical Cont.

Cut the casing off of both ends of the electrical cord. Strip the casing off of each of the wires in each end. Twist the same colored wires together with a pair of pliers. Wrap each colored wire individually with electrical tape, this is to prevent any shorting. Once the individual wires are wrapped, wrap the entire bundle a couple times with more tape, effectively sealing the gap between the two pieces of wire casing.

Step 10: Cutting and Connecting the Drip Line

Picture of Cutting and Connecting the Drip Line

I knew my placement would vary slightly for each year so I wanted to keep my lengths of drip line with enough slack to allow that. So the initial length from the pump, I left 10' of line before I made the first cut. Count out how many T's you have included in the package. The way I set up, this is the number of plants this system can handle without moving to a larger pump and adding another package of line.

Divide the T's into 2 equal piles. Starting with one T, cut 3' pieces for each side of the T. Add 2 more T's on either end of those 3' pieces. Continue adding lines and T's until you run out of T's. Then cut 2 more additional pieces of 3' line, add those to the 2 remaining open sides of the last T's.

Measure and cut 1' pieces. Find the middle of your string of T's, skip the middle one and start adding 1' pieces to the bottom of the T's. Continue till all the T's but the middle one are filled.

The 1' pieces are what will be going from the main line to your individual plants.

Step 11: Creating Pressure in the System

Picture of Creating Pressure in the System

Drip lines work under the idea of even distribution of pressure in the system. After a lot of trial and error this is the best way I could come up with to get it to work. Run a bead of hot glue over one end of the drip nozzles. After the hot glue cools, use a straight pin to push a hole through the glue. Keep the pin handy, once you get your system all set up you may have to use it again to help the system balance the pressure.

Step 12: Final Setup

Picture of Final Setup

Once you get your bucket all assembled and put where you have your plants, it's time to get it running. First hook up the water hose and and let the bucket fill up. Once it's full you can plug the pump in and let it start cycling the water through the drip tubing. I used the little spikes that came with the packaging to help keep the drip nozzles in the buckets. As the system fills you'll see some that are not dripping, or are dripping slowly. Use the same straight pin from earlier to add additional holes through the glue on the nozzles.

Step 13: Setup for Using Indoor Plumbing

Picture of Setup for Using Indoor Plumbing

You only need a couple pieces to add this into your existing plumbing.

  • Add-A-Tee Adapter 3/8"
  • 3/8" Stainless Steel Facet Hose
  • 1/2" to 3/4" Garden Hose adapter

To assemble, take the Tee, on the bottom, screw in the stainless steel hose. This hose is 3/4" on the inlet to 1/2" on the outlet. Screw the the garden hose adapter into the 1/2" side of the stainless steel hose.

Next, make sure the water is off to the section of pipe you're going to connect into! Bleed the line so you have no built up water pressure. Unscrew the connection between the cold water IN/shutoff and the line to the facet. Add the Tee directly to the cold water shutoff then add the line to the facet to the remaining open end of the Tee.

Now you can either connect this line directly to the bucket inlet, or add a water hose then connect the water hose to the bucket inlet so you get a longer reach.

You can also do this setup with 1/4" ice line, like what's in refrigerators. Just swap out your adapters to 1/4". The ice line allows you to run a line that's smaller than a garden hose, so if you want to keep it more inconspicuous.

(Thank to you guys asking about indoor setups, I got a new facet! Since the roommate already had the plumbing unhooked he went ahead and updated my bathroom. Thanks! I love it!)


SherifS1 (author)2015-04-30

very helpful instructions, thank you very much.

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

I like your Instructable

Thank you so much for sharing


Power Gods (author)2014-09-24



Alady51 (author)2014-08-14

I cant wait to try this!

Please post pictures when you do! I love seeing the results of people following my Instructables!

Drillbit made it! (author)2014-08-12

I got to make one, "Automatic Garden Watering Buddy" over the weekend. It was very easy to make total time was 3hrs. First hour, was running around to get all the parts. Second hour, was cutting, drilling, and assembling, Third hour, was getting the all the drip heads to work closely to in time with each other ( I had to poke a few holes with a safety pin). I first tried stringing all the drippers out in a line with the pump on the end. I could not get it to have enough pressure to drip at the other end, so I put the pump in the middle of the line and BINGO!. I have watched it over the past few days, and really all I can think of is why is this not sold in stores? Serious, you should take this to Shark Tank or something like that. You got my two children interested in gardening and hydroponics again. We are going to build these for Christmas presents to give out to all of our family and friends. I was a easy and fun project. My wife is planning out a whole new garden plot for next year, now that we can keep our plants alive with all of our busy schedules. Thank you for making this. I VOTED for you.

It looks great! Glad you were able to get it working. Sounds like you have some very lucky friends getting such an awesome Christmas gift! I'm so glad someone actually tried this, helps me know my Instructable instructions were clear and easy to follow. Thanks for posting a picture!

LynxSys (author)2014-08-04

This is a great idea, and a clever repurposing of a toilet tank valve. I like that you added an additional valve so that you can still use your hose, too. I've been dreaming about building a self-watering raised-bed (like zymurgeneticist did), but I don't have a back yard at the moment. Your Instructable is perfect for me right now, because I'll be able to use it on the back porch to ensure that I always have delicious, fresh tomatoes (or, at least, to ensure that the neighborhood squirrels always have delicious, fresh tomatoes)!

I have a great area for a garden plot in my yard, but our lot borders the woods and several people in our development feed the deer, so they eat through my flowers on the way in and eat through my veggies on the way out. My deck is the only safe spot left lol. But the other Instructable would work perfectly at my mom's house. So thanks! And if you end up building one of mine, please post pics! Especially of the fat, happy squirrels ;)

If you spray your plants with dish soap,(not dishwasher soap) the deer will not bother them. You must respray after a rain though.

ManifoldSky (author)JAMESJ12014-08-09

To deter deer, use chain link fencing laid HORIZONTALLY on the perimeter of the bed. They do not like walking through the links, and can not get enough of a base to jump in. Takes a lot of space, so may not be applicable in this situation, but it does work where one has the room.

I've never heard of that, but it seems like it'd work if you had enough space to stretch it further than they could jump. Kinda like a cattle guard bridge...

I have tried everything. Dish soap doesn't deter them. Spraying ammonia around the property doesn't phase them. Store bought repellents don't work. Irish spring bar soap works until anything I'm growing either gets flowers or starts growing fruit/veggie. Then they eat the plant to the ground. I have lived several places and I've honestly never had this much trouble with deer. These deer are almost domesticated, so they aren't scared of anything, so the streamers and pie pans I used as a kid in our first homes garden doesn't even make these deer shy away. Thanks though :/

take and put some poles on each end and run string to each one and they wont come near it.

When I was a little kid we used to just put pie pans on string and run it around the outside of the garden. That doesn't even phase these deer. They really aren't scared of anything. So thanks, but if pie pans didn't work I don't think just string will.
These deer are so domesticated you can almost walk up to them. You have to basically nudge them with your car to get them to get out of the road. No joke...

JAMESJ1 (author)2014-08-06

Why not just put a new plug in on it? I voted both catigories for this, great idea!

Thanks for the vote! I'm not sure what plug in your referring too though?

Where you cut off the end of the plug to put the electrical cord through the hole. You put the wires back together and wrapped them with electrical tape. I just thought a $2 plug in would be easier and safer. Just a suggestion, no worries.

Ah I figured that's what you meant, but most "replacement" plugs are just two metal panels that you smosh the wire between. Which isn't really water tight and can actually run the risk of arcing if it gets wet. By taping each of the wires individually you completely eliminate the risk of arcing between the wires and by taping the whole thing again, you make it essentially water tight. And it also saves $2. Hope that explains better why I did it this way.

Makes perfect sense, thanks.

HarveyS (author)2014-08-06

Clever idea.

Your presentation would be clearer if you told us what the various parts are for.

I take it that the plumbing parts are all bucket refill related and that the pump is directly connected to the drip system. A variant might be to make bucket refill manual. This would be especially desirable if the watering system is used indoors for house plants. Manual refill limits the amount of damage that can occur if something goes wrong.

You don't show how the pump connects to the drip tubing. Did it come with an adapter?

It isn't clear what wires you are cutting and splicing (or why).

A float switch would be a nice way to protect the pump from running dry.

If the water level in the bucket is higher than the emitters, gravity will siphon the bucket dry. A "T" and check valve, that allow air into the drip tubing when the pump is off, would break the siphon. "Duck bill" check valves are inexpensive and are usually available where aquarium supplies are sold.

Good morning, lets see if I can answer all your questions.

No, not all of the plumbing parts are related to the bucket refill. Step 3 begins the assembly of the piping inside the bucket. Everything that is 3/4" is directly related to the refilling process. 1-1/2" CPVC is simply an extra access point into bucket to add nutrients so you don't have to take the bucket lid on and off.

Yes, the drip tubing is directly connected to the back of the pump, as is shown in step 7. There is a tubing plug that comes with the pump that is connected to one side of the pump. This is the OUT of the pump, where you connect the tubing to. You would connect tubing there whether you were using this for drip tape or as a fountain. We glued the tubing into that plug to keep from having any pressure leaks between the two.

If I made the refill manual it would defeat the purpose of it being a completely autonomous system. I'm not sure why you'd want to make it manual. If the set up was manual and you had to remember to fill the bucket, why not just water your indoor plants with a watering can? And secondly, with the appliance timer, you can set the system up to run for half hour intervals, if you set the tubing up and spike it into the soil of your planter, and also, have your plants setting on overflow plates, you're not going to overfill them in a half hour of dripping.

Step 8 clearly states the electrical cord for the pump. It's sentence 3 in that paragraph.

You want to cut the cord to keep from having to cut a gigantic hole in your bucket lid, or in the tupperware container to fit the plug through. And the wire splicing is just reattaching the plug back to the rest of the wiring. Which is pretty clearly illustrated in the pictures of Step 9.

A float switch would be great for using a limited water supply. However, with the fact mine connects directly to a "unlimited" water supply, it's not necessary.

Most pumps have built in check valves to keep them from being damaged when they're turned off by backfilling water. Also most pumps are centrifugal, like a revolving door, so as the fins of the door slide around, usually only one, sometimes two of the openings between the fins are exposed to the outside, effectively sealing off the inside part of the doorway. Centrifugal pumps work under the exact same principle, the fins between the openings keep outside water from flowing back in because when the motor stops, the water can only backfill into the opening that's exposed to the tubing. Since the fins are water tight,and the pump is only geared in one direction, there's no need for an additional check valve.

Any other comments/questions?

rudolph (author)2014-08-05

Awesome, the timing of this is near perfect. We're about to move and will finally have some space to plant things (it even comes with some tomato plants that are currently producing). I suck at remembering to water stuff though, so if I do this maybe I won't kill the tomatoes right away.

Hey that's great! Good luck keeping the growing ones alive! Best tip I have for tomatoes, do not touch them during the heat of the day. You can literally kill them just by touching the when they're hot. It's got something to do with the way their leaves respond to sunlight. That also goes for stuff like cucumbers and any kind of melon. I thought my mom was just pulling my leg when I was younger about it. But when I accidentally killed 4 plants a few years back, learned the hard way.

Arkwebdragon (author)2014-08-05

looks like it would easily scale up for a bigger water barrel as well, like a 50 gallon drum.

i may have to build this for next years garden.

Oh and if you're using the larger barrel to supply more plants you could always add multiple pumps and drip lines. I think the max # of plants the kit I used will do is like 20. So for a "garden" application you could always add 2-3 more kits and reasonably supply a fair plot of ground.

Oh yeah that'd totally work. You may need to get a larger pump though, since you'd be fighting a bit more head pressure to climb out of the barrel than a bucket. The rest of the set up could theoretically stay the same, as in the CPVC and Flowmaster placement. I would really really really love to see pics if you build one. I'd love to see how it turns out!

klunsford1 (author)2014-08-05

Wouldn't it be cheaper and easier to just buy an inexpensive watering system on Amazon?

brewgoat (author)klunsford12014-08-05

What fun would be in that? :)

Just because McDonald's and the supermarket both have beef doesn't make them equal.

All in all I maybe have $40 in supplies in this and a couple hours of my time. When I'm finished I have a system that does exactly what I need. Auto watering, reservoir for nutrients, leave it on vacation and it still works. There is nothing like this for sale anywhere for $40. If you dig deep enough into hydroponics sellers you may find something similar but it's going to be in the $100s of dollars range. So while it might be "easier" to click buy, it certainly doesn't make it cheaper or better suited to what I needed.

TwoWindsBear (author)2014-08-05

GREAT i'ble!

Maybe use a rain barrel as your water source? Or gray water from your home?

That's actually why we added the second valve in! Glad someone brought that up I forgot to mention it in the text. Here at this house it's not practical due to space limitations :( but that's the plan at my mom's. They already have a tank for rainwater. We want to run a line from it to the drip bucket(maybe buried, since it would have to run across the yard). Though I will say, if you use a limited supply tank, keep an eye on it. You run the risk of burning up the pump if the water supply runs out!

jsmith261 (author)2014-08-05

In Southern California, it's hard to water everything often enough to keep it alive. This is brilliant.

Oh I can imagine! The other great thing about this is with the timer set up you can make sure your plants get watered during the twilight hours so no worries of scorching the roots of your plants.

Raphango (author)2014-08-05

Great!! Congratulations!


Drillbit (author)2014-08-04

I am deferentially making one of these asap. I forget to water my plants in the garden all the time. Its hard to remember everything throughout the day with constant distractions and problems that need time. Thank you for saving my plants and future plants.

Please post a picture of your results! I'd love to see it!

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