Large Self-Watering Planter + rain water storage UPDATE

Picture of Large Self-Watering Planter + rain water storage UPDATE
(more from my brain at:

I wanted a vegetable garden, but I don't have a yard. Or much money.

I was inspired partly by a book lent to me by the first person I ever went out on a date with
(almost a year ago already!) and partly by the container gardening class I was brought to on Valentine's day by a different date.
When I first jumped into this new experience of dating I wasn't sure what to expect - but rainwater collection was surely no where in my mind as even the remotest possibility.

We actually don't pay for water in the trailer park, (its included in the rent) and RVs use very little water anyway by their nature.
On the other hand, CA is in a drought (again), one never knows when the next earthquake (or revolution perhaps?) might cut off the municipal supply, and I wanted to start gardening without increasing how much water I used.
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Step 1: Rainwater collection system on my RV trailer

Picture of Rainwater collection system on my RV trailer
(Most of you probably live in houses instead of RVs, so you can skip all this and just tap into the existing rain gutters)

Since the trailer doesn't really have gutters, I started by applying a thick bead of silicone around the perimeter of the roof, except above the slide and the awning, so that the water will flow to those areas. More silicone on one side of the slideout section, and the awning drains to one side because of how it is tilted.

I built the spouts from layers of aluminum tape so I could shape it precisely the way I needed.
[picture 1]
The tape feeds into a funnel (mesh covered to keep out the crap), which goes into PVC pipe.
[picture 2]
On the slide side its basically just a long piece of straight pipe.
[pic 3]
The awning side was more of a challenge as it has to go around a number of various corners and through narrow spaces to get to the storage barrel on the other side of the house.
[pic 4]
Instead of trying to measure and cut and join a whole bunch of short plastic pieces, I used flexible aluminum dryer vent.
Three lengths together made the perfect length. It's supported with a bunch of random stuff, bungees, [6] rope, [7] metal bars, [8] and blocks of wood, taken from my cabinets, shed and scrap pile.

After the first little rain the dryer vent drooped in 2 spots, and I added and redistributed the support. [9]

At the end [10] an extra large funnel collects water from both sides [11], and drains into a 55 gallon water barrel. [12]

The barrel is used, but thoroughly cleaned and pressure tested, and was purchased locally by a company which specializes in second hand barrels, only about 5 miles from my house. A 55 gallon with a removable top (for adding a spout, and cleaning if it becomes necessary some day) cost me all of $20 (even). They didn't have a spout kit - they said they could order one from the warehouse; but I figured I could get something from the hardware store. The book had warned me I wouldn't be able to, and I should have listened. I ended up ordering one online.

Waiting for it to show up gave me an excuse to be lazy and not work on the system, and fortunately for most of that time it was dry anyway (I did miss some rain, which was rather tragic, but what can you do?).

I finished it just in time for the season's last rain, making it the first time in my life that raining actually made me happy.

bluzcomp4 years ago
The unidentified plant looks to me like a peach tree. They can easily sprout in the compost. Might want to score a gal. sized planting pot. It will be fine in it's own pot for a couple years. How ingenious, very cool ideas.  I love that you are reusing stuff. My boyfriend and I like doing that also. He just finished a cold frame from all reused stuff. Happy gardening!
JacobAziza (author)  bluzcomp4 years ago
My neighbor said it looked like a nectarine.

Thank you for commenting.  I had pretty much forgotten about this instructable.
I need to update it!

My first tomato plant survived the winter and has produced a couple more (tiny) fruits.  I didn't add any water other than from the rain barrel all year, gave away produce, and let the insects have as much as they wanted, because it was more than I could finish anyway.

I now have a grape, and another strawberry plant in the box, and blueberry and a dwarf orange/tangerine tree in the wine barrels.  I just planted carrots, cherry tomatoes, more lettuce and beans, basil, sweet pea, and some kind of zucchini or squash or something.
I'll try to remember to take new pictures.

What is a cold frame?

A cold frame is like a mini  (unheated) greenhouse. It's about the size of your box, only with a plexyglass lid. But it's up on legs so I don't have to bend over or worry about bugs. I started seeds in the house and they are getting big enough to transplant into bigger pots. Then they wont fit in the window anymore. I live in Washington so it's still cold here. That's why the cold frame. Probably mid to end of May I'll put them in the garden.
Yeah nectarine or peach. Not sure till after it fruits if you can tell them apart?
Sounds like your having fun, that's a good thing.
jao5035 years ago
Wow... You inspired me! I will grow something!
Very Cool! I really dig how everything is made from salvaged materials. Come join our rainwater harvesting community. Can you re-post this on There are lots of people who would really appreciate this!
ChrysN5 years ago
This is a cool set up. Your plants sure look happy!
JacobAziza (author)  ChrysN5 years ago
Thanks! :) Happy, and also delicious.