Picture of Self Watering Mini Garden
Building on the idea of the self watering plant pots (there are several instructables) I've built a bigger version, using IKEA boxes.

Step 1: Get all the Tools / Materials

Picture of Get all the Tools / Materials
Get some boxes. I used "Samla" boxes from IKEA because they are cheap, available in different sizes and you don't have to buy the lid (which we don't need).

You will also need some string, scissors, and your trusty Swiss Army knife. (Since you are on the instructables website I think it is save to assume you have one)
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LANGSHARK4 months ago

I like the string idea!

ilikecake31 year ago
bikeboy4 years ago
Hey man, thanks for the idea with the wicking ropes!
One small concern though: I've read that it's bad for plant roots if they're in contact with UV radiation. Too bad IKEA doesn't make these boxes in non-transparent version. Very easy adaptation of the earth box. I was looking for this!
ALL plastic will fail from UV exposure so why not build a lightweight box around the main planter - no bottom, just sides. This would prevent UV exposure to both the roots and the planter.
@ RoBear613:
I happend to have made a wooden "skirt" around my DIY earthbox, just as you described.
My boxes aren't transparant, but the wood looks fine!
Noadi bikeboy4 years ago
An easy solution to this would be to line the boxes with something opaque like weed block or even the plastic from heavy duty black garbage bags. Alternatively a more attractive measure would be to spray paint the outside of the boxes with a paint that bonds to plastic like krylon fusion.
bikeboy Noadi4 years ago
Seems like a good solutions. I found opaque containers in the size I was looking for and for a good price but that's will not always be the case.

For my soda bottle self watering containers, I just used cardboard to block the light. It's a cheap and eco friendly alternative, and theirs tons laying around in my appartment building. If cut with care, it looks tidy (opinions might vary on that...), and you can use it as a label too. Just don't poor water over it or it'll warp (but then again, the water should go into the tube).
gkaneto3 years ago
Hello, everybody!

I just wrote an instructable about self-watering indoor plants: really self-regulating, and no powering needs.

It is here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Self-regulating-watering-system

Hope someone find it useful.

Best wishes,
peregrine817 years ago
Hey man if you wanted to improve this you could take a .5 inch radius pvc pipe and cut a .5 inch radius hole in the bottom put the pipe in the hole, use some glue or kaulk to seal it up and just pour water down the hole. Or even make a automatic watering system with a floating switch to water when the water gets low. I LOVE YOUR IDEA!
I give you 10 MacGyvers!
Good idea man!
tlreyes5 years ago
 Thanks for the instructions. These are much more streamlined than some of the others I have read online. I am going to try this right away.
very nice and helpful
maurice19936 years ago
this kind of stuff also reduce the fungus manifestation? cause as water comes from down, don't touch the leaves and don't let them wet, isn't? very nice 'ible
smh6 years ago
Nice one =). I'm gonna have to make a couple.
maymomma6 years ago
I have been wanting to get some of the earth boxes but I want to give this a try first,sounds less costly.I want some small tomato plants and this sounds like the right size to try.Thanks for a great idea.
stifoo6 years ago
I think the idea is cute too...maybe it will work the same without the strings? I water quite a few of my plants from the bottom and the dirt soaks up what it needs on its own. I'd love to see an experiment of one with verses one without strings :)
RomanH (author)  stifoo6 years ago
That's the approach the "Earth Box" uses. A commercial product with many advantages (like refilling from the top). It is a concept that is proven to work.
HAL 90006 years ago
Today i did something like this with a bunch of 4 gallon food buckets i had lying around. i planted tomatoes, zucchini, salad greens and sugar snap peas. hopefully they will all grow well, ill post pictures of my setup if they do. great project, fun and easy in an afternoon
hmmm, it seems that a 4 gallon square bucket is too deep for this to work. the top of the soil dried out too quickly and the plants started dying. now i am rethinking while i water with a watering can.
RomanH (author)  HAL 90006 years ago
hmmm, I assume that's only a problem for the first couple of weeks. After that, the roots should reach down to the moisture. Good luck.
thanks so much im gonna try this ,but do you still have to fill up the bottom container with water every few days. : D
RomanH (author)  cameronlaferney6 years ago
As mentioned in a comment further down, you can increase the size of the reservoir by finding some method of raising the top container. I've played around with several containers and setups and they all have different "refill needs". :-) And you can always improve the design by adding a refill tube through the tob container. Nevertheless, the gardening season has just started this year and as long as there isn't much foliage at the plants there is not much water evaporating. So for the moment refill about once a week.
Wicking from the bottom - what a great idea! Think it would work with big, hearty plants? Does capillary action work with soluble fertilizers?
RomanH (author)  WallaceTheSane6 years ago
I assume it also works with soluble fertilizers. But that's not really an issue. after a couple of weeks the roots find the holes an grow straight down to the water reservoir. :-)
cukier6 years ago
That’s may be interesting for you: http://earthtainer.tomatofest.com/
shayes9766 years ago
not all string has ability to wick liquids. if it's untreated natural fibers or blends yes. But many are easily melted, meaning plastic which cannot absorb with the same rate , for the quality of your plants water schedule. you should be more specific. HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR THE WATER IN THE BOTTOM TO REACH THE MIDDLE OF THE DIRT LEVEL? IS IT CONSISTANT? or does it depend on the temperature of the room ie climate? if i make this and in a smaller scale like to a set of big 64oz. 711 cups stacked. would it still work? or do I need to bring the strings to the surface of the dirt? so far my problems with growing plants i want to use when i cook, is in chicago is it all has to be indoors.
You can also use strips of an old 100% cotton t-shirt. Just use a pencil to poke it through the holes, and tie a loose knot at one end of the cloth. .. Seeing as you use cups, perhaps you should check out container gardening, using 2 liter bottles, same concept, more specialized to your needs though. http://www.instructables.com/id/Self-Watering-Plant-Container-out-of-a-2-liter-bot/ Check this out :)

You shouldn't have to worry too much about how fast or how consistent the water will draw in, soil, being soil along with the cloth or string will absorb all over. Just keep an eye on the water level. Soil should be moist, enough to briefly stick to your fingers, and easily fall off.
busywoman656 years ago
That is neat. Can you also grow lettuce, radishes, onions. Things that don't have a real deep root.
susantoliu6 years ago
Great Idea.. are the plats can absorb water from the bottom by self? I will try this method. I will report to u next time. Thx.
aceitunita6 years ago
Do you have this self-watering system for your mini apple trees that were grown here?
RomanH (author)  aceitunita6 years ago
Since the mint took over the entire box within a couple of weeks I had to build a separate (slightly smaller) system for the apple trees. They are still alive I guess. We shall see how the do once spring finally arrives where I live... :-)
I've got big gardening plans for this season. I've already got a couple of chili plants growing in self-watering-systems like this one. (indoors for now)
I am so going to make this tonight. Great Instructable!
MrAdventure7 years ago
Nice. I was recently thinking about composting and small gardens. I posted a writeup about a three level gardenthree level garden that I think could really maximize space and save time in a small living environment. The watering and lighting mechanisms are built into the bottom of each tray. The trays rotate for ease of gardening.
lynx9297 years ago
Thanks RomanH. Great Idea. I have done this planter box but have modified it for an outdoor location in the garden. Have put in a spacer as noted in an earlier comment. But use brick as it does not rot. Have drilled a couple of 6mm drain holes (located below the bottom of the top box) to prevent "flooding" of the box. Have another 25mm dia hole at a higher level for filling with my garden hose. Have put a black plastic sheet over the top. Large enough to tie it around the side as well to protect the boxes from the sun. Cut hole in plastic at location of refill hole. Cut through plastic for your planting.
sick-al7 years ago
cool instructable, but i wouldn't say plants looked their best in a plastic tub. do you think i could use the same with plant pots?
RomanH (author)  sick-al7 years ago
sure, I don't see why it wouldn't work. The physics don't change. (oh, and yes, you're right. The bins look a bit trashy) :-)
Grey_Wolfe7 years ago
All praise Tiki. Tiki bless my veggies. lol
mweston7 years ago
You can add some spacers and increace the capacity a lot. This would be godd for 7 to 10 day vacations!
ulab mweston7 years ago
What about using the lid that you can buy as addon to those boxes? Just cut a hole big enough so that one box can sit on top of the other (or perhaps just a little stacked by using a slightly larger hole)? You could even use a smaller (not so high) box for the bottom one this way. IIRC there are boxes of similar size, but with different heights,
mweston ulab7 years ago
thats not bad either
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