Instructables

Self Watering Window Boxes

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Picture of Self Watering Window Boxes
If you are out of town frequently or have your hands too full to keep up with plant watering, this is an easy solution.

Make your own Self Watering Window Boxes.    

Here's how...
 
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Step 1: Step: Gather your Supplies

Picture of Step: Gather your Supplies
You will need:

-A 24" plastic Window Box Liner  
 (available at Lowe's in the Gardening Section)

-24" Galvanized Cage Wire  
 (available at Lowe's in the Gardening Section)

-A small submersible water pump  
 (available at Harbor Freight Tools for under $10)

-4' of vinyl hose sized to match the diameter of your water pump nossel  
  (available at Lowe's in the Plumbing Section)

-Potting Soil
-Plants
-Plumbers Putty
-Two pieces of felt
-A Dremel with your smallest drill bit
-Scissors
-Wire Cutters
-Automatic Timer 

A note about the water pump... Water pumps are rated based on how high they can lift the water and how many gallons per hour they can pump.  This water pump will only need to lift the water a few inches, and will won't be required to cycle lots of gallons of water.  The tiniest water pump you can find will probably suffice.  

Step 2: Step 2: Cut and Fold the Cage Wire to create the support

CAUTION: Cutting the wire can result in some sharp edges.  
You may wish to wear leather gloves and safety glasses for this step.  

Using your wire cutters, cut a piece off the spool of cage wire that is 12" wide.
Then trim this piece down lengthwise so it is 12" x 21".

Gently press the cage wire until it is flat.
Fold the edges down 3" in from edge.
Once folded, the piece of cage wire should sit nicely in the bottom of the window box liner. 
Test fit it in place and keep shaping the wire as needed.  

If you are planting a plant that needs a trellis support, cut your cage wire piece to be 25" x 21".  Fold the extra 13" vertically. 





Step 3: Step 3: Drill holes in the Tubing for water circulation

Time for some Dremel action!

Layout your tubing and drill holes with the Dremel about every inch or so.

Once the holes are in place, plug one end of the tubing with Plumbers Putty. 

Attach the hose to the water pump. 
drdunc10001 year ago
I have designed a self watering system that is very adaptable to different kinds of growing spaces. It is based on an Archimedes water lifter and I have used it for starting seeds, growing plants in my living room windows, flowers on the patio, and vegetables in my community garden plot. Here is a link..

http://drdunc1000autogardens.blogspot.com/
gkaneto2 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,
Gustavo.
jjmcgaffey2 years ago
Arrgh. Every time I go to a self-watering planter instructable, I lose an hour or two following links...
This is interesting - I've been trying to figure out how to make windowboxes self-watering, for shallow things like lettuce. I grow tomatoes in a couple Earthboxes, and have been working on DIY variants for other things, but the lettuce does poorly in the Earthboxes because it's so far from the reservoir to their roots (I think - they wilt and die, even with a full reservoir). This would solve that nicely.
santony32 years ago
wow! very nice idea. I always ask my neighbor to water plants when we all go out for a week. Add timer or remote control over phone (available in market) will be very useful thanks for the great idea
luckypalm2 years ago
In larger containers, an inverted plastic water bottle with the bottom cut out works as a fill tube. I've built many sub irrigation boxes using the info from this site:

http://www.insideurbangreen.org/diy-sub-irrigation/
What a great site!!!! Thanks for posting the link. Keeping the pots watered in our brutal Texas summers is a major challenge.
hoadie2 years ago
Not putting down your work, but you can buy pots that do this electricity free. A reservior at the bottom provides water by osmosis to the dirt & plants. It's a maintenance free solution too.
clgonsal hoadie2 years ago
I believe the pots you're referring to actually operate using capillary action, not osmosis.

It'd probably be pretty easy to modify these instructions to build the capillary action version. Just replace the pump + tube with something that will wick up water. A short piece of rope could work, or you could even just wrap the entire reservoir in additional felt. You just want to make sure that whatever you use will wick up water well, that it reaches the bottom of the reservoir, and also makes good contact with the felt in the bottom of the soil compartment.
dkiehl2 years ago
Thanks everyone for your ideas! Now what do you do when soil / debris plugs your pump? I folded my wire up on 1 end and used a single piece of left over landscape cloth. This solves 2 problems your clear tubing can rest on top of your soil. ( or about 1/2 as much ) and you can now see your water level. or use cardboard on deep pots. It will last the season and it is compostable
Spokehedz2 years ago
If you put in a water detector that would alert you to the low level of water in your tank, you could really improve the system cheaply.

check out 'water detector' or 'leak detector' kits and you'll see what I mean.
Gordyh2 years ago
One issue would be over filling. If you use the PVC fill pipe idea, simple dipstick could be used with a mark on it below the wire support. Some auto watering pots use a foam float on the bottom of the stick. Cut the stick so that when the water level is low the top of the stick is flush with the top of the stand pipe and a full mark on the stick.

For people using this outside it will be necessary to drill a overflow hole in the side of the container below the level of the wire. Otherwise rain could over fill the container and drowned your plants. Or you could drill a hole near the bottom of the container and mount a elbow with some clear plastic tubing standing straight up to act as a site glass. Cut the tubing to the proper length and it will act as an over flow.
Furballs2 years ago
One more question..what happens if you have a bunch of these outside, when you are away and it rains ? What would prevent them from flooding ? Hope I haven't missed something obvious, but if I have, enlightenment would be welcome.
kendrkin2 years ago
Love the details of your instructible. I like the comments on adding a PVC fill tube. I would go one further for a level check device. Put the PVC pipe in the corner through the wire mesh with some notches cut out of the bottom of the tube to allow for the water to pass through. Next get a rubber stopper or cork and a length of plastic or fiberglass rod. The rubber stopper or cork diameter needs to be smaller than the inner diameter of the PVC tube so it can ride freely within the tubing. Have the rubber stopper/ cork on the end of the plastic rod, and the rod cut to an inch longer than the PVC tube. Put the stopper/rod combination into the PVC tube with the stopper on the bottom. This is now a float level. Mark of for a critical level to fill the planter. With enough water in there, it will happily float in a good level, as marked. When the water level gets too low, it will lower the float into a fill level. And the float can be removed while filling.
This would be very useful on deeper planters, especially.. I've seen a similar set up on some commercial self watering planters, but they are often so poorly made they don't last long. Never thought of using a bit of cork to replace the floating bit that always seems to fall off or break.
Furballs2 years ago
This is a brilliant idea.. I have to go away often, to visit my mom in a nursing home, and getting the plants watered is always a hassle. This would work even in much bigger planters, I'd think. Is there any worry about backpressure damaging the pump ? I've read this can be a problem with some pond pumps, if the outlet get gunked up. Wouldn't the same thing happen with the holes in the tubing over time ?
ceknight2 years ago
Love this! I've done something similar to this on a larger scale with a Rubbermaid tote for tomatoes, copy of the Earth Box, which are too expensive. I do like your water circulation on a timer idea! I wouldn't worry too much about the roots not getting deep enough. They will probably go right through the felt in their search for more moisture. Gonna have to give this a try this year.
billbillt2 years ago
GREAT!!!
diy_bloke2 years ago
It is a great idea, sort of like th earth box but with a more reliable way of pumping. If you wld add a piece of pvc pipe (like for electrical wiring), it is easy to see how high the waterlevel is. You would not want yr pump to run dry.

Great idea
Mar HK2 years ago
Cool idea. I think I have all the parts for one of these laying around. You could add a vertical piece of tube in the corner to make water re-filling easier.
Katiemariesmith (author)  Mar HK2 years ago
I like the water refil tube idea! I'll have to add that for the next batch of these I make. :)
gada8882 years ago
looks great
hurten2 years ago
If you are worried about drownding your plants when you have to add more water you could put a small piece of PVC pipe in one corner of the box. Choose PVC that is small enough to fit through the spaces between the wires in your mesh, or use a larger size and make a cutout in the mesh. be sure your PVC is long enough to stick up above your soil and maybe even the leaves of your plants. You'll need to cut the bottom of your PVC on an angle so the water will be able to exit the bottom on the pipe into your water resevoir. I like your concept and thought your instructable was well written with good photos that were easy to follow.
Just-Mike2 years ago
Great idea. I might use some of your instructable when I start my balcony garden in a few weeks. Mar HK said the same thing I was thinking. I use a vertical tube to refill the reservoir in one of my larger planters.
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