Introduction: Self-regulating Watering System

In short: this method uses the technology of some bird water bottles (like this). Additionally, you'll also use some communicating vessels

The basic idea is drawn in pic #1.

To make it, you'll need:

- plastic bottle with cap
- pot plate
- tubing (about 3 to 5 mm of internal diameter)

How to do it
1. Drill a hole (about 1 cm wide) at the bottom of the bottle (pic #2). The hole must be below the rim of the plate. 
2. Fill the bottle through the hole. Then put the bottle inside the plate (pic #3).
3. Fill the tube with water and use it to connect this plate to other plates (pic#4; more on this later).

How it works
A1. Water will fall off the bottle until its level (outside) reach the top of the hole.
A2. When the level of water (outside) goes down, some air will enter the bottle through the hole, and more water will fall off. 

B. The tubing will transform the two (or more) plates in communicating vessels. The water level will be the same in all plates (relative to the ground).

1. You can connect several plates to the main plate.
2. Make sure all the plates are in adequate level. You can easily level them with chopsticks or folded newspaper under any plate, for example.
3. The pot size and soil type may interfere in the success of this method. Also, be aware of watering needs of your plants.
4. Make sure there are no air bubbles inside the tubing. Due to the small diameter of the tubing, air will probably clog it.

1. It is really self-regulating. (Some other methods depends on climate, watering needs and dripping rate.)
2. No need for electrical devices. No powering needs.

1. It only works with pot plates or something like it (i.e. good for indoor use, but almost useless outdoor).
2. May not work with large pots (if soil capillarity is not sufficient to pull water from plate to the plant roots).

(P.S.: English is not my first language. Please, correct me if there is something wrong. Also... this is my first Instructable, so... please let me know if it lacks something.)

Step 1: Self-regulating Watering System: Alternatives


1. You can use a large tray to put the water bottle and a lot of pots. (See pic #1 in this step.)

2. If you don't have tubings, and you can place the bottle near the plants, then you can connect the plates using some cotton string or cloth. (See pic #2.)

3. You can adjust this idea in many ways. (See pic #3.)


Laral (author)2015-05-24

Very nice idea based on sound hydrostatic principles. I don't think I could get it to work for my huge ceramic potted Bird of Paradise because I put a good layer of gravel on the bottom which is much higher than the top of the saucer. I could use wicks though.

Danielinthelionsden (author)2015-03-10

Hi there. I like your simple system. I have built a few container systems that work with a similar irrigation principles of watering from below and using capillary forces to wick the water up to the roots. My concern with your system is that if your system runs dry and you refill the reservoir it would be tricky to get water from one station to the next. A possible solution is to connect the pipes under the water level. I have done this and it works well. I would add images but my work computer does not allow it. I also suggest you use a larger tray and put a 5L water bottle upside down next to the pot plant in the same tray so no connections are required.

pianolover10124353 (author)2013-01-31

cool good to know when here in corpus we somtimes have 6 month drouts

nv1z (author)2012-10-03

I like this method! One may use a single water reservoir to water multiple plants. If, however, you have plants in multiple locations, I found this one to be effective. It uses aquapicks [floral spikes] inserted into the cap of a plastic drink bottle:

jarcher12 (author)2012-07-26

thanks this helped me find a solution to a problem i was having . Hopefully i can tweak this to make it work. ! cheers

dyuhas (author)2012-03-07

Use capillary matting instead. Your plants don't sit in water.

Drak29 (author)2012-03-07

Your watering system looks nice. In my opinion it should work great with hydroponics

BigShotUK (author)2012-03-06

Have you used this to grow anything yet?

It's a simple enough looking system, but I wonder how the plants cope with having such wet soil.

I try to water pots from the bottom like this, but never leave them standing in the water long term. I'd be concerned about the roots/soil becoming waterlogged.

gkaneto (author)BigShotUK2012-03-06

Hi! I'm testing it now (for 3 days) with two plants. Both of them like (but not require) constantly moist soil. But in my test, the most important difference seems to be the soil:

1) One of them is highly organic and have more clay; this soil seems to be a little over-watered, actually, but it's only 8 cm high. In this case, I think that good solutions would be a taller pot or a soil with higher porosity at the base.

2) The other soil is very "loose", mixed with coconut fibre; this is barely moist at the top (about 10 cm high). It seems to be perfect to these plant/soil/roots.

In the next days I will begin to test other combinations of pot height, soil type and root "deepness".

What do you think about all this?