Picture of Self watering recycled vase
Nice way to recycle plastic bottles and grow your own food. :-)

Step 1: Material List

Picture of Material List
Material List:

a) a plastic soda bottle (empty)

b) a piece of cotton string

c) sharp knife

d) hot piece of wire to make a role in the bottle lid

e) some dirt with seeds

f) little patience.
RichardP2821 days ago
This is my ebb and flow.it will take over when my pop can seedlings are ready( when i perfect it)
FD 1-thumb.jpg
kezpage4 months ago


what kind of herb/seeds can i put in the plastic bottles.?


bbullet (author)  kezpage4 months ago
Hello, I grow herbs to use in the kitchen.

I made quite a few of these, and started up a small garden once the seedlings grew too big for the bottle. Also I just used a bunch of 0.9fl oz water bottles, I didn't have any cotton string so I cut up a 97% cotton shirt and it worked out very well. I really enjoyed this project, very simple and easy, thanks for posting.

infob3 years ago

I used two 6 liters water bottles, it means arround 4 liters of water in the bottom one and another 4 liters of earth in the other.

To fight algaes (because outdoors the rain will flow through the soil to the bottom part) I added in the bottom a few physa snails (a.k.a. "plage aquarium little snails")

xACIDITYx5 years ago
I'd really like to know how long, on average, a single "serving" of water will last for. I'm going away for a few weeks and need a way for a few spearmint plants to survive without me.
busywoman656 years ago
I was wondering if the cotton string goes all the way to the top of the dirt so all of it gets watered or does it work that way? What kind of vegetables can you grow in a small container like this?
bbullet (author)  busywoman656 years ago
yes it does goes all way to the top, u can make some rounds midway up to moist more. You can grow anything that fits, or use it as a starter for bigger plants.
In mine I do not have a string that goes to the top of the soil. If the soil is good for plants, it should draw water up the same way the string does, but moreso, because it should have more water potential.
If the plant is supplied with water directly, it will not have much of a need to stretch out its' root system. So having the string extending only a little bit up through the soil rather than the entire way up should, in theory, encourage growth of the root system of the plant because it will have to grow outwards to obtain the necessary water.
to put water back into the lower part of the vase, is there a way to do that besides having to take out the plant each time?
tonic46 years ago
I had everything i needed within about 5 feet. I read this, and made it in about 10 minutes. We had bought a cheap mop with the cotton strings on it for the wicks in our tiki lamps. That worked well, just had to make the hole a little bigger. Thanks for the fun idea. When my kids are older we'll do this together.
bananite6 years ago
I don't have cotton string, so I cut up an old white cotton t shirt into long, thin strips and used those, as seen in this instructable:
Giving this a go. Planted some Columbine flower mix. If some of you are new to gardening like I am try out gardenguides.com, helped me out quite a bit and very informative.
One note I want to point out here... Columbines are a very picky and difficult plant to grow. From the time I posted this article until about a week ago the plant seemed like it was going to die or fail. But just last week it bloomed it's first flower. Very awesome. While the wicking method described here did NOT work using EMBROIDERY FLOSS, I do believe it will work as described in the instructable with COTTON string.
By "role", you mean hole, right?
bbullet (author)  superforestnyc6 years ago
That´s right, I´m sorry about my poor english. :-)
iancremona6 years ago
Great method! Here emotioned.com has a similar way to do it, it's done by resizing a pot with minimal tools (and does not contain any PVC). 5 stars
Jojokittie6 years ago
Does it have to be COTTON? Or can it be a wool string?
does it have to be string? can i use that thin clothsline type cotton rope/ line stuff?
bbullet (author)  unaffiliatedperson6 years ago
you can use anything made of cotton.
canno6 years ago
great idea 5/5 very simple will having more strings affect the moisture and will thicker strings affect it too
Thanks you so much! I used this in my Biology project! I was so excited!!
Hegpetz6 years ago
This is an awesome idea! Thank you very much for sharing!!
chuckr446 years ago
I. Love. It. Excellent design. 5 stars, and I don't give those out lightly.
If you add a nutrient solution you also have a basic in soil hydroponic system. Ive used a similar method with fantastic results.
Nice instructable, I really like it. How well do you think the plants will last in a rather chilly dorm room? I tend to keep the temperature around the high 50's to low 70's. It's usually in the 70's and 60's tho. Does anyone recommend any plant in particular? Flowers are nice, but a more practical plant would be nice too. Thanks.
If you keep the temp around 70 (F), both pothos/devil's ivy and chinese evergreen are great plants. They're extremely hard to kill, i.e. great for dorms. Can't let it get too cold, though. They love low, diffuse light, and water once a week. If it's not too humid where you are, look into a humidifier or mist them regularly.
startfresh6 years ago
I've made plenty of these, and they work great! I usually use a 2-liter bottle. I always put a hole in the bottom bottle a lil' high up so I can add water, instead of removing the top bottle.
Great idea! I had a teacher that used this idea to draw the leaky roof water into a garbage pale! I am going to try this and share it on my show too! Will link back to you.



urban14136 years ago
excellent idea
benin6 years ago
u got great ideas..... like it best regards
I love this idea. I'm going to try it next August when I plant tomato seeds. Thanks for sharing.
I live along side the Colorado river in Arizona. My tomato plants live outdoors from October and into June. Once the day-time temperature reaches 100°F the plants stop producing fruit. They die off when the temperature gets around 110°F. They're thriving right now, growing an inch a day, as the daily temperatures are only into the 90s.
you plant tomato seeds in august? Where are you???
bbullet (author)  brabantia6 years ago
I live in Brazil, here we can plant almost anything all year long. :-)
bluefringes6 years ago
I'm wondering if this idea can be combined with Mr E Man's "Almost Free" DIY Hydroponics? I mean, can hydroponics be done using a cut in half plastic bottle?
boyrock3756 years ago
a simple solution to the salt build up problem is that you could use distilled water. and to make up for the lack of mineral's you just add fertillizer as needed
danjo7 years ago
By only watering from the bottom you might eventually have a salt and mineral buildup in your soil. (Mostly if you're using hard tapwater or maintaining the container for a long period of time). As the water moves up into the soil and evaporates it leaves behind any trace salts and minerals, they'll build up over time. Normal watering tends to flush these out the bottom. If anyone has ever used one of those double layer african violet pots they may have had similar problems. Not a reason not to do this, but just to be aware of so you can troubleshoot effectively if your plant starts suffering.
Distilled water should help with that shouldn't it? What about rain water? Could be a good idea to give them a periodic flush to help with the problem. Smart thinking danjo!
The bottoms can also get a green algae growth since sunlight gets in through the clear bottles. It should be pretty easy to take off the base and give it a quick hand rinse if it's looking dirty. I would actually avoid distilled water because it may be missing minerals and nutrients that the plant may need, but that depends on the particular water and plant. I haven't tried any plant food or fertilizer....hmmm... Thanks
thats false. plants dont get minerals to survive from their water. that should come from the soil. think if a plant is wild the rain is in a way distilled water because it evaporates then condenses again. so as long as u have rich enough soil. the less minerals in the water the better. distilled is the way to go as far as this project goes
it's deuterated water you don't want to be giving your plants. it's slightly heavier, and can't be drawn through the plant's vascular system by transpiration.
satanclauz7 years ago
i totally invented this when i was like 7!! well... sort-of... my invention was just a "hydro pot", the same bottle concept but with no dirt and keep the cap off and put whatever roots in the water :) your version is a fantastic take on my idea, i expect royalties soon! ;) this is a great project to do with the kids, they can even decorate their own bottles!
I'd like to know how to make one of those for my seedling starts, wish someone would make an instructable for it
I made one of these about a week ago, and i must say, i would NOT recommend using dirt in this project unless the top portion of the "vase" is larger than the bottom. The one i made (out of a 2 liter bottle) had an issue, where the top portion of the thing slid down into the bottom water part and got stuck because they were the same size xD I used really heavy soil though, So my tip would be, if your using two liter bottles (or anything where the top and bottom sections have similar circumferences) that you use a soiless mix, with peatmoss and an optional addition of vermiculite or pearlite. That peat moss is some cool stuff xD
kishor7 years ago
This is so neat! Today is Earth Day and my wife and I have planted seeds in six different bottles and now we will watch them grow. Thanks for the info.
Brilliant! The old plastic bottle strikes again, will their uses never end, lets hope not, great idea.
Is there a section specifically for things made from old plastic bottles? If not, we need one.
I'll make a group! thanks for the idea.
I made one :) works great. I'm growing lavender.
something I learned the hard way is don't get the string to thick or your dirt will stay too wet and grow mold.
Okay, one question for you. How long should I wait for the wicking action to wet my soil? I used embroidery floss (no cotton string available, but I believe the floss is 100% cotton).
bbullet (author)  The Dark Ninja7 years ago
Hey man I dont have a clue, you just have to try for yourself. Maybe u could try to add more strings or floss.
Thats what I was thinking. If it does not appear to be wicking like I envision, I will attempt to take a thin strip of jean material I've got. That should do the trick too (I think...)
elfian7 years ago
Hi ,tonight I will complete my first one!Its been haunting me since I spotted it 3 days ago.Finally I got the nicest bottle to start with and am glad the comments about mineral build up were there.Cheers
i do something similar with the rectangle takeaway containers. I punch holes in the lid with a hole punch and place in a violet leaf (which i have cut from the bottom of the original plant) in each hole with the stem dipping into the water, which i have added liquid fertilizer(please be mindful of ratio of water to fertilizer)
lurwah7 years ago
A waterplant in the bottom part would be a nice addition :)
chucspe7 years ago
Great instructable, i have had great success with this setup, in fact plants i germinate using this method outperform normal potted plants. I got the idea from Nasa's website and use perlite or vermiculite instead of soil, since I grow hydroponically after plants outgrow 2-liter bottle. Thanks for this post
gigidy57 years ago
Only one thing. One suggestion, if you will. Roots hate sunlight. Thats why when you buy a planter its opaque (not clear) so the roots wont die. Paint the side black or some dark purple or whatever your fancy, then your plant will live longer.
joye68 gigidy57 years ago
I've heard that roots hate sunlight, too, but I've never had problems with rooting or growing things in clear containers. Maybe it's the type of plant, I dunno, but we've been doing it for years. We've used everything from the liter bottles to the clear plastic drink cups, as well as egg cartons, salad containers, fruit containers, etc, clear or otherwise... you get the picture. We try to recycle everything we can. Maybe it's that most of what we started were transported outdoors or into larger pots once they were hardy enough to be outdoors. I'm interested in this now. Thanks for the post.
shaheen_lal7 years ago
Really nice. Shall definitely try it.
iPodGuy7 years ago
Hey, this is a great instructable! In fact, I liked it so much I made some too and plan to make more. I did 2 liter soda bottles and used more string. Also, inside of the cup for the plant, I put in some black plastic from a garbage bag to shield the roots from sunlight.
bbullet (author)  iPodGuy7 years ago
Be careful to use garbage bags they could be poisonous, and you never know what are they made of.
bicyclista7 years ago
what a great idea. i live in a warehouse with a large group of people. we have endless plastic bottles floating around. what did you plant specifically? (just curious)
bbullet (author)  bicyclista7 years ago
In the first picture those are peper mint, and in the last are basil.
You might want to loosely cover the top of the planter with plastic to keep the seedling warm during the sprouting phase. Otherwise, you will have to wait longer, especially for those in cold climates.
Dalya7 years ago
I love this idea, everytime I see my 1 liter water bottles all over my room, I think of this instructable. Please, please please, tell me what kind of indoor plants you use. I'm not into gardening, I want my green babies WITH ME not outside XD. I'm not into plants that grow huge. Something small and containable. Or something small that grows long :D Thankies, wonderful instructable!
bbullet (author)  Dalya7 years ago
You could try to start with cooking herbs, they grow nice indoors.
janbabs7 years ago
Presumably, if you have another bottle you could make a "cloche" top to the whole affair; creating a mini greenhouse.
You can also use tightly-pulled plastic wrap over the top to create that mini-greenhouse effect. We used to do that when I volunteered with special-needs kids at a school garden. We didn't have much budget, and the plastic wrap worked nicely. So do those domed containers you get when you buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, but they aren't self-watering like this bottle vase. This is such a neat idea.
popproject7 years ago
psst... cowscankill most seed packets will tell you how deeply to plant the seeds. and also the best time to plant them outdoors depending on your location in the world/US. as a general rule, plant seeds an inch deep and keep soil moist. find some seeds, or dig some stones out of your ashtray and grow away!
I believe he mean the stuff you are not supposed to smoke...lol
grow stuff you smoke?... eh..er....
i don't. i am a good boy.
Grady7 years ago
This is the kind of thing that we are looking for. Keep up the good work.
msmomma47 years ago
This has to be one of the better ideas for growing plants and it's something you usually have around the house. Living in the hot southern states makes this one of the better ways to keep your plants alive during those long weekend trips that you worry about whether you'll find your plants alive or dead from lack of water.
itsnotme7 years ago
I really like this instructable. It's great!
AlvinMaker7 years ago
thanks for the great Instructable. I'm definatly going to do this one.
i found you again!
indeed. my ninja skills must not be up too par.
lmao, *tag*
i like how you made the same "role" typo twice ;) but honestly a good idea that i will definitely use next time i want a plant. I'm pretty good at killing those things...
A great idea. Love it. No more need for the trays used for water drainage. How moist does it keep the soil? This is probably recommended for plants that do not require the soil to dry before watering. Right?
Kaiven7 years ago
do you mix seeds with the dirt all through? or do you pit the close to the surface?
bbullet (author)  Kaiven7 years ago
put the seeds one centimeter deep, should be good enough
Kaiven bbullet7 years ago
and does the string need to be mixed in with the soil? or stays at the bottom?
bbullet (author)  Kaiven7 years ago
Just make a strait line with the string running it all across the vase to the top of the soil
slayercr237 years ago
Yeah good idea
shooby7 years ago
Would one piece of string like you showed be enough to keep this moist if it were made from a 2L bottle? Cool idea, I bet the enclosed volume underneath the soil is kept pretty warm (greenhouse effect), def a concern in Boston winter.
bbullet (author)  shooby7 years ago
The bottle in the pictures is a 2 liter. Still up to today well moist, I think that u could put some more strings to make it more moisturized if needed. :-)
I'm sure that you're right about needing a second piece of string to make sure that the soil is adequately moist when using a two liter bottle. If by some chance, there is no need for the second string, it won't make a difference, as the plants won't pull up more water than they need. As far as cold is concerned, many generations of Boston gardeners would tell you that wen starting seeds, it's the warmth that is more is more important than the light in getting seeds to germinate. Then, when the seeds have sprouted, harden-of the seedlings by placing them in your (presumably) cold window for in increasing number of hours per day until all danger of frost had passed. Once the days are warm, the seedlings can safely be grown in a windowsill.
Shifrin7 years ago
Sorry for the double post but, I just saw you got featured! Awesome Job! -Shifrin
I has no seeds to plant :(
very cool, but only use bottles that are made to be reusable, as normal ones will put toxins in the water over time.
brettbarth7 years ago
Thank you very much!!! Now all my plants will have and plentiful of water!!!
Shifrin7 years ago
This is truly a Great Instructable! Nice Job Bbullet! -Shifrin
tok2 Shifrin7 years ago
I could not have said it better myself
Cool Instructable, I like it, it does look very easy and clean, nice job!
pfirsch7 years ago
I've tried this before, but your method seems a bit easier and much less messy. Thanks!
Very simple but effective. :D