Introduction: Self Watering Vertical Garden With Recycled Water Bottles

Picture of Self Watering Vertical Garden With Recycled Water Bottles

Here how i made my vertical vegetable garden, starting from used big water bottles as planters. An automatic watering system keep the right moisture, collecting water in excess, using power from pv panels and a little wind turbine (vawt)

Step 1: 3d Project

Picture of 3d Project

The green wall is composed by 72 water bottles cut and placed upside-down on a wooden shelf. 
Two independent  water reservoir are present: the main is placed on the side of the building and composed by eight 200 liters barrels linked together, for collecting rain water. The second one is composed by three plastic "new jersey" street barriers, that can contain 80 - 100 liters each, placed under the shelf.
The circulating system is composed by two 12v pumps, powered by a hybrid power system, a vawt turbine in conjunction with two 10w pv panels.
Energy is stored in a 12v car battery via charge controller and a timer regulate the watering cycle (at this moment the set up is 1 min at 7 am and 1 minute at 7 pm.
Water is pumped from second reservoir to the top of the shelf, into a PVC pipe ( Dia 4 cm) where i drilled eighteen 3 mm holes (one for each planter of the first row). After moisten the first row, water goes down to the rows below until go back to the starting tank.
With hand activated valve i can refill the second reservoir with rain water from blue barrels.


Step 2: Planter Design

Picture of Planter Design

Last year I obtained from my friend Ricky a hundred of 18l PET bottles round and square shaped, ideal for my project.
The prototype of planter was a cut bottle filled with 1/3 of expanded clay and 2/3 of soil. To prevent the mixing of the clay, i decided to use felt bags sew from a mat bought on the internet. This solution create an air gap between the internal wall of the bottle and the soil, adding some aeration to the system. This bag are reusable and permit to remix the soil after harvest.
To obtain a little reserve or water in the planter i used a piece of pvc pipe ( 4 cm dia) sealed inside the bottle neck with rubber bands, but after some try i discover a better way to do the job, using the plastic cap of the bottle and a piece of hose.
To protect the PET bottle and roots from direct sun, i cut a juta net, found on ebay for few euros. This natural material give the bottle a rural/vintage look. To hold the mat i used a juta cord.

Step 3: Frame

Picture of Frame

The shelf is build in cheap pine wood, 12 plank 200x35x5 cm and 4 timbers 10x10 cm, 300 height.

Step 4: Watering System

Picture of Watering System

two cheap 12vdc pumps are set to lift water from the "new jersey" one minute at 7 am e one at 7 pm, enough to keep the right moisture of the planters.

Step 5: Power

Picture of Power

Step 6: Vegetables

Picture of Vegetables


MrsBleezzy (author)2017-03-26

Brilliant!! Thank you. I think I will try this with using 3x 5 gallon water jugs, and a miniature solar panel and see how I do. The size of yours is a bit intimidating.

wthwaites86 (author)2017-01-22

I plan on making this...

Is it
possible to provide detailed plans for this instructable? Meaning parts
listing etc. - especially for the aquaponics system (fish tank and bio
filter tank), and power supply (Solar setup and turbine specs)? A private message can be sent in needed.

That would be much appreciated!

mosix (author)2016-08-02

absolutely amazing! thanks!

tiero (author)mosix2017-01-17

thanks (i'm very late)

Cherinaanno (author)2016-06-14

wow that is sweet! i have been trying to multipurpose our milk jugs and i think this will be perfect

tiero (author)Cherinaanno2016-06-24

Nice idea, post pics when done! Cheers

bengodwin (author)2016-06-16

Those bottles are really big. Any reason it wouldn't work with 1 or 2 gallon (3.5 to 7.5L) bottles? Also, I can't believe you don't have problems with weight. Don't think I'm poo-pooing your project, I'm gonna build one, I just have questions. Also, I can't find those bottles least not for less than $10 a piece. Sorry if I sound negative, I just want help!

tiero (author)bengodwin2016-06-24

Hi, thanks for the question.
Big bottles means more space for vegetables and stronger roots. Those bottles are from office water cooler. Try recycling center for free!

TinaT42 (author)2016-06-16

You mention the use of felt material but unless i missed something the material I see wrapped around the containers is Burlap, rough, open weave material. Felt is a rather soft kind of fuzzy material and considerably more expensive. Just wondering.

CristinaF3 (author)TinaT422016-06-16

Hey! I was myself a bit confused, but I noticed that felt might be what he's referring to as the white fabric inside lining between soil and burlap, so I thought maybe it's that one

BUrlap here can be found as 30kg potato bag

TinaT42 (author)CristinaF32016-06-16

You know Cristina, I went back and looked at it again. You're probably right and I didn't even notice it until you pointed it out to. Thanks for straightening that out for me.

crashnburn_in (author)2016-06-06

This is awesome. I'd like to do a small Self Watering thing for a 13" Window/ Micro Balcony area, maybe with or without water harvesting. Could you guide/ share on what kind of pump & controller/ automation etc you used?

tiero (author)crashnburn_in2016-06-09

hi, try this


best regards

GeorgeW6 (author)2016-05-17

this is awesome thank you

tiero (author)GeorgeW62016-05-17


GeneSmith (author)2016-05-03

You know, I would have assumed that there would be a problem with overwatering the top tier, too...until I talked to a person the other day that sells and installs "green walls" in homes and offices. She informed me it is just the opposite. The action of gravity makes the top tier run dry, and the bottom tier become swampy. Their response was just what you suggest, though - separating the water supply into several levels instead of just pouring in at the top.

tiero (author)GeneSmith2016-05-04

thank you for your comment sir! ;)

GeneSmith (author)tiero2016-05-04

You are very welcome! I'm hoping to do something similar as my house only gets full sun on the south side, and the only room there is basically a wide walkway - so whatever I do will have to not stick out from the wall too much. I hope you will keep us updated on how yours works out in the long run - particularly any problems that come up you have to solve to keep it working!

ty520 (author)2016-05-03

great project!

One of the biggest criticisms I could offer, though, is that (it appears) you are relying on the water trickling down from one row to the next. There would be significantly less water by the time it reaches the bottom row. seems difficult to regulate sufficient water quantities at each row (too much up top in order get sufficient quantity on the bottom. Perhaps a couple intermediate supply lines every few rows might be in order?

tiero (author)ty5202016-05-04

In my project there are 2 supply pipes ,on the top and on the middle.
The lower row it's the one that receive more water than the others.
That's why i planted strawberrys there.
Thank you for interest!

flyingpuppy (author)2016-05-03

Love the vertical axis turbine design!

tiero (author)flyingpuppy2016-05-04

Thank you, already three years that runs smoothly!

rchilro (author)2016-04-27

This is a great project! Congratulations! Can i ask for the model os the wind generator or where can i fins one similar; model of the solar pannels; some photos or explanation of the circuit? Cheers!

tiero (author)rchilro2016-04-27

hi, i build this generator by myself, using a laser cut plexyglass sheet and some pvc pipes. I find the alternator on ebay. you need an alternator that reach 12 v with low rpm (about 60-100) and a cheap charge regulator for solar panel. the pv panel are both 10 watt power and the battery is a lead acid one, the same you have in your car. wind gen and pv panels are connected to the charge regulator in parallel, and two timer do the rest. Take a look to my other project "nook garden" here in instructables for more detail. Thank you for the interest.

tiero (author)tiero2016-05-02

thank you for looking after my health, I sent the draw to a specialized company and I didn't cut it by myself.
The recommendation is still very important for people who want to use the laser cutting at home.
Regarding books about sand i recommend this but unfortunately is quite expensive ..
Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy by Sam Boggs Jr.

John T MacF Mood (author)tiero2016-04-30

tiero, I just noticed your "laser cut plexiglass and PVC" part of your comment.

Plexiglass, as far as I know, is fine to laser cut, but you're gonna need 5 to 20 watts output. (I've built my own laser CNC cutter, and it was a lot of fun as a project, but it's too weak to cut, it merely engraves & burns wood and such. It's 500 mW, and nice, but I may upgrade the laser module to 5000mw (5 Watts).)

No problem there.

But the "C" in PVC in Chloride, and if cut with a laser, some will burn, producing Chlorine gases, which can be deadly to you, no matter the breather type you use. Brief exposure can cause lung scarring, and the onset of COPD, and more than a little will kill you. Equipment can also be destroyed by the corrosive nature of Chlorine gases. Your sentence structure implied you may have cut the PVC with a laser, which I hope you didn't. (Do, or mean to imply.)

John T MacF Mood (author)2016-04-26

FuzzyBearGeek, whoever you are, I'm not grumpy.

If you want grumpy, take shots at me, and then delete your comment. I get the digest of the comments, and I got that. Be nice or BE GONE.

That one guy, xJaymz, was clearly trying to goad you and he succeeded. Your responses did come across as grumpy and unnecessary. The only unpleasant part of this otherwise very nice Instructable. Suggestion: Next time, just ignore the person or tell him once and then ignore him. Otherwise it detracts from the thread, which ironically, is probably what you wanted to avoid and what annoyed you in the first place.

You have a good point.

I'm at an age where I do not suffer fools lightly or easily. Every question he had, was already been asked and answered.

I think, perhaps he is someone who disagreed with me at some other juncture, and created a profile to goad me. I've blocked him and intend to be less reactive. Your feedback is appreciated, so thanks, onesimpleidea.

If he shows back up under a different moniker, it should not be tough to spot him and block him. He may be a budding lawyer, all those asked and answered questions. I'm a retired electronics guy and before that a police officer for a major portion of my career. I've done electronics on my own time, and as a profession for over 45 years. I'm big on Amateur Radio, callsign AA4PC.

I noted that in his profile (xJaymz) he had only six comments, and all but one were directed at me.. People who use Pseudonyms to bug others are a kind of a problem, but near impossible for Instructables to 'police'. I'll try and keep it more civil

Sorry if anyone was irritated by the less than pleasant exchange.

Good response.

> I do not suffer fools lightly or easily

We have that in common.

On the bright side, in addition to learning about a cool vertical garden, I also learned some things about sand that I didn't know before. I thought sand was just sand. Who knew?

Oh there's so many kinds I'm sure there are many books on sand types. I have the worst kind for growing anything.

Suryan1212. (author)2016-04-29

Thank you for sharing such as intelligent solutions. I will take advantage some of his ideas in my little place in Brazil. "A single drop of water can reverberate across the lake"

tiero (author)Suryan1212.2016-04-29


John T MacF Mood (author)2016-04-26

Great ideas!

Perhaps one could go "soil free" and use it with hydroponic solutions to nourish the plants... In my area, I'd go bankrupt trying to buy enough potting soil to do this, the dirt here is pure sand, and NO NUTRIENTS....

xJaymz (author)John T MacF Mood2016-04-27

just out of curiosity...If what you have is really pure sand, why do you call it dirt?

John T MacF Mood (author)xJaymz2016-04-27

It isn't paved, it isn't rocks, it's underfoot, it's dirt of extremely poor quality. If I called it sand some jackass would want to take the sand mining rights from me.

I plan to take some of it and sift it to as fine grade and use it in sandblasting (with heavy breathing protection.

But it's still sand. Sandy dirt. It tracks into the house just like dirt, destroys the carpeting, so it's sandy dirt.

Curiosity satisfied?

xJaymz (author)John T MacF Mood2016-04-27 is it pure sand or is it sandy dirt...I am just trying to get it right.

John T MacF Mood (author)xJaymz2016-04-28

Enough inane questions. I've explained it rather thoroughly. See my answer 2 days ago.

"This stuff is literally so pure that they can make glass with it, no
filtering, sifting out a little of the plant detritus, but 99.99%

Stop harassing me.

xJaymz (author)John T MacF Mood2016-04-28

So it is pure sand and not dirt, thank you for clarifying that for me. Why do you seem so tense?

John T MacF Mood (author)xJaymz2016-04-28

I'm apparently giving you the wrong impression. I don't like idiotic questions.

The guy who said,, There are no dumb questrions except those that do not get asked." never met YOU.

xJaymz (author)John T MacF Mood2016-04-28

it's all in the details John...all in the details.

John T MacF Mood (author)xJaymz2016-04-28

BTW, every inane question you've asked had already been answered in the thread before you asked your questions. Read a bit.

tiero (author)John T MacF Mood2016-04-26

Thank you sir.

It depends on the type of sand, because some types of sand contain many nutrients.

An example: the thinner portion of the sand of the Sahara desert is lifted by the wind and thanks to the high altitude currents, nutrients reaching the Amazon forest, our oxygen factory .. incredible isn't it?

John T MacF Mood (author)tiero2016-04-26

In the fall line area of SC, it's pure silica - quartz sedimentary sand washed down from the mountains. it's so pure there is a sand mine literally within a mile of my house. They take that sand to GLASS FACTORIES, it's so pure.

ZERO nutrients. Not like you'll find in the fallout zones downwind of a volcanic explosion, like in parts of Italy where grapes grow in RICH sand.

This stuff is literally so pure that they can make glass with it, no filtering, sifting out a little of the plant detritus, but 99.99% silica. You can sandblast with it, but it is breather time if you do.

tiero (author)John T MacF Mood2016-04-27

thank for your answer wise man, i'm a geologist and i understood perfectly what you mean. we call it mature sand, because it is the final product of erosion, only qz nothing else.

John T MacF Mood (author)tiero2016-04-27

Thank you, your Instructable was, and is, a fine one. I'm considering building a variant with the use of "mature sand" (qz) and trickling hydroponcs soolutions through it. That wuold give root support, and enable things solutions only would not allow.

Sand is great with a irrigation system. no plant diseases.

And hence the comment about hydroponics and nutrients in the water. Sand has NO NUTRITIVE value to plants.

iam sorry iam a wine producer wich means i have vynes. lots. i have 4 types of soil. sand, clay, booth, and good dirt near the river.
the sand gives us the best wine with the best colors and alcohol degree. it takes almost no maintenance because its almost disease free. so dont think just because sand has no nutritive value for plants it sucks to grow vegetables. just put some manure and fertilizer and you wil see how fast and how flavorous your vegetables will be. Sorry for bad english.

I understand, but it all depends on the type of sand you are dealing with. Where you are has a lot to do with what kind of sand you have.

Sand produced by a volcanic eruption, very good. Sand that is worn from from quartz and granite by water over many millennia has no value. There are MANY types of sand and, you have the good kind, I have the practically sterile kind.

You may have missed the fact I am disabled (arthritis and many injuries from former career) and don't have any other income than Social Security Disability, which is literally below poverty level. The only reason I have a computer is that I built it myself, and for the money (lots of re-purposed and recycled parts) , it rocks. I worked as a computer technician and supervised an assembly line in a computer factory for over 35 years,so that skill has helped - or I might not be online..

The only types of vegetable or plant life that will grow in this stuff is that which can manage to extract the nitrogen in the rain water that comes down in a thunderstorm, leaving a little ozone and some nitrogen in the water. Zinnias and crabgrass, and not much more will grow in pure unadulterated sand, so I am hoping to do hydroponics. It seemed to work for those who developed it.

Your alcohol degree will be based on how much sugar your grapes can produce, but in my area, no wineries or vineyards, except those who truck in fertile soil. I can't afford to truck in fertile soil. My front yard may need mowing twice a year, as the only place anything grows there is over the septic tank. THAT'S HOW BAD my soil (SAND, ALL PURE STERILE SAND) is.

My mower has lasted over 17 years, mostly because there is little to cut down, and I am able to maintain it properly - something the former owner did not do. It runs now , better than when it was bought 17 years ago.

And Instructables is a good place to learn more about amost any topic.

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