Introduction: Toilet Garden
Where are the two best places to sit and think? In the garden and on the toilet you say? I agree.
Now, lets create the ultimate thinking spot.
The Toilet Garden is a self watering, maintenance free planter for your bathroom. Grow echinacea, aloe, arnica, lemon balm, and sage to replace items in your medicine cabinet or lavender, mint, and jasmine to replace your air freshener.
For this project you will need clear acrylic sheet, some scrap wood, a few screws, and plastic welding fluid and a terrycloth towel. You'll also need are a band saw, knife, sand paper, a drill and a 1/2 inch drill bit for plastic. I decided to make this project in the wood shop, but if you have a laser cutter, you can skip some of these steps and simplify the process.
Step 1: Pattern
First things first, grab the lid off of the toilet tank. Don't worry, only clean water ever flows through this part of a toilet, so there is nothing gross or smelly about it. Trace the shape as of the tank lid on a piece of paper, cut it out, and use double stick tape to attach it to a thick sheet of acrylic. Actually, you could probably cut out a step by jus tracing directly onto the protective paper on the acrylic.
Step 2: Cut
Using a band saw, cut out the toilet tank shape out of acrylic, and use a sander to smooth the edges a little more. Before you move on to the next steps, check the fit on the toilet tank. If it needs any more trimming, just use the sander again.
Step 3: Polish
Bandsaws and sanders leave a pretty rough edge on acrylic, so the piece needed a bunch of sanding and polishing. I used sand paper in ascending grits from 100 to 2000. When sanding with multiple grits it is important to make sure you are sanding off all of the scratches in the previous grit before moving onto the next grit. It is also important to use a sanding block to avoid scratching the surfaces of the sheet.
Step 4: The Bending Jig
Time to get a little jiggy. Bending acrylic precisely is tricky without some help, but a simple jig will make it far easier.
I started by tracing the acrylic sheet and cutting it out twice in plywood. I undersized one of them by about 1/8th of an inch all the way around. Next, I screwed a block of wood to the undersized wood piece and stuck it to the acrylic sheet with double stick tape. Using a speed square I aligned the second plywood piece over the first and screwed it onto the block.
Step 5: Bend Sides
Even with the jig you just built, this is still the trickiest step, so take your time.
Start by cutting and polishing two long rectangles of thinner acrylic (1/8 inch is great). The height should be about 4 inches, and the total length should be a little longer than the perimeter of the planter's base.
Using blue tape to keep the piece in place, carefully heat and bend the rectangle along the profile of the base. The best way I have found to bend the acrylic is with a heat gun. Be sure to wear gloves for this step, it will get pretty hot before it starts to bend.
Trim the excess acrylic off of the second rectangle with a band saw or jewelers saw and polish the edges to hide the seam as much as possible.
Step 6: Weld
Usually welding is a method of attaching metal to metal with electricity or heat, but you can weld plastic with chemicals instead. Acrylic cement comes in two types. One is a thin liquid that can be dispensed with a needle bottle or syringe, and the other type is a clear paste that comes in a tube. I used both types for this project in order to insure a watertight edge. The liquid cement flows easily between the acrylic sheets and melts the two together before evaporating. The paste cement works more like calk and fills in any gaps that may have been missed by the liquid type.
Step 7: Drill
In order for water to be wicked from the toilet tank into the garden, the planter needs some holes in the bottom. Drilling holes in acrylic is often problematic and ends up in cracked work and frustration. There are, however special drill bits for drilling fragile plastics. I drilled a hole approximately 3 inches away from each of the four corners.
Step 8: Wicks
I tested a number of potential wicking materials, to make sure the wicks would be able to cary water five inches up from the base of the planter to the water level in the tank. Microfiber cleaning cloth turned out to be the best of the materials I tested. I cut two long strips of the towel and threaded each through two holes in the planter diagonally across from each other.
Step 9: Soil
Based on the research I did on hydroponics I learned that the best soil to use for this project would be a mixture of vermiculite and perlite. I ended up using an even mix of those two plus the soil that comes along with the potted plants.
Step 10: Plant
Since the bathroom in question doesn't have any windows, I looked for plants that don't require much natural light. I also chose mostly plants that don't need much water, because I wasn't sure how much water the garden would be getting through the wicks. Planting the plants in the toilet garden is as simple as digging a small hole in the soil and placing the plant in. If you have a little fertilizer you could through that in, but it's probably not necessary.
Step 11: Install
Installation is easy. All you need to do is take off the toilet tank lid and replace it with the planter. Make sure the wicks make it into the tank and don't get caught on anything.
Once it is in place you don't have to worry about watering it ever agin. The wicks will take care of that for you. If there are no windows, you may want to install a full spectrum lightbulb to make sure the garden gets the light it needs.
Step 12: Sit Back and Relax
Now the saying 'when nature calls' has a whole new meaning.
For more creative ways to get grass into your home check out these other Instructables:
If you end up building a toilet garden of your own don't forget to post a photo in the comments section below.