Awesomely Automatic Garden Watering Buddy - Complete With Reservoir for Nutrients.




About: Hi everyone! Likely the most vocal member of Manufactured Fear, here. Welcome to our little twisted corner of the universe. We specialize in crafting the things that go bump in the night. And food, because t...

I have the worst luck with remembering to water my tomatoes on a regular basis. I've nearly killed them 3 times this spring already. So my roommate decided if left to my own devices we'd never get any this year. We looked into drip tape systems, but they still would have required me to turn the water on and off.

And since we don't have a ton of room on our porch, I couldn't use as large pots as I should have to hold my tomato plants. To make up for the lack of nutrition available in the soil, I've been supplementing with hydroponic nutrient solution. So we needed a drip system that also had a reservoir that would allow us to mix the nutrient solution into the watering system. When we started looking around online we couldn't find one for sale and no instructions anywhere to build one. Thus we give you our prototype, the Awesomely Automatic Garden Watering Buddy - Complete with Reservoir for Nutrients.

I've had a couple people comment about the possibility of using this system inside. Great news! Now you can! Check out the last step for the supplies you need to connect this waterer to indoor plumbing. This is a great method to use especially is you live in an apartment building and you want to do an indoor garden. You can use this waterer in conjunction with my Self Leveling Light for a completely low maintenance indoor garden.

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Step 1: Supplies


  • 1 Tube of Silicone Caulk - Bathroom and Kitchen
  • 5 - Gallon Bucket with a lid
  • Submersible Mini Pump
  • Watering Drip Starter Kit
  • Lamp and Appliance Timer
  • CVPC Primer and Glue
  • Fluidmaster Flow Valve
  • Small Sealable Container


  • 2: 12" pieces of CPVC
  • 6: 2" pieces of CPVC
  • 1-1/14" piece of CPVC
  • CPVC T joint
  • 4: 90 degree CPVC elbows
  • 2: CPVC Slip to Male
  • 2: CPVC Slip to Female
  • CPVC Slip to Steel Male
  • CPVC Slip to Steel Female
  • CPVC Slip to Low Profile
  • Threaded Hose Nozzle Female
  • Threaded 3/4" to water hose 3/4"


  • Slip to Male Threaded
  • Female Threaded to Male Slip
  • Female Slip to Female Threaded
  • Male Plug asasdf

Step 2: Tools

  • Hacksaw
  • Utility Knife
  • Tape Measure
  • Pliers
  • Caulk Gun
  • Drill
  • Pencil
  • Electrical Tape
  • Wire Cutter
  • Teflon Tape(Plumbers Tape)
  • Straight Edge
  • Various Sizes of Drill Bits
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Straight Pin

Step 3: Assembly of Parts - Inside the Bucket


2 of the Elbows

The T

2 of the 2" pieces of CPVC

The 1-1/4" piece of CPVC


As shown in the picture above:

The 2 2" pieces into the top of the T.

The 1-1/4" piece into the bottom of the T.

The elbows to the 2" pieces, facing down the same as the T.


The two 12" pieces

CPVC Slip to Low Profile


Each of the two 12" CPVC pieces into the remaining holes in the elbows.

Glue the slip end of the low profile to the other side of the 1-1/4" CPVC piece in the bottom of the T.

Step 4: Marking the Bucket Lid

If you use the buckets from Lowes, the lids have marks around the edges. You can line up two of the marks and straight edged between them. If not, just eyeball it and strike an X across your bucket lid.

Set the CPVC Slip to Male Threaded on the ends of the 12" pieces of CPVC and roughly half the distances on either side. Lightly mark where each are placed on the bucket lid. To make it easier to get a tight mark on it, pull the CPVC slips off and trace tightly around the threaded portion on the bucket, on the marks you just left. On the opposite leg of the X, trace a tight line around the threaded portion of 1-1/2" CPVC Slip to Male Threaded.

Use a utility knife to cut the circles out. We started out with just scoring the lines and slowly working the plastic out. You want these seams tight, so do this part carefully.

Step 5: Joining and Sealing the Bucket Lid

Caulk around each of the holes on the underside of the bucket. Seat the threaded portion of the pieces from the previous step against the bottom of the bucket. Use your finger to smear the excess caulk around the edges of the pipe pieces, sealing the edge of the bucket.

Spread caulk around the threaded parts of the two 3/4" Female to Male CPVC pieces and the 1-1/2" Female to Slip piece. Screw them down on each of the male pieces sticking thru the bucket lid. Add extra caulk around the gaps and smear it sealed with your finger.

Step 6: Modifying the FlowMaster

Measure down an inch from the flange and cut the excess off with a hacksaw. Caulk around the threaded part of the low profile, screw in the FlowMaster, it may try to go crooked, a little crooked is OK, but try not let it lean way over. Then fill the left over gap with more caulk. This needs to be water tight.

Prime the tops of the 2 two 12" pieces of CVPC and slip pieces that are inside the bucket lid. Glue together.

It's important to make sure the FlowMaster has some clearance.

Step 7: Prepping the Drip Tubing

Use a drillbit that is roughly the same size as your tubing. It's better to go a size smaller so the tubing is snug in the bucket lid. Drill a hole through the bucket lid and thread the drip tubing through that hole. Then switch out bits for one that is roughly the same size as the pumps electrical cord. Drill a hole a few inches on around the bucket lid, like shown.

Then glue the plug from the back of the pump onto the end of the tubing now sticking through the bottom of the bucket lid. I propped mine in a pair of pliers to dry. This is a good step to stop on and let all the glue set overnight both in the tubing and in all the CPVC pieces. It's not totally necessary, but I think it helps avoid some future problems down the line with leakage.

Step 8: Electrical

With the same bit you just used to drill through the bucket lid, drill through the side of the Tupperware container. Then cut a notch in the opposite side for the extension cord. Measure down about 2" from the plug and cut the power cord for the pump. Thread the cut end through the bucket lid and through the hole in the Tupperware container.

Step 9: Electrical Cont.

Cut the casing off of both ends of the electrical cord. Strip the casing off of each of the wires in each end. Twist the same colored wires together with a pair of pliers. Wrap each colored wire individually with electrical tape, this is to prevent any shorting. Once the individual wires are wrapped, wrap the entire bundle a couple times with more tape, effectively sealing the gap between the two pieces of wire casing.

Step 10: Cutting and Connecting the Drip Line

I knew my placement would vary slightly for each year so I wanted to keep my lengths of drip line with enough slack to allow that. So the initial length from the pump, I left 10' of line before I made the first cut. Count out how many T's you have included in the package. The way I set up, this is the number of plants this system can handle without moving to a larger pump and adding another package of line.

Divide the T's into 2 equal piles. Starting with one T, cut 3' pieces for each side of the T. Add 2 more T's on either end of those 3' pieces. Continue adding lines and T's until you run out of T's. Then cut 2 more additional pieces of 3' line, add those to the 2 remaining open sides of the last T's.

Measure and cut 1' pieces. Find the middle of your string of T's, skip the middle one and start adding 1' pieces to the bottom of the T's. Continue till all the T's but the middle one are filled.

The 1' pieces are what will be going from the main line to your individual plants.

Step 11: Creating Pressure in the System

Drip lines work under the idea of even distribution of pressure in the system. After a lot of trial and error this is the best way I could come up with to get it to work. Run a bead of hot glue over one end of the drip nozzles. After the hot glue cools, use a straight pin to push a hole through the glue. Keep the pin handy, once you get your system all set up you may have to use it again to help the system balance the pressure.

Step 12: Final Setup

Once you get your bucket all assembled and put where you have your plants, it's time to get it running. First hook up the water hose and and let the bucket fill up. Once it's full you can plug the pump in and let it start cycling the water through the drip tubing. I used the little spikes that came with the packaging to help keep the drip nozzles in the buckets. As the system fills you'll see some that are not dripping, or are dripping slowly. Use the same straight pin from earlier to add additional holes through the glue on the nozzles.

Step 13: Setup for Using Indoor Plumbing

You only need a couple pieces to add this into your existing plumbing.

  • Add-A-Tee Adapter 3/8"
  • 3/8" Stainless Steel Facet Hose
  • 1/2" to 3/4" Garden Hose adapter

To assemble, take the Tee, on the bottom, screw in the stainless steel hose. This hose is 3/4" on the inlet to 1/2" on the outlet. Screw the the garden hose adapter into the 1/2" side of the stainless steel hose.

Next, make sure the water is off to the section of pipe you're going to connect into! Bleed the line so you have no built up water pressure. Unscrew the connection between the cold water IN/shutoff and the line to the facet. Add the Tee directly to the cold water shutoff then add the line to the facet to the remaining open end of the Tee.

Now you can either connect this line directly to the bucket inlet, or add a water hose then connect the water hose to the bucket inlet so you get a longer reach.

You can also do this setup with 1/4" ice line, like what's in refrigerators. Just swap out your adapters to 1/4". The ice line allows you to run a line that's smaller than a garden hose, so if you want to keep it more inconspicuous.

(Thank to you guys asking about indoor setups, I got a new facet! Since the roommate already had the plumbing unhooked he went ahead and updated my bathroom. Thanks! I love it!)

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37 Discussions


Reply 5 years ago

Please post pictures when you do! I love seeing the results of people following my Instructables!


5 years ago on Introduction

This is a great idea, and a clever repurposing of a toilet tank valve. I like that you added an additional valve so that you can still use your hose, too. I've been dreaming about building a self-watering raised-bed (like zymurgeneticist did), but I don't have a back yard at the moment. Your Instructable is perfect for me right now, because I'll be able to use it on the back porch to ensure that I always have delicious, fresh tomatoes (or, at least, to ensure that the neighborhood squirrels always have delicious, fresh tomatoes)!

7 replies

Reply 5 years ago

I have a great area for a garden plot in my yard, but our lot borders the woods and several people in our development feed the deer, so they eat through my flowers on the way in and eat through my veggies on the way out. My deck is the only safe spot left lol. But the other Instructable would work perfectly at my mom's house. So thanks! And if you end up building one of mine, please post pics! Especially of the fat, happy squirrels ;)

If you spray your plants with dish soap,(not dishwasher soap) the deer will not bother them. You must respray after a rain though.


Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

To deter deer, use chain link fencing laid HORIZONTALLY on the perimeter of the bed. They do not like walking through the links, and can not get enough of a base to jump in. Takes a lot of space, so may not be applicable in this situation, but it does work where one has the room.


I've never heard of that, but it seems like it'd work if you had enough space to stretch it further than they could jump. Kinda like a cattle guard bridge...


Reply 5 years ago

I have tried everything. Dish soap doesn't deter them. Spraying ammonia around the property doesn't phase them. Store bought repellents don't work. Irish spring bar soap works until anything I'm growing either gets flowers or starts growing fruit/veggie. Then they eat the plant to the ground. I have lived several places and I've honestly never had this much trouble with deer. These deer are almost domesticated, so they aren't scared of anything, so the streamers and pie pans I used as a kid in our first homes garden doesn't even make these deer shy away. Thanks though :/


When I was a little kid we used to just put pie pans on string and run it around the outside of the garden. That doesn't even phase these deer. They really aren't scared of anything. So thanks, but if pie pans didn't work I don't think just string will.
These deer are so domesticated you can almost walk up to them. You have to basically nudge them with your car to get them to get out of the road. No joke...


5 years ago on Step 9

Why not just put a new plug in on it? I voted both catigories for this, great idea!

4 replies

Reply 5 years ago

Thanks for the vote! I'm not sure what plug in your referring too though?


Where you cut off the end of the plug to put the electrical cord through the hole. You put the wires back together and wrapped them with electrical tape. I just thought a $2 plug in would be easier and safer. Just a suggestion, no worries.


Ah I figured that's what you meant, but most "replacement" plugs are just two metal panels that you smosh the wire between. Which isn't really water tight and can actually run the risk of arcing if it gets wet. By taping each of the wires individually you completely eliminate the risk of arcing between the wires and by taping the whole thing again, you make it essentially water tight. And it also saves $2. Hope that explains better why I did it this way.


5 years ago on Introduction

Clever idea.

Your presentation would be clearer if you told us what the various parts are for.

I take it that the plumbing parts are all bucket refill related and that the pump is directly connected to the drip system. A variant might be to make bucket refill manual. This would be especially desirable if the watering system is used indoors for house plants. Manual refill limits the amount of damage that can occur if something goes wrong.

You don't show how the pump connects to the drip tubing. Did it come with an adapter?

It isn't clear what wires you are cutting and splicing (or why).

A float switch would be a nice way to protect the pump from running dry.

If the water level in the bucket is higher than the emitters, gravity will siphon the bucket dry. A "T" and check valve, that allow air into the drip tubing when the pump is off, would break the siphon. "Duck bill" check valves are inexpensive and are usually available where aquarium supplies are sold.