How to Build a 5 Gallon Self Wicking Tomato Watering Container




About: I use gardening as a way to enjoy life. I have over 250 HD garden videos on my YouTube Channel. I invite you to visit and dig around. Good luck with your season!

This self wicking tomato watering container is designed to be easily built by anyone. The watering system will manage your tomatoes for 2-3 days without being refilled. The cost of supplies, minus soil and tomatoes, is under $10.  It can be built in under 30 minutes. It will provide you 'peace of mind' when you have to leave your tomatoes untended for your weekend travels. You can grow peppers in this system as well as bush variety vine crops.

2 Five Gallon Paint Buckets from a do-it-yourself store (2.99 each)
2 Standard Kitchen Sponges (.99 a 4 pack)
1 Cotton Towel (recycled from your home)
1 Small Funnel (optional ) ($1 each)

Sharp Knife
Clippers (optional)
Drill with 1/4 inch bit (optional)

*The 5 gallon paint buckets bought at the do-it-yourself stores are SOFT plastic and can be managed with a short bladed knife.

Planting Material:
Any Planting Mix with a good amount of organic matter in it like peat moss.

*Potting mixes and garden soil mixes should work well. You don't want plain topsoil. There isn't enough organic matter in the product to help wick and hold water. I recommend any product that says 'moisture control' on it.

Two Videos:
There are 2 videos that show the complete process from construction to planting the tomato. There are text boxes in each video to highlight the steps. This designed is based on ease of construction, cost of materials and function.



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    14 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I kinda did the same thing, I bought connectors and tubes and had 2 buckets that were high up that went into a bucket with a float valve, then water from that went to the buckets, works awesome, i also cut trash bags to fit over the top of bucket and cut a hole in the lid for the plant to grow through. my tomatoes were about 7-8 feet high, and cukes grew about 20 feet high(strung them up to a gutter and across roof line. I was thinking of growing bamboo to do the trellis, because the trellis is one of the most expensive parts. This year i bought a pvc pipe, 4 inchces if i remember right and will cut holes for the wicking, will use the same float valve thing. Also I get my buckets at firehouse subs. They are pickle buckets so have to be food safe and are 2$ with lids. Also this year will mix in rock dust. Last year used a tomato fertilizer i just put into the water buckets. Really cool benefit is shade, I placed them on my deck blocking sun for 3 windows. cant wait for planting this year.

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    5 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I want to create a system like yours. How do you attach the float valve and did you have any problems with this system I should be aware of?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Your float system sounds great! Do you have in instructable for it?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    the washers for the connectors have to be thick, and dont get clear tubing it creates alga, but doesn't effect plants, all my new buckets are planet sub, but last year most buckets were from lowes, bpa free, but were expensive 5$, could use a siphon for all the buckets but i wanted something that guaranteed water delivery.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    sorry firehouse subs, not planet subs is where i get the buckets.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Looks absolutely smart and simple.
    One problem - the available cotton sheets are too short. If I firmly tie one to the other in order to get the required length, will it still work?



    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great video! I saw grapes is the background of one of your other videos, do you have any videos addressing them? I need help!

    1 reply

    Sorry I don't. The Concord grape does well. The other gets a yearly disease I cant beat. I actually need help LOL.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    How about putting in a pvc fill tube that comes out of the top of the planter instead of trying to pour water into the hole in the side?

    1 reply

    Ive done that design with pipe and it fills easily. This design is one less step and less parts. The hole that is put in the side as pictured fills pretty quickly with a hose. You need a drainage hole anyway. But you could cut some PVC like you said and cut it in.

    My goal was under 10 bucks and simple as possible.