Self Watering Mini Garden




Building on the idea of the self watering plant pots (there are several instructables) I've built a bigger version, using IKEA boxes.

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Step 1: Get All the Tools / Materials

Get some boxes. I used "Samla" boxes from IKEA because they are cheap, available in different sizes and you don't have to buy the lid (which we don't need).

You will also need some string, scissors, and your trusty Swiss Army knife. (Since you are on the instructables website I think it is save to assume you have one)

Step 2: Prepare the Boxes

Drill some holes in the bottom in one (!) of the two boxes and thread the string through. I tied some knots to make sure they don't fall out of the bottom while I assemble everything.

Step 3: Fill the Box With Earth

Now about 1/3 of the box with earth an pull the strings up a bit. (so they are not just at the bottom of the box)

Now fill the rest of the box with earth.

Step 4: Plant Your Stuff

Now it's time to plant whatever you want to plant in your box. I started with some peppermint and some basil which I had grown in some self watering pots made out of PET-bottles.

Put the box with earth in the other box (which we haven't touched until now).
Don't forget to water everything and fill the lower box with water. But don't overdo it! The upper box should not touch the water. (Using the Samla boxes I can put approx. 1 liter of water into the lower box.)

Step 5: Wait...

Now wait and enjoy your little garden. This is a picture of mine after about a month. Everything has grown beautifully!

Please note that the basil was a lot bigger the day before I took this picture. But I had used a lot of in my pasta sauce. :-)

Some tips from experience:
- Drill some holes in the lower box just underneath the point where the top box ends. This way you don't have to worry about overfilling the lower box (accidentally of if there are heavy showers)
- The one liter reservoir lasts for about 2 days of intense sunshine. (but that's here in Switzerland This may vary in other climates)

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    67 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Hey man, thanks for the idea with the wicking ropes!
    One small concern though: I've read that it's bad for plant roots if they're in contact with UV radiation. Too bad IKEA doesn't make these boxes in non-transparent version. Very easy adaptation of the earth box. I was looking for this!

    4 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    ALL plastic will fail from UV exposure so why not build a lightweight box around the main planter - no bottom, just sides. This would prevent UV exposure to both the roots and the planter.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    @ RoBear613:
    I happend to have made a wooden "skirt" around my DIY earthbox, just as you described.
    My boxes aren't transparant, but the wood looks fine!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    An easy solution to this would be to line the boxes with something opaque like weed block or even the plastic from heavy duty black garbage bags. Alternatively a more attractive measure would be to spray paint the outside of the boxes with a paint that bonds to plastic like krylon fusion.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Seems like a good solutions. I found opaque containers in the size I was looking for and for a good price but that's will not always be the case.

    For my soda bottle self watering containers, I just used cardboard to block the light. It's a cheap and eco friendly alternative, and theirs tons laying around in my appartment building. If cut with care, it looks tidy (opinions might vary on that...), and you can use it as a label too. Just don't poor water over it or it'll warp (but then again, the water should go into the tube).


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Hello, everybody!

    I just wrote an instructable about self-watering indoor plants: really self-regulating, and no powering needs.

    It is here:

    Hope someone find it useful.

    Best wishes,


    11 years ago on Step 4

    Hey man if you wanted to improve this you could take a .5 inch radius pvc pipe and cut a .5 inch radius hole in the bottom put the pipe in the hole, use some glue or kaulk to seal it up and just pour water down the hole. Or even make a automatic watering system with a floating switch to water when the water gets low. I LOVE YOUR IDEA!

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

     Thanks for the instructions. These are much more streamlined than some of the others I have read online. I am going to try this right away.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    this kind of stuff also reduce the fungus manifestation? cause as water comes from down, don't touch the leaves and don't let them wet, isn't? very nice 'ible


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Nice one =). I'm gonna have to make a couple.


    10 years ago on Step 1

    I have been wanting to get some of the earth boxes but I want to give this a try first,sounds less costly.I want some small tomato plants and this sounds like the right size to try.Thanks for a great idea.


    10 years ago on Step 4

    I think the idea is cute too...maybe it will work the same without the strings? I water quite a few of my plants from the bottom and the dirt soaks up what it needs on its own. I'd love to see an experiment of one with verses one without strings :)

    1 reply

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    That's the approach the "Earth Box" uses. A commercial product with many advantages (like refilling from the top). It is a concept that is proven to work.

    HAL 9000

    10 years ago on Introduction

    Today i did something like this with a bunch of 4 gallon food buckets i had lying around. i planted tomatoes, zucchini, salad greens and sugar snap peas. hopefully they will all grow well, ill post pictures of my setup if they do. great project, fun and easy in an afternoon

    2 replies
    HAL 9000HAL 9000

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    hmmm, it seems that a 4 gallon square bucket is too deep for this to work. the top of the soil dried out too quickly and the plants started dying. now i am rethinking while i water with a watering can.

    RomanHHAL 9000

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    hmmm, I assume that's only a problem for the first couple of weeks. After that, the roots should reach down to the moisture. Good luck.