Self Watering Vertical Garden With Recycled Water Bottles




Introduction: Self Watering Vertical Garden With Recycled Water Bottles

About: i'm a geologist

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

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

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

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

Step 4: 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

Step 6: Vegetables

Instructables Green Design Contest

Second Prize in the
Instructables Green Design Contest



  • Tiny Home Contest

    Tiny Home Contest
  • Creative Misuse Contest

    Creative Misuse Contest
  • Metalworking Contest

    Metalworking Contest

125 Discussions

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.

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!

thanks (i'm very late)

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

1 reply

Nice idea, post pics when done! Cheers

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!

1 reply

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!

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.

2 replies

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

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.

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?

1 reply

hi, try this


best regards

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.

2 replies

thank you for your comment sir! ;)

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!


2 years ago

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?