Introduction: Make a Self-watering Planter Using Recycled Materials on the Cheap

About: I'm a friendly project starter. My love is the earth and sustainable inovations. My job is IT consulting. When these powers combine, I form something not nearly as interesting as Captain Planet!

the intro

My office manager buys jugs of water from Safeway for our water cooler.  Later I found out that these particular jugs have no deposit on those water jugs, so they're just getting thrown out instead of being reused.  I thought this was kind of silly, so I asked if I could take the jugs with me.

I wasn’t sure what I would do with them at first, but then I saw this video by Kirsten Dirksen showing a dude from Refarm the city and for about 20 seconds at 12:20 in that video, the dude shows what I’ve built here.

I recommend that anyone who’s interested in using arduino in their garden check out that video and site.  It’s all open source.  I also recommend that anyone who is interested in small homes, and very incredible ideas for sustainable lifestyles check out Kirsten Dirksen’s youtube channel.  I believe I’ve seen everything she has posted and I have had my mind blown by almost every one.


In this instructable, I will show you how to create a self-watering planter using recycled materials that are very easy to find (at least for me they are and hopefully they are for you too).

The design is self watering because you have a resevoir of water on the bottom, which feeds up to your potted plant using the power of whicking!

you will need

2 water jugs - possibly free
2 zip ties/tie straps - go to the dollar store!  They're somewhere around a dollar there.
1 old sock - free
some potting soil/compost/loam/whatever you like to plant in - possibly free
filtered water - no more than $5, but possibly free

Step 1: Lovin' the Jugs

As I mentioned before, I have an advantage in this because my office uses non-reusable water jugs, however keep your eyes open for old water jugs behind buildings and beside garbage cans.  Even if they're cracked, you might still be able to use them.

This design is very extremely simple.  It consists of two water jugs stacked with water in the bottom jug and dirt in the top jug.  The top jug is upside down and the bottom is cut off.  The sock is attached to the top jug and dangles into the water.  If this doesn't make sense yet, hold on to your socks (or use them in the project...whatever floats your boat.)

Cut the top off the bottom jug, and the bottom off the top jug.  Check out the pictures if this doesn't make sense.

Step 2: Attach the Sock

Now attach the sock to the spout of the top bottle.  I used a couple zip ties, but feel free to fasten it however you like.  It needs to be fairly secure.

Step 3: Fill the Buckets

Now add water to the bottom bucket.  I'm careful to use filtered water because Calgary water is chlorinated which I believe is a neccesary evil, but I would rather not drink it or feed it to my plants, so I filter it out.

Fill the top bucket with soil of your choice.  If you're growing tomatoes, make sure you give them lots of nutrients and a rich soil!

I used some organic soil rejuvinator along with a loam peat and manure blend.

Make sure the sock is totally full of soil.  This is very important or the wicking won't work.

Put the top jug into the bottom jug so that the sock is dangling in the water.

Step 4: Plant Something and Look at It, or Eat It Later!

Now you can plant whatever you want.  I'm going to grow tomatoes in this pot.  I have another couple of jugs which I am undecided about as of yet.

If you liked this, check out my blog and leave a comment or ten at
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Leave me comments and feedback down below, or at my website or twitter.  I'll be so stoked to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

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