Sunday, May 16, 2010

DIY Self Watering Container: Water Cooler Bottle

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Welcome to Bucolic Bushwick. Here you'll find advice on rooftop vegetable gardening, as well as several plans for DIY self watering planters. Please share this page with others and help spread the vegetable gardening movement.

Here is my jumbo version of a soda bottle self watering container.

Start out with one 5 gallon water cooler bottle, preferably one without a built-in handle.


Drill holes for soil aeration along the sloping side of the bottle and along the spout.


Cut the bottle into 2 pieces, the soil container and the water reservoir.  Drill an overflow hole in the water reservoir for drainage.


Where you divide the bottle will depend on the distance between the top of the spout and the end of the sloping side on the bottle, where it meets the straight side.  This distance will be the height of the water reservoir.  I, of course, did not measure this distance with a measuring tape (I eyeballed it) so I got it wrong.  To compensate I cut off a portion of the spout.  Ideally you want the spout to rest flush with the bottom of the water reservoir to maximize stability.


I ended up cutting off a little too much from the spout so to bridge the distance between the spout and the bottom of the water reservoir I added a terracotta plant tray.  Avoid my mistake!  Measure twice, cut once.



I placed the soil container over the water reservoir, added a small tomato cage for plant support and finally added the soil. The tomato cage went into the planter before the soil.  I had the spokes of the cage go through some of the aeration holes so that the cage rested at the bottom of the water reservoir.  Having the cage sit so low in planter makes it much sturdier than if it was just stuck in the soil.  Voila! The latest edition to my rooftop container vegetable garden.


Update:  Algae will grow in the soil and water reservoir if you don't block the light so cover it with paint or duck tape before you put it outside.

The only monetary costs involved in making this container were the tomato cage and the soil.  Everything else I had on hand.

1 Tomato Cage: $1.63
1 Bag Self-Watering Container Mix: $9.95

Running Total: $81.56

Visit bucolicbushwick.com to read more about rooftop vegetable gardening.

23 comments:

  1. What kind of soil do you use?? I tried two baby pools on my deck this winter and they have worked out ok, esp for a first attempt. I am in south Texas so completely different enviroment.

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  2. Hi Susan, I use soil from gardeners.com. It's a soil mix made specifically for self watering containers that's very light-weight and airy. If you have the space it can easily be duplicated from supplies bought from a garden store.

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  3. can you post a picture of what the garden/what this looks like now that the plants have grown?

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  4. Hi Monisha, pics of last year's garden can be seen here:

    https://picasaweb.google.com/elaine.espinosa/BucolicBushwick2010Garden?feat=directlink

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  5. Hi from Italy,
    nice suggestion, I followed your ideas for a self-watering seed starter.
    Have fun,
    Mallo2011

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  6. Execellant idea's and instructions...thanks for sharing..

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  7. Hi Gingerbreadshouse, thanks for visiting my blog. I'm glad you found this info helpful. Happy growing!

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  8. same one i did since around march or april this year.. using 6 L water bottle, and like you i have started moving to bigger bottles LOL i have a couple of 12 L here.. amazing huh!

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    Replies
    1. Yes, small bottles are fine for indoors, like 2 liter soda bottles, but I would not put them on the roof. They would dry out too quickly.

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  9. how well has this worked? I am about to build 4-8 of them.

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    Replies
    1. It works well, but I think the water reservoir might be too small to grow tomatoes. A dwarf variety might work.

      It also tends to be top heavy when the water runs low, so I make it a point to cluster it with other pots so the wind doesn't tip it over.

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    2. I saw one that had a PVC pipe that went down in the bottle to add water from above. Other wise how do you add water easily. I saw it on a video and they driled about a 1 1/2" whole for the pipe to fit down in it with a smal cut out at the edge of the pipe so water can get in to the bottle. Then the dirt was put around it. The pipe stuck up about 5 to 6 inches about the top. I saw some other automatic self watering containers on You tube.

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  10. So why isnt there a plastic pipe going from top to bottom to water it. I saw someone elses and it had a wick and a Plastic water pipe to water it with.

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  11. The thing I find missing in this is the Pipe (plastic) or tube that you would make a whole in the top of the bottle to insert the tube when bottle is upside down. The tube would fit in this to make watering easy from above. I saw one of these on a video and it had the tube

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    Replies
    1. I skipped the watering tube in this case. Instead I just filled the water reservoir through the overflow hole. Eventually I got tired of bending down to water so I added a fill tube later.

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  12. As for being top heavy could a few med. sized rocks be added to weight it down?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, rocks can be added to weigh it down. Be careful about how much you add though, the more rocks you add the less water the reservoir will hold. Another way to weigh it down, without worrying about reduced water capacity, is to glue the bottom of the container to a terracotta plant tray or something similar. Hope this helps and thanks for stopping by!

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  13. This looks nice enough for an indoor planter. Reminds me of a terrarium. Of course, you would need a platter under it in case of over-flow. I think it is beautiful.

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  14. That's the best idea I've ever seen.Im going to try this right now!~

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    Replies
    1. Great! Let us know how it works out.

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