Kids Gardening: Make Your Own Self-Watering Container

Posted by the Mom (aka Kelly Biedny)

This is the first year we’re trying the self-watering containers. Last year we went without a patio garden, but this year, we’re back in the swing of things and our fancy new containers are going to be put to the test. We bought one from Gardener’s Supply Companyicon. You can check out the details on it at their website. It’s a bit different then the ones we made to convert existing pots, but the reviews were good, so we’ll see how well it works.

For our home made ones, we found some instructions at some sites on line (Urban Organic Gardener and Josho.com ) and then set-out to make our own sinece we already had 3 containers we wanted to convert. One was a big wooden pot that we’ve had for years (you might have seen it in past posts – Raising Little Gardeners). Now, in the process of getting the big wooden pot ready, its age became apparent when the bottom came off, sooo, we got a replacement at Walmart
icon—everything still worked out, just cost $27 more than planned :D The other two actually became one for the conversion (you’ll see).

Here’s what we did:

1. Get Your Stuff Together:
The items we used included a 4.5 Gallon Rubber maid container and lid, one large plastic yogurt container, two small plastic containers, some 1 inch PVC Pipe and some 1 1/2 inch PVC Pipe, duct tape, a scissors, a hack saw and a drill.

2. Prep for Drilling:
Four our large container conversion, we made two outlines on the lid of the rubber maid container. One for the area where we would be inserting the yogurt container ‘wick’ and the other for the PVC Pipe. We did the same thing for the smaller container on the bottom of one of our rectangular planters.

3. Drill Holes to Cut Out:
We drilled holes around the edge of our outlines on the rubber maid container top and the bottom of the smaller planter so we could cut them out. Alex did most of the drilling, but Soph and I did a couple holes too :D

4. Cut Out Holes
After drilling along the edges of the holes for the yogurt container and the PVC Pipe, we cut cut them out. For this we used our kitchen scissors and carefully cut from one hole to the next until we were done.

5. Drill Holes in Yogurt & Small Containers and Lid.
To allow for the water to get to the soil, we drilled holes in the surface areas that will be in contact with the water–the rubber maid lid and the yogurt container for the large container, and the small containers and bottom for the other ones we are converting.

6.  Cut the PVC Piping to length:
I bought already cut, smaller lengths of PVC piping from Home Depot, but they were still to long.  We used the 1 1/2 inch pipe for the Large Container, cutting it to the depth of the container. If you won’t be placing your reservoir on the very bottom of the container, cut it so it will touch the bottom of the reservoir and stick out  an inch or two above the surface of the soil. Because we started making our larger one for the wooden container that broke, we had to adjust under the soil when we placed the reservoir in the new container (see step 8).  For the smaller container, we cut the 1 inch PVC to the stacked depth of the two containers.

Also make sure to cut the bottom of one of the sides of the PVC pipe at an angle so water can get into the reservoir through the tube easily.

7. Duct Tape the PVC Tubing in and Insert ‘Wicks’:
Insert the PVC Pipe into the smaller corner hole and secure with duct tape. For our larger conversion reservoir, insert the yogurt container into the larger hole. It should fit tightly and you can duct tape it if you want, but it’s not necessary. For our larger container, we decided to have only one ‘wick’, which is the yogurt container with holes in it. This container is submerged into the reservoir and the soil in it will help suck up the water into the rest of the soil in the container.

For the other conversion, we used two smaller containers for wicks. Because of the length of the container, we thought the wicking over the total are of the soil would be better if we had two smaller containers instead of just one in the center.

8. Insert Reservoir:
For the large container we converted, we placed the reservoir on the bottom. Now, because this container was bigger than our original, which broke, we had to add some filler. For the filler, we used an old ice cream pail and a couple of yogurt containers. This held the reservoir so it would be the right depth and so we didn’t use as much soil.

For the smaller container, we just stacked the top into the reservoir container. We duct taped the drainage holes that were in the reservoir container, but that’s about it.  Honestly, we wouldn’t have had to do the PVC pipe thing for filling with water, just lifting the top container off would have worked, but we didn’t realize that when we started.

9. Fill with Soil:
We completely covered the reservoir on the larger container with soil and filled the top one of the smaller container, too.  We didn’t fill the reservoirs until after we planted our herb garden, which will share details about here!

So there you have it, two types of converted self-watering containers.  We’ll let you know how they work throughout the season on facebook and twitter.  But, no matter what our result, we had lots of fun making ’em 😀

Happy Family Gardening Everyone!

P.S. Have you made your own self-watering container? Let us know how you did it with a comment and/or link to it!

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