Self Watering Containers

It was a beautiful day in Cleveland, so I washed down the self watering containers I made last year, filled them with potting soil and planted salad greens.  While I was doing this I thought maybe others would like to know how to make self watering containers.  Last year I made 3 different types of self watering containers and all grew veggies very well.  My containers were also considerably cheaper than the earth boxes sold for $60-$70 in garden centers.  The most difficult part is finding the planters, planter saucers, and pond plant pots that all fit snug together.  It took me a few days last year to gather the materials, but today since I have everything, I washed them down and planted in 4 planters in less than an hour.  These are what I did today.  I will be posting pictures of the others types as I plant them.

Red planter pot, Clear planter saucer, Black Pond pot

1. Select a planter pot. Find a saucer that will fit far enough down in the pot that it will sit firmly on the pond plant pots.
2. Cut a hole in the side of the planter that is just slightly below the level of the saucer as it sits on the pond pot. This will be the drain hole to allow excess water to drain from the water reservoir.

3. Cut 4-5 holes in the saucer which will line up with the pond pot inside the pot.


4. Fill the pond pot with potting soil.
5. Place the saucer on top.
6. Cut a hole in the saucer to fit a pipe. Be sure that the pipe you choose is made out of a material that will not leach harmful chemicals into your soil. I used copper.
7. Insert pipe into hole.

Spinach, Arugula, Raddichio, & Romaine

8. Fill planter with potting soil and plant.

The idea for these planters is adapted from the book “The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible” by Edward C. Smith.  I recommend borrowing this book from the library before you start any container gardens, it is an excellent resource!  I very rarely buy books (I am a regular at the library) but this is one book I purchased and use every spring.

9 thoughts on “Self Watering Containers

  1. this is really good- I keep trying to think of materials to use for the saucer part- I wouldn’t have thought the clear saucer was sturdy enough- did it last through the growing season?

  2. looks really nice! I am wondering if you can recommend any pipes other than copper —–I have heard that copper is frequently stolen————–not sure it the pipes are worth enough to be stolen! just came to mind.

    I have used soda bottles and water bottles but people say there may be a problem with the plastic leeching into the soil?

    any recs—–is PVC bad too?

    thanks! Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,
      I did not to use PVC because I thought it may leach contaminates. However, after reading hundreds of gardening books with hundreds of uses for PVC in the garden, it appears that none of the authors are concerned about contamination. None of them even mention anything about it. (Although one author did mention his dislike of it because with constant exporure to the sun it becomes brittle and breaks easily.) Therefore, I would have to conclude that PVC in the garden is safe. Just make sure you use the same stuff that they use for plumbing. Also, thanks for checking out my site!

    • I don’t fertilize I use the potting soil mix that I wrote about in my watermelon post and mix in a half cup of worm castings from my worm bin. Good to know on the PVC I see lots of garden blogs that use it for all kinds of projects!

      • Yes, Mel’s Mix. The guy from growingyourgreens.com uses a Mel’s Mix in his SIPs as well. The Earthbox forum people discourage using any compost in a self-watering container but it seems to work for people and doesn’t stop the wicking action. It would be nice to be able to ditch the fertilizer–it’s organic but not quite as natural as using compost and worm castings. Of course, vermiculite and peat moss is an expense. I’ll experiment next time.

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