Self Watering Containers with Storage Bins

Another beautiful day in Cleveland, so I worked on some more of the self watering containers I made last year, filled them with potting soil and planted kale, German chamomile, bok choy, and swiss chard.  These are containers I made out of 18 gallon plastic storage bins. It cost me less than $20 to make each one; that includes the potting soil.   To see how I transformed a pretty pot into a self watering container click here.

1. You will need: 18 gallon plastic storage bins with lids (these can be purchased at Lowes in a 3 pack for $16), 2 (4x4x4-inch) pond plant baskets these may be hard to find I ordered mine from petsolutions.com, 3 large cottage cheese or yogurt containers that are the same height as the pond plant containers, marker, tin snips to cut the lid, 1.5 c.f. bag of potting soil.

2. Measure and cut the lid so that it fits down inside the bin and will sit flat on the pond baskets.  I had to notch out the sides to fit down ours.  This is now the “false bottom”.

18 Gallon Storage Bin (plus the lid), 2 pond plant baskets

3. Position the pond baskets in the bin on opposite corners, then position 2 dairy containers in the remaining corners and 1 in the center.  The dairy containers are supports so the false bottom doesn’t collapse into the bin.  If you want to, secure them down with silicone aquarium caulk.  I did this last year, but they all came undone and the weight of the potting soil keeps everything in place anyway.

4. Cut 2 (approx. 2-x2-inch) holes in the false bottom where the pond baskets meet the false bottom.

5. Mark a spot in the bin just below the top of the pond baskets and cut a hole about 1-x2-inches in the side of the bin (see top photo).  This will be the fill hole where you can test the water level with your finger and fill if needed.  It is also the overflow hole to allow excess water to drain from the water reservoir.

6. Fill the pond baskets with moist potting soil.  These act as wicks which suck the water up and in turn the soil above the false bottom is able to disseminate the water evenly, without over saturating it. This is unlike placing a pot in a saucer of water where the soil becomes waterlogged and potentially unhealthy for the plants. Position the false bottom over the baskets and dairy containers.

7. Place the container where you want it to stay for the summer because once you fill it it is going to be HEAVY!

8. Fill with potting soil. Plant and water!
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.

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