How to Make an Automatic Plant Watering System


An automatic plant watering system, sometimes called an Earthbox or a self-watering container, is a system that stores water in a reservoir for long periods of time. The soil container is held in a chamber over the reservoir, and the water is absorbed into the soil through holes in the floor of the soil container. The plant watering system allows the container gardener to water less frequently for growing container plants with less effort. Although many brands of automatic plant watering systems are available commercially, it is much less expensive to create your own self-watering container.

Step 1

Trace a line around the circumference of one of the tubs at approximately 5 inches from the bottom of the bucket.

Step 2

Cut the tub in half along the line using a jig saw.

Step 3

Discard the top half of the tub.

Step 4

Turn the tub bottom onto its open top, and drill ½ inch diameter holes spaced evenly every 1 inch apart.

Step 5

Place the tub bottom face down into the floor of the other storage container.

Step 6

Swap your ½ inch drill bit for a 1 inch drill bit. Drill a hole into the side of both containers. This will be both a hole to fill the reservoir with water and a drainage hole for your container.

Step 7

Fill the upper chamber with potting soil.

Step 8

Sprinkle the surface of the potting soil with dry granulated fertilizer.

Step 9

Cover the soil with landscaping fabric to help keep weeds out of your container.

Step 10

Cut a hole for your plants into the landscaping fabric with a utility knife and plant the plants in the hole.

Step 11

Cover the landscaping fabric with mulch to help prevent the water from evaporating from the soil.

Step 12

Water your plants by filling the water reservoir below the soil chamber with water through the drainage hole using a watering can with a spout.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not fill your container with garden soil. Garden soil is not formulated for use in a container, and may contain microbes that could be harmful to a plant in a container. Instead, select a potting mix formulated for container gardening. Always wear safety goggles and safety gloves when working with a jig saw.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 sturdy plastic storage tubs (approximately 5 gallons each)
  • Tape measure
  • Magic marker
  • Jig saw
  • ½ inch drill bit
  • 1 inch drill bit
  • Drill
  • Potting soil
  • Dry granulated fertilizer
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Utility knife
  • Plants
  • Mulch
  • Watering can with a spout


  • PDF: Making a self watering container or Earthbox
  • Personal Website: Homemade Self-Contained Gardening System
  • Earthbox Company PDF: Earthbox Planting Instructions

Who Can Help

  • Dave's Garden Website: Self-contained Box Gardens
Keywords: Earthbox planter, self contained gardening system, automatic plant watering container

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.