How to Make a Self Contained Plant Watering System


A self-contained plant watering system is designed to make it simpler for a container gardener to care for plants by reducing the frequency that a gardener has to water. The self-watering system has two distinct chambers, a bottom chamber that holds water in a reservoir and an upper chamber that contains soil and the plant. The two are separated by a screen through which the plant's roots can grow to draw up water into the soil. As the water level in the reservoir drops, the gardener can refill the water.

Step 1

Trace a line horizontally around the bottom of one of the storage tubs using an aquatic basket as a guideline. Cut off the bottom of the storage tub along the mark using a jig saw. Discard the top half of the tub.

Step 2

Turn the cut-off bottom of the tub upside down and place the aquatic basket face-down in the center of the tub bottom. Trace around the basket with a marker.

Step 3

Remove the basket and draw another circle ½-inch inside of this circle. Place one end of the PVC pipe against a corner of the tub lid and trace around this with the marker.

Step 4

Cut out the inner large circle in the center of the container. Then cut out the circle that was made using PVC pipe.

Step 5

Drill ½-inch holes spaced every 2 inches across the bottom of the tub. You've now created a base for your soil chamber. Place the pond basket face-up into the center of the bottom of the second tub.

Step 6

Place the bottom of the first tub (the soil base) face down into the second tub so that the aquatic basket aligns with the large central hole in the soil base.

Step 7

Cut the end of the PVC pipe at an angle using a jig saw. Insert the PVC pipe vertically into the hole in the corner of the soil base that you cut earlier.

Step 8

Drill a hole through the side of the second tub and the soil base just below the level of the base. This will be a water drainage hole to prevent you from filling the self-watering container with too much water.

Step 9

Fill the upper container with potting soil. Sprinkle dry, granular fertilizer over the top of the potting soil and cover the surface of the soil with landscaping fabric.

Step 10

Cut a hole in the surface of the landscaping fabric with a utility knife. Plant your container plant in this hole. Cover the landscaping fabric with commercial mulch such as shredded bark or wood chips. This will help hold moisture into the soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Wear safety goggles while cutting the tub to protect your eyes.

Things You'll Need

  • 2 plastic storage tubs (approximately 5 gallons each)
  • 5-inch diameter aquatic basket
  • Marker
  • Safety goggles
  • Jig saw
  • Drill
  • ½-inch drill bit
  • 2-foot long ¾-inch diameter piece of PVC pipe
  • Commercial potting soil
  • Dry granular fertilizer
  • Landscaping fabric
  • Utility knife
  • Mulch


  • Personal Website: Homemade Self Contained Gardning Systems
  • Earthbox Compan PDF: Earthbox Gardening Tips
  • PDF: Making a self watering container or Earthbox

Who Can Help

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

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.