self-watering lettuce pot

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The Perfect Self-Watering Garden ContainerA self-watering garden container for vegetables, herbs, or fruit trees is an inexpensive project. You can buy an Earthbox or Grow Box from Amazon. Amazon stocks hundreds of self-watering garden containers. But if you are resourceful, you can build one using things you probably have around the house. Self-watering pots make it easy to grow vegetables in containers without the worry that your plants will dry up.

My salad garden for 2022 is an experiment in attempting to grow my own vegetables and then keeping them pest and disease-free. I did almost everything wrong with this self-watering container and still had success.

A plastic self-watering pot can cost $60, $70, or $80. This project will cost less than $20. The homemade container garden will be larger than most of the commercial containers for sale, and it will take less than an hour to build.

After watching a few videos online, I decided to build a self-watering pot from scratch. It's possible to convert a large container into a self-watering vegetable garden with some know-how.


Supplies Needed

18 Gallon Plastic Storage Bin

PVC 3/4 inch pipe to hose adapter

A 3-foot 3/4 inch PVC pipe

Plastic containers (ice cream, milk jugs, yogurt containers, etc. - it is only essential that they are about the same height)

Landscape fabric

Potting soil

2 cups of an all-purpose fertilizer

Garden lime

Vegetable Seeds or seedlings

A drill with a 1/2 inch bit

A sharp cutting knife

A hacksaw to cut the pipe


Step by Step Instructions

You want to start with a clean storage container. Clean out the tub or bucket before beginning this project. Gather enough milk cartons, yogurt containers, or pipes to line the bottom of the planter. They need to be approximately the same level at the bottom of your planter. I used six Blue Bunny Ice Cream Containers.

Use a 1/4 inch drill bit to add drainage holes to the sides and top of the ice cream cartons. These holes enable water to fill each carton and then out of the reservoir to the landscape fabric.

Line your planter with the plastic ice cream cartons.

The ice cream cartons leak water to the bottom of your planter, and the landscape cloth will then wick moisture up to the soil.

Make a mark on the inside of the tub about one inch below the top of the water reservoir. Drill a hole on one side of the tub approximately a half-inch below the tops of the ice cream cartons. The water overflow hole will prevent the tub from accumulating too much water and flooding the plants.


Place the landscape cloth over the water reservoir and the ice cream tubs. Tuck it in around all sides of the planter. The landscape cloth keeps dirt from getting into the water reservoir, and it will act as a wick to bring water up to the soil and your plants.

Cut one end of the PVC pipe at a 45-degree angle and place that end into the tub, and secure it with a piece of duct tape securely to the tub. Cut the other end of the pipe even or slightly above the top of the planter. The PVC water input tube can now fill the bottom of the planter up to the overflow. Attach a PVC to hose connecter, and you can connect your garden hose whenever it is time to refill the reservoir.

Fill the tub with potting soil, so the soil line is 4 inches from the top of the bucket. Sprinkle the soil with a handful of garden lime. Then top the bucket off with an additional two inches of potting soil so that your soil is about 2 inches from the top.

Attach the hose to the PVC pipe and fill until water runs out of the overflow hole in the tub.


Plant the seeds or seedlings in the tub. Wet the soil with a watering can or the hose without disturbing the seeds. That should be the only time you'll need to topwater this container. Now just put the tub in the sun and wait.





This self-watering container is easy to make and can be completed for less than $20 including plants and soil. It's a great introduction to gardening for children, and it can be reused many times.

I looked at other raised garden planters and vegetable trugs, but they were not better than this solution, and most of those exceeded $100 just for the planter. The utility tub planter is an inexpensive way to build above-ground vegetable gardens. They take up a little space on the patio or deck, and are less expensive than the premade pots.

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