(Editors Note: This article was shared with us by Personal Creations.)
Don’t be intimidated! Putting together a self-watering planter is much simpler than it sounds. The basic idea is a container for the plant above a reservoir, with something to wick water up to the roots, regulating the amount of moisture that reaches the plant.
A self-watering planter has five basic parts:
A container for water: A good-sized reservoir in the bottom will let you water the plant less frequently.
A container for soil and the plant: This should fit into the reservoir container and leave enough room in the bottom for a substantial amount of water.
A wick: The wick steadily draws water up from the reservoir into the soil. One option is to use cloth, usually cotton (though mildew is a risk with cloth wicks). Another solution is to cut a hole in the bottom of the inner soil pot that can hold in place a small container with holes drilled in it, such as a yogurt cup. The cup hangs down into the water reservoir, and, when filled with soil, performs the same wicking action as a piece of cloth.
A way to refill the reservoir: This could be a hole in the side of the outer container or a tube running through both containers to allow you to fill from the top (be sure to cut the bottom of the tube at an angle to enable steady flow). With smaller, lighter containers you could easily lift the inner pot out to add water.
An overflow hole: A small hole a quarter inch or so below the bottom of the soil container will keep the soil from getting waterlogged and the roots from rotting.
A few things to keep in mind:
- You can use just about anything for your two pots, from wine or soda bottles to plastic buckets to garbage cans (make sure the plastic is food-grade, however). The most important thing is that one fits securely into the other while leaving enough room for water on the bottom.
- As with any other type of container, be sure to follow the unique requirements of whatever plant you’re trying to grow. Some plants, including many herbs, don’t do well in soil that is consistently moist. (Basil, on the other hand, requires lots of water and might be a good first plant to try in a smaller self-watering container.)
- Use the right kind of soil. Garden companies make soil mixes specifically for self-watering setups, ensuring that enough moisture is wicked and that the soil doesn’t become waterlogged.
- Use the right size container for the plant you’re growing. Plants with more extensive root systems, such as tomatoes, need a larger container.
Whether you try your hand at herbs to start with or go straight to a self-watering planter, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that your thumb’s greener than you think. Happy gardening!