Self-Watering Container Garden

I’ve wanted a self-watering container garden for establishing hedge and flower bushes for my house which, right now, is just one giant unfettered lawn with some natural forest on a couple of borders. I don’t particularly care for large lawns because when I look at them all I see is a bunch of work. I mean, I suppose I can see the appeal of a big, flat expanse of lawn, so long as I’m not the one charged with its care. I don’t mind a little yard work to make a place look nice. And, indeed, a little yard work can be enjoyable. Especially tending a productive garden. But when you’re faced with hours and hours of monotonous work every single week it can just become something you dread rather than look forward to.

So the goal with my piece of land is to make it attractive and productive, but low maintenance. I’ve always had an interest in permaculture and this winter I’ll finally have some time to really dive into some reading on it.

Anyway, my lot is mostly private except for one border with a neighbor to the side. So I’d like to establish an informal hedge along that border. The plan is to start some tiny (i.e. inexpensive/free) cuttings in the container garden where they can be nursed with good soil, light and watering conditions without being in danger of being mutilated by an errant lawn mower. Then they can be transplanted in the fall when, hopefully they’ll be at least 2 or 3 ft high. And for the next few years I can continue to do this with the container garden and expand the hedge, establish some flowering bushes and trees, and get some fruit trees and berry bushes off to a good start. And in a few years when we finally have all the bushes and trees we want I’ll just use it as a vegetable or flower garden to make the deck a little nicer.

As you can see these 5 gallon pails are all interconnected with piping. If you don’t know how a self-watering bucket works, check this out. Basically each container is two buckets, one nested in the other, and there’s holes drilled so that the soil is always wicking up water to the plant from the lower reservoir  I’ve set mine up so I can attach a garden hose to it and there’s a float valve that will always make sure there’s just enough water for the plants. So after planting them in the spring, they should be essentially maintenance free all summer.

I found the food-grade buckets in bulk on craigslist for 50 cents a piece, the piping was mostly leftovers from plumbing my house, though I did have to spend a little money on a bunch of t-connectors, and I found the float valve on amazon. The rubber valves were from uniseals and they’re pricey, but pretty amazing. I only had two very slow leaks that I fixed by just adjusting the position on the pipe a little bit. You just push the pipe through the tight rubber and it forms a leak-proof seal.

I also designed it so it can be drained fairly easily and all the materials ought to be able to withstand the winter so I’m not going to bother dismantling it each year, I’ll just let the snow cover it.

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  1. Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Pretty cool setup. It will be fun to watch the plants grow, I’m sure. I assume it would work just as well with larger buckets/vessels?

  2. Posted October 25, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    I think any size would work. I went with the 5 gallons buckets because they’re so abundant and cheap.