DIY Self Watering Detergent Bottle Planter

          These are some steps that I made to upcycle empty containers such as plastic jugs and bottles into self-sustaining and responsible planting containers for the garden.
I sell these containers for $5.00 each, or 5 for $20.00! Inquire about them through my contacts page

Perfect size for planting very thirsty herbs and flowers. I've planted some donated Coriander seeds in this one, and it's still producing 2 months later
Perfect size for planting very thirsty herbs and flowers. I’ve planted some donated Coriander seeds in this one, and it’s still producing 2 months later

                I’m lucky enough to live close to a green cooperative named Coop la Maison Verte in Montreal, who recycle a lot of 10 litre detergent and dish soap jugs from an environmentally friendly company, the containers from whom are perfect for up-cycling into the garden! I pick them up by the dozen every few weeks and try to make a few at a time to give away to friends or just to have on hand in case I need replacements.

I happen to be working on and maintaining a public “Incredible Edible”*, I often end up losing a planter/plant here and there to theft or vandalism. Unfortunately, without a large community organization to make my presence more well-known, this occurrence comes with the territory, so I’ve learned to keep a couple more of these than I need around for such occasions. Anyway, enough of my rambles; Onwards!!


Materials: 

This is what I used, but it isn't the only way to do this if you have better/lack the same tools. Improvise!
This is what I used, but it isn’t the only way to do this if you have better/lack the same tools. Improvise!
  • -Good, strong scissors.
  • Chalk/Dry erase marker (For marking your cut-line)
  • Hole Punch *the little red handled instrument* (can be a large nail, or a butter knife you dislike, though I wouldn’t suggest a round handled object like a knife).
  • Duct Tape or another weather-proof tape.
  • Old cotton fabric or Garden-safe string/rope (Our wicking material).
  • (Optional) Hammer
  • Newspaper or cardboard (to protect your work surface from any leftover liquids that may be leftover in the container). 
  • 10 liter Jug/Bottle made from food grade plastic (I look for plastics that are completely recyclable, and if I can, that have Eco-friendly certification on the label.

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    Lastly, you’ll want to make sure you have access to a sink and a sponge for when you need to scrub out the soap residue from inside your container (or whatever other materials it would have had in it).


    STEPS:Making a guide line

 1) Lay out your protective covering and choose a place to make your cutting line with the marker. If you don’t need to do so, mad respect! For those that do, mad respect!

*Make sure your cut is more or less centered on your container so the spout has some space from the bottom of what will be the reservoir for your plant’s water. Too little space, and the spout will always be submerged, which won’t allow the soil above to drain.

 2) With your x-acto knife, try to cut as straight a line as possible around the perimeter Making the cutof your container. A straight cut will allow the potting half of your pot to sit straight in the reservoir so when you water the soil, the water won’t pool on one side.

Cut in half
All done, and almost a straight cut! Onwards!

3) Once you’ve cut your container in half, you should wash it out with warm water and

As you can see, mine sits pretty flush in its reservoir. This is good!
As you can see, mine sits pretty flush in its reservoir. This is good!

dish soap, depending on what was inside your container.

If it was just dish soap or eco-friendly detergent, it should simply rinse away with some helpful scrubbing.

Once you’ve got this done, we can go back t the work space. From here, you want to flip the top half of your container and set it inside it’s sibling, like you see below. Now is when you’ll see if your top half or “Pot-Half” sits level with the edges or if it tilts to one side. Make any adjustments with some heavy kitchen shears or your scissors if they can handle the heavy plastic.

With duct tape, you want to make a bit of an outer Hinge for refilling the reservoir.
With duct tape, you want to make a bit of an outer Hinge for refilling the reservoir.

4) With your pot set up like this, rip yourself 3 x 4″ pieces of duct tape and place them like you see in the picture to form an outer hinge on one side of the container. I find it works best to put it on the opposite side of the spout. That way, every time you lift it open to refill the water, you can check the wick for damage or root growth.

       5) Now we need to flip it open like you see in the bottom right image. Tear yourself 3

Flip your planter open like this! See the outer hinge? So fancy!
Flip your planter open like this! See the outer hinge? So fancy!
Now we need to make an inner hinger with TWO vertical strips and ONE horizontal strip, opposite to the outer hinge.
Now we need to make an inner hinger with TWO vertical strips and ONE horizontal strip, opposite to the outer hinge.

more 4″ long pieces of duct tape and arrange them with one running over the edge of the reservoir, and 2 overlapping the ends of the first like so! This will stabilize the hinge so it doesn’t droop or tear.

I made my wick from some scrap of a cotton   T-Shirt.
I made my wick from some scrap of a cotton T-Shirt.

6) Now you can get your cotton fabric or other material to cut into wicking strips. Make sure they’re long enough to have an end reaching the bottom of the reservoir and the top edge of your pot.

The other end of the wick reaching over the side of my pot. I like taping it down until I get my soil poured in to keep it from falling all the way to the bottom.
The other end of the wick reaching over the side of my pot. I like taping it down until I get my soil poured in to keep it from falling all the way to the bottom.
Feeding the wick through the spout.
Feeding the wick through the spout.

Feed your wick, as you see me doing in the two pictures above, through the spout of your pot, just enough until you see it sit against the bottom of the reservoir. Take the other end and pull it up over one side of your pot, fastening it temporarily in place with a small piece of duct tape.

7) Once you have that done, flip it closed and tear yourself one more piece of duct tape of any shorter length. Fold a small portion of one end over and then place it on the un-hinged

I use this bit of tape to hold the whole thing closed for when I need to move it without spilling everywhere.
I use this bit of tape to hold the whole thing closed for when I need to move it without spilling everywhere.

side of your planter, sticking the top and bottom halves together so you’ll be able to move the pot without it falling open and spilling water everywhere (Learned from experience)

Now you’re finished! All you need now is some potting soil and a plant or batch of seedlings, and you’ll have a hopefully dandy time with your self-watering pot!

To start the Wicking process, fill your reservoir an inch high with water, then water the top layer of soil just enough to make it damp. This will connect the two layers of water so that when your soil starts to dry out, water will be drawn UP through your wick, and into the soil above!

This process can be used with a plethora of different shapes and sizes of container, including soda bottles, buckets, and even glass wine bottles! Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and wish you the best time!

Green Queeries Gardens & Upcycling
July 15th, 2015.
Tutorial and Photos by Shaun Hunter-Mclean.
For more info on gardening or for inquiry of my gardening and upcycled-furniture services/sales, you can contact me in my wordpress inbox, or email!

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