We share our backyard with many animal species but perhaps one of the most common is the elk. Herds of 50+ elk pass through on a weekly basis. We love the wildlife, but it is not conducive for planting a conventional garden.
This year, we decided to combat this problem by planting a self-watering garden up on our 2nd story deck. We can fill the bottom of the container and the plants will not need to be watered again for two weeks! How cool is that?!
Build a Container
We built a cedar bin 10 years ago and have used it to store outdoor garden supplies. It was the perfect size for what we need and it is built out of pressure treated lumber and cedar so it will withstand the tough Colorado weather. You can find construction plans to build a similar one here.
Create a Self-Watering Container
- Weed Barrier 4 x 8
- Plastic Sheeting – nice thick mil plastic dropcloth (or you could use pond liner, but it is expensive)
- Perforated drain pipe – about 20ft.
- Drain sleeve
- Potting Soil (We used 4 big bags)
- 2″ PVC – 4 inches taller than your container
- Plastic Tubing – about 3-4′
- Zip ties
- Water Storing Crystals
- Staple Gun
- 3-4 Electrical brads
- Utility Knife
- Drill with 2″ bit
- Turkey Baster
1. Layout your plastic sheeting so it will fill the container and be doubled up. Cut off the excess (save and use for another project).
2. Line your container with the doubled-up plastic sheeting. Fold the corners into triangles and staple all around the outside edge and corners. Do not staple inside your box. You want to keep the inside as water tight as possible. If you create holes in your sheeting, water might get behind the barrier and rot the wood.
3. Use a utility knife to cut around the outside of the plastic sheeting, removing the excess.
5, Drill a hole to snugly fit your PVC pipe on one end of one of your drain pipes. Slide the drain sleeve on your pipes and secure the ends with zip ties. Put the drain pipes into the bottom of the container and slide the PVC pipe in the pre-drilled hole.
6. Create a water level indicator so you will know how much water to add. Allow 6″ of tubing to lay at the bottom of the container. Then bring the rest up. Bend it down the back of the container and back up to the top and fix it to the back with electrical brads and a hammer.
7. Fill the bottom of the container with potting mix. Fill to cover the pipes and the pat the soil down around the outside of the drain pipes.
9. Fill the rest of the container up with potting mix. We chose to add some water-storing crystals to maximize the container’s ability to hold moisture.
10. Use a turkey baster or, in our case a pancake pen, to fill the plastic tube until the water reaches the top of the container.
11. Using a hose, fill the container through the PVC pipe until water runs into the plastic tube in the back. After filling the container with water, we added some trim along the top to cover the plastic and weed barrier.
And voila! Now you have a beautiful container that will keep your plants watered for up to two weeks! No more worrying about keeping the container watered while you take those fun summer vacations.
Please do note: Our deck is built to hold a hot tub (i.e. very sturdy), so make sure your container does not exceed the weight limits of your deck if you attempt to build a similar one.