Keep plants happy with this DIY self-watering planter

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IKEA BITTERGURKA gets subterranean irrigation tanks.

I modified this planter to make it self-watering and therefore needing only occasional filling.

IKEA item used:
  • BITTERGURKA plant pot
Other materials:
  • Reservoir. I used empty humus tubs with lids, but would recommend something sturdier, if available.
  • Irrigation tubing. Some small-bore flexible plastic hose that I originally bought for use with a garden irrigation pump.
  • Filler bowl. I used the orange cap from a vitamin bottle.
  • Irrigation strings. These are a type of cotton wick that can be used to water plants when you’re on holiday. Normally one end of the string is placed in a container of water and the other end pushed into the soil of a nearby plant pot. On my setup the strings are buried entirely.
  • Food bags
  • Duct tape

DIY self-watering planter – how to

Firstly, I lined my planter using damp-proof plastic membrane. This is maybe not essential as the steel is galvanized and powder coated.

I folded the plastic at the ends to keep it seamless, then glued it to the inside of the planter with grab adhesive, and trimmed it slightly below the rim.


Related: Adding drainage to IKEA PS FEJO self-watering plant pot


I connected the filler bowl to the reservoirs using tubing. Drilling holes slightly smaller than the tube creates an interference fit.

Making the filler assembly

I also added some riser tubes to vent air
from the reservoirs during filling.

Reservoirs filler and vents

Next I prepared some irrigation strings by
sleeving them with polythene, cut from food bags. I wrapped the polythene
closely around the string and fastened it with duct tape, making a sleeve about
50 mm (2”) long.

Sleeving irrigation strings

The purpose of the sleeve is to try and discourage
plant roots from growing into the reservoir where the string passes through the
lid. Ideally the sleeved string should have quite a tight fit in the lid hole.

The strings will pass from the bottom of
the reservoir, upwards through the lid and into the surrounding soil, enabling
water to wick upwards and keep the soil damp.

Fitting irrigation strings
Side view of irrigation assembly

I placed the assembled irrigation kit into
the planter, and fastened the items temporarily with duct tape. The soil will later
keep them in place.

Installing irrigation assembly into planter
Installing irrigation assembly into planter
Adding soil and plants

Next, I added the soil and plants, placing smaller plants above the reservoirs where the soil is shallower, and a larger maranta plant in the deeper soil between. I tried to be careful not to drop soil down the filler and vent pipes, and these could be masked temporarily to prevent clogging.

DIY self-watering planter - adding plants
DIY self-watering planter - adding plants

To complete the look, I added some gravel
to the surface of the soil. This might also reduce evaporation of water, I’m
not sure. A larger stone covers the filler point.

DIY self-watering planter - complete

DIY self-watering planter is done.

Just pour water through the filler bowl till the irrigation tanks are full.

DIY self-watering planter - watering

~ by Magnus

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