Self Watering Garden Containers – 5 Gallon Buckets Upated 8/2015


Updated!! 8-2015 Video

I have made several of the self watering containers out of  plastic bins.  They work great but they don’t seem to last long in the Florida sun.  So I decided to make some out of 5 gallon food grade buckets. 

There are several reasons why I think these will work much better than the plastic bins.

  • They are easier to make
  • They are easier to move around the yard
  • You can purchase buckets made of food grade plastic
  • They are a thicker plastic than the bins so should last longer

These are the supplies I used:

  • PVC pipe – for water (This is thinner and easier to cut)
  • Saw to cut PVC 
  • Miter box (optional)
  • 2 food grade 5 gallon buckets (I purchased mine at Lowe’s for $3.45 a piece)
  • Some type of cup or container to use as a wick (will explain in instructions)
  • Some type of container to use in the bottom of the first bucket (will explain in instructions)
  • Drill and bit
  • Circle cutting attachments for drill 
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Garden Soil
  • Marker

Before we start I have to say that the circle cutting attachment for the drill was the best investment I have made.  They are so inexpensive and made the job go very quick.  The first one I made I used a drill bit and a jig saw and it was not a pretty sight.


The first thing you do is cut a piece of PVC at an angle this will allow the water to go into the bucket easily.  You can use a miter box if you prefer.  



The next step is to drill the holes for the PVC and your wick container.  I matched my circles attachments to the size of the PVC and cup. You do not want space between the PVC or cup/container and bucket. For the wick container I used a plastic cup I purchased at Goodwill.  It should not be too big around but needs to be tall.  I also purchased a round plastic cracker holder from Big Lots that I will use next.   Then drill holes into the wick container sides and bottom. 



Next take the container that will be used in the bottom bucket and drill holes in this.  I purchased containers from the Dollar Store and they broke while drilling.  This was OK as it is used to hold the top bucket up higher.  If you just place the top bucket into the bottom bucket there is not a lot of room for water.  Now place this container in the bucket and place the top bucket inside.


Now you can push your wick and PVC pipe inside the holes you cut.  Next you will drill holes into the base of this top bucket so if you receive a lot of rain it will drain into the bucket below.


Next you will hold the buckets up to the light and mark the bottom bucket with a marker where you will drill overflow holes.  These should be right below where the top bucket is.  Drill 4 or 5 overflow holes.


Now you can fill the wick container up with potting soil.  Then fill the rest of the container with potting soil and plant seeds or a plant.  

Lastly fill the bucket with water by pouring water in through the PVC pipe until water begins to come out the overflow holes.

Here is a general idea of what can be planted in your buckets:

  • 1 Tomato
  • 1 Squash
  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 Bell Peppers
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 3 Bush Beans
  • 4 Onions
  • 4 Lettuce
  • 4 Beets
  • 10 Radishes
  • 10 Carrots
  • 4 Corn – several buckets of corn together
  • Potatoes –   place 8 to 10 inches of potting soil in the bottom. Plant two to three potato eyes 2 to 3 inches from the bottom of the pot, and then water them in. After the plants start to grow, cover the stems with more soil (leaving the very top exposed) until the pot is full. In a couple of months, you can harvest. Start harvesting earlier for new potatoes, later for larger ones.
  • 2-3 Cauliflower
  • 1 Broccoli
  • 2 cabbage
  • 6 spinach
  • 1 pumpkin – miniature variety
  • 3-4 celery
  •  Basil is a good companion with parsley and thyme

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15 Responses to Self Watering Garden Containers – 5 Gallon Buckets Upated 8/2015

  1. AENevitt says:

    This is such a great idea! Thank you for sharing – I will try this out in the spring : )

  2. thebeadden says:

    What a great idea!

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  4. Kevin says:

    In the self watering , what do u mean by wick

    • Yes the water is wicked up. I recently saw where they used a cotton towel or t-shirt to wick the water up and will be trying that soon. It is too hard to find cups or containers that are the right size.

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  7. bernard says:

    I’m use 3 inch net cups where dirt will wicj the water up to roots how much of the net cup can be n water

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