How to Make a Self-Watering Planter from a 5-Gallon Water Bottle

Welcome to our step-by-step guide on creating your very own self-watering planter using a humble 5-gallon water bottle. If you’re eager to grow plants but limited on space or resources, this DIY project is perfect for you. Not only does it offer a sustainable solution for gardening in small areas, but it also repurposes plastic waste into something functional and green.

Materials Needed

Before diving into the project, gather the following materials:

  • 5-gallon water bottle / 20 liters
  • Cotton string, fabric, or rope (water-absorbent material)
  • Thin hand saw
  • Marker
  • Glass cola bottle or wooden ledges for widening holes
  • Hot air gun
  • Pyrograph
  • Sanding paper
  • Thin PVC tube (3 or 4 inches)
  • Piece of plastic bottle with the cap

diy self watering vegetable garden from large plastic water bottle

Preparing the Water Bottle

First things first, let’s prep our water bottle for transformation. Using the hand saw, carefully cut off about 4 inches/15 cm from the bottom of the bottle, following the shape of the bottle. If there are any markings or indicators on the bottle, you can use them as a guide for cutting. Next, with the pyrograph, make holes around the neck of the bottle. These holes will play a crucial role in our self-watering system later on.

Cutting and Drilling

Now, place the bottle upside down and mark where you want the holes for planting. With precision, cut these holes using the hand saw. Then, using the hot air gun, heat the holes gently. Once heated, widen the holes using the glass bottle or wooden ledges. Smooth out any rough edges with sanding paper for a neat finish.

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Assembling the Self-Watering System

Take the thin PVC tube and make four holes along its length. These holes will serve as channels for watering your plants. Then, carefully drill a hole in the side of the water bottle near the bottom for the PVC tube to fit snugly.

Next, create a bundle from the cotton string, fabric, or rope and secure it with the bottle cap. This will act as a wick, drawing water from the reservoir below to keep your plants hydrated.

We found this cool video tutorial from World Clik that you might find helpful for building your own DIY recycled self watering planter:

Adding Growing Medium

For optimal plant growth, we recommend using a nutrient-rich growing medium. A mixture of substrate, humus, barnyard manure, poultry manure, castor cake, and bone meal will provide your plants with the necessary nutrients for healthy growth. Here is a suggestion for the appropriate ratio: 1 part substrate, 1/4 part humus, 1/4 part barnyard manure, 1/4 part poultry manure, 1/4 part castor cake, and 1/8 part bone meal fertilizer.


Now it’s time to get planting! Fill the bottom of the bottle with a drainage layer, such as small stones or gravel, to prevent waterlogging. Then, add the prepared growing medium into the bottle through the planting holes. Plant your seeds or seedlings and gently water the substrate.

Watering and Maintenance

Fill the PVC tube with water, and the self-watering system will do the rest. Keep an eye on the water level in the tube and refill as needed. Monitor your plants for growth and adjust watering accordingly.

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diy self watering herb garden from 5 gallon jug


Congratulations! You’ve successfully transformed a simple 5-gallon water bottle into a self-watering planter, providing a sustainable and space-efficient solution for growing your own plants. By repurposing plastic waste and using readily available materials, you’ve taken a step towards greener living and self-sufficiency.

Now, it’s time to put your new planter to use and watch your plants thrive. Whether you’re growing herbs, vegetables, or flowers, enjoy the beauty and benefits of your DIY creation. Happy gardening!

And if you have another empty 5 gallon bottle, you can try building this easy outdoor shower. For more DIY gardening projects and tips, be sure to check out our DIY garden category for inspiration and ideas.