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Build Your Own Self-Watering Plant Container

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Joe Lamp'l and Jeff Maniscalco of Ups A DaisyWant a perfect solution for your container garden which enables you to save water and save money? Build your own self-watering plant container with Jeff Maniscalco’s creative Ups-A-Daisy planter wick idea.

Here you see Jeff speaking with Joe Lamp’l at an IGC event in Chicago. I was walking the floor with Joe, met Jeff and his lovely wife, Kristy (who invented the Ups-A-Daisy), and fell in love with Ups-A-Daisy planter inserts. The inserts lighten your container load and allow you to use less soil – a definite money-saver to begin with. However, Jeff’s creative wicking invention allows you to save water as well and you can make it yourself.

Normally, you use an Ups-A-Daisy planter insert to reduce the amount of soil that is necessary for your pot. It sits about halfway down a container, raising the bottom of the container. It allows for proper drainage and uses less soil. This is fine for plants because most annual plants you would use in a container have a shorter root base requiring only about eight inches of soil to live.

Jeff’s idea involves installing a wick system (which you make yourself) to pull water up from beneath the Ups-A-Daisy insert, thereby providing a constant supply of water for your plant, so you can use less water and water less often.

Here is what you need:container garden solution

1) Special Container Insert

The inserts are available from 10” through 18” diameter on 1” increments to fit most 12” to 24” sized round containers. The insert has two “pull holes”; one in the center to run your wick through and the other is used for the water fill tube.

2) Self-Watering Plant Container Shape

Choose a round tapered container so that the Ups-A-Daisy insert sets approximately halfway into the container for most plant varieties; deeper for tall or large plants.

3) Create a Water Fill Tube

The tube can be hard plastic, flexible plastic, or copper. Choose ¾” diameter tubing.

The hard plastic tubing we recommend using is CPVC tubing labeled hot/cold potable water which is safe for drinking water; especially important when vegetable gardening. Avoid using PVC (white PVC Type 1 SCH40) tubing because it may give off toxic chemicals over time. The tube should extend from the bottom of your container to the top rim of your container just above the soil line; cut the tube to length with a coarse tooth saw.

4) How to Use a Stick and Bobber in a Self-Watering Plant Containercontainer garden solution

You will need a 1/8” diameter wood dowel rod. For the bobber, use (2) #4 stopper tapered corks.

Cut the dowel rod 1” longer than the fill tube. Drill a 7/64” hole into the center of the two corks lengthwise and slide the corks onto one end of the dowel rod.

The stick and bobbers will float, so place them down into the fill tube to gauge the water level. If you wish, you could mark the top of the dowel to see the water level more clearly.

5) How to Install a Wick in a Self-Watering Plant Container

Nylon rope makes a good wick; stay away from any natural materials such as cotton as they will break down quickly like this Sonku Self Watering Wick Cord. Cut the rope to a length so that it rests in the bowl on the bottom of your container and extends through the center pull hole of the Ups-A-Daisy and across the top of the insert. Separate and spread out the strands of the rope over the top of the Ups-A-Daisy.

6) What Soil to Use for a Garden Container

Don’t forget about the soil and fertilizer; critical to successful self-watering. Use high-quality, lightweight potting soil like Organic Mechanics Soil for plants and flowers; organic potting soil for vegetable gardening. Never use soil with water retaining crystals for this particular application, as this will waterlog your plants. The best recommendation is organic fertilizers such as Espoma Garden-Tone Plant Food.

What a tremendous idea for saving water – I LOVE IT! Try it this season and let me know what you think. Please send me photos of your successes as well – I want to see people saving money, saving water, and helping the environment.

self-watering plant container

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