Imagine a garden system you can use indoors or outdoors that not only waters itself, but also takes up only 1 square foot of floor space. Even better is the fact that if your budget is limited, you can build it from inexpensive materials available from your local big box store or super hardware. Plus it is expandable. You can add more units in a stack, rather than spreading out if you don’t have the space.

The infamous recycled 5-gallon bucket becomes a homemade self irrigating planter.
What’s a SIP Garden? A self irrigating or self watering planter. All you have to do is check the water reservoir periodically to keep moisture plentiful and the system that works without electricity runs itself. This particular design makes excellent use of inexpensive 5 gallon buckets and assorted other easy to locate things. It allows you to grow up to 40 smaller fruit or vegetable plants in one small footprint. How is this possible? Its a natural mechanism called capillary action made possible with wicking that draws water up into the soil from a bottom reservoir.

What can you grow in a SIP Garden? Just about anything, but lettuces, greens and strawberries are perfect for the bucket design that expands up instead of needing more containers. For large plants such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and the like – you’ll need a different design than the one you’ll see put together in the first video below. In the second video he uses the same principles to adequately house big plants like tomatoes. His discovery of the best type of materials to create water wicks with is also noteworthy, as is the addition of lime to counteract the pH imbalance of peat. Most plants will not do well in peat moss and all potting mixes have some of this agricultural lime in the blend. However, due to shifting from handling and shipment, it is not always present in the amounts that plants need. This fact makes it impossible for potting mix makers to give a true pH level reading on their products.  Learning how to mix your own puts your plants at an advantage.

His design is an adaption of his original self watering planter engineering, so he doesn’t talk about the reservoir when showing how you can take an ordinary bakery or restaurant bucket and turn it into a tower garden. He is using these outside and hooking a series of bucket gardens to one reservoir source. You can easily adapt this to one planter with the cutoff bucket reservoir he touches on in the first video. In the second video below he explains how the system works for multiple buckets as well as using them to grow big veggies like tomatoes. Again you can easily adapt his ideas to house just about any food plant you want to grow.

You’ll find more versions of a self irrigating garden planter online that different people have put together using a variety of parts from indoor garden shops and hardware stores. Some give you garden space for a single plant and others, like this one let you grow a bunch of plants in one container.

Tammy Clayton

Content crafter and Senior Editor at Garden Culture Magazine
Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home. (Some feel she's got a perennial obsession, others say the problem is tomato plants.)

If you don't find her at the desk - check the gardens. When not writing and weeding, she enjoys a good book, painting junk furniture, and blending the harvest of heirloom tomatoes and chiles into salsas.