Self Watering Planters, homemade

Gabby and I back in 2012, living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan were looking for ways to grow our own food. With almost a 7 month cold season and close to sub zero temperatures, indoor growing of herbs and greens was our only option. Inspired by the Food is Free project, our challenge was to make indoor food production that would make it cheaper than buying food from a local grocery store. Every dollar counted! Secondly, we wanted it to be possible with the lowest maintenance.

Here’s our experience!

1. The planters: We looked for old recycled containers, large enough to fit our needs and to look good enough in the living room. What we found that planters were quite expensive, for the size we were looking for about 15$ and above for a 30l planter. We found an ad on kijiji where a store keeper was giving away old wooden shelves. We got a bunch, along with the shelving apparatus. Free of cost!

IMG_20130512_194647 IMG_20130512_194714

What was needed was a few screws worth 3$ to put them together as containers. Trash bags worth 12$ were used in making the containers watertight.



2. The self watering system:  I looked for ways to make planters and ways to make them self watering. Ideas and products were out there.. but very expensive. Of the many ideas available online, I used the methods learnt at the Edible Campus project, (an national award winning urban design intervention).

I used old youghrt containers as the water retainers and small tubes as the supply lines. We made holes on the containers near the lid and two  central hole at the base placed them inverted. The central holes would receive two pipes, one for water supply and one for air release.


The pipes, nails and seeds all costed under 10$ from the dollar store.

3. Soil: What turned out to be the most expensive was the soil. Strange that one cannot just go out and dig organic soil in the city. We did the foolish thing of buying soil from a supermarket. Sold in 10 Kg bags, at about 2.5$ each.  We ended up spending 30$ on soil alone. To reduce the cost, we mixed soil and sand. Sand was available free from someone who wanted to clear out a play area.

Total expenses to start off were Planters (15$), Watering System and seeds (10$) and soil (30$).  We aimed to get out 2 crops within 7 months out of our investment. That would keep us at a profit! IMG_20130617_181510IMG_20130726_185722

Our returns are in the table below. We did make a gain! Most importantly, the joy of watching them grow and eating them fresh was priceless!

We only watered the plants twice a month, that is watering the plants only 6 times before consumption!


IMG_20130617_181510 IMG_20130617_181540




Units consumed $ Value per unit Total $ Value
Broccoli 6 2 12
Lettuce 12 1.25 15
Cilantro 6 2 12
Basil 12 2.5 30
Mint 6 2 12
Total 81

Lessons learnt.

1. Food is Free!

2. Food is Free!

3. Food is Free!





Leave a Reply