Follow our 7 Easy Steps to Create a Self-watering Planter

WATERING tomatoes and other large plants all year round, especially during busy times, can be a lot of hard work. A number of self-watering planter systems are available to buy from garden centres, but in the spirit of make-do-and-mend we created a successful home-made device using an empty fertiliser/fatball bucket with lid, two strips of capilliary mat (available from garden centres), and a large tomato pot to set my plant in. You’ll also need scissors and a sharp craft or Stanley knife (watch your fingers!)


Step 1. CUT two strips of capilliary matting 2-3in (5-7cm) wide and 2ft (60cm) long. Thread one through a hole in each side of the tomato pot base.


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Step 2. TURN the pot over, pull the matting strips up inside so they reach about two thirds of the way up the pot, and press them against the sides.

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Step 3. WITH the craft or Stanley knife, cut two slots in the lid of the fertiliser/fat ball bucket to line up with the matting strips when the tomato pot is stood on the lid. Cut another small hole at the edge of the lid so you can fill the bucket with water.

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Step 4. LIE the tomato pot on its side, and thread the matting strips protruding from the base through the holes in each side of the fertiliser/fat ball bucket lid.

self watering planter

Step 5. STAND up the tomato pot with bucket lid beneath, put the lid on the bucket with the pot on top. Part fill pot with  compost.

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Step 6. Set your tomato or other plant in the pot, fill around the edges with more compost and firm in well. Provide a stake to support the plant if necessary.

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Step 7. WATER the tomato plant well via the compost at the top to prime the system, fill the bucket beneath with water through the watering hole… and Bob’s yer uncle!

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Final Result: I found that a full bucket would keep the plant watered for a bit over a week – even when the plant was large and heavy with fruit. Fertiliser can be added to the water in the bucket. Provide support for plant as it grows.