The Self Watering Culinary Herb Garden

by Angela aka Farmer Jane on January 27, 2013 · 10 comments

My Hannah came for a visit and some mama time (you can never be too old for mama time!) and she helped me make all the self watering containers for the indoor culinary herbs window garden.

We used clear two liter soda bottles. The diagram pictured right can explain it better than I can. The photos that I took don’t really show the detail of each part we did, but it’s all there.

I did modify it a bit however. Instead of sending the wick fabric through the neck, I capped it off and threaded the wick through two of the holes made near the top of the bottle.

The reason I decided to try the self watering method is due to my miserable failure to keep window herbs in the past.

I’ve had gorgeous specimens dry out and die on me way before their time. I’m just not up to being a slave to my plant’s watering schedule.

It seemed as though I’d water, they’d suck it all up, and a few hours later they’d be thirsty again and the soil would be near dry. Anyway, it just wasn’t working out the way I was doing it and it would only take weeks before I’d kill whatever was growing. I have houseplants that are going through the same problems.

Hopefully the self watering system will be a success! Here are more photos of our process:

I used an old T-shirt cut into strips for the wick

Making slits (holes aren’t necessary since it’s just for draining purposes)

21 were planted

As the herbs grow and spread out, I’ll separate them more and spread them onto the other shelves

It’s a good start! I’ll also be starting lettuces and purchase rosemary when it becomes available. The bottles won’t remain exposed either. I’ll be making six inch deep pallet wood boxes for them to sit in for each shelf.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Meaders January 27, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Interesting! What is she doing with the burner? Heating an implemt to make the slits with?


Angela aka Farmer Jane January 27, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Hi Michelle,

We were attempting to make holes in the plastic with nails heated over the flame, but we couldn’t get the nails hot enough to melt a hole in the plastic…so we just made the slits. :)


Melonie K. January 28, 2013 at 6:01 am

What a neat idea! I have a window over the kitchen sink that would be great for this.
I like your shelving too – Manly got me a 5-shelf version for my fiber supplies. :)


Angela aka Farmer Jane January 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm

The shelving was originally for starting seeds in the utility room. I love being able to change my mind and use stuff we need for unintended purposes. :)


Christine Baker January 28, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Very interesting idea. My only concern is that the water might get anaerobic.

I have this same problems with my houseplants, they never get watered enough.


Angela aka Farmer Jane January 28, 2013 at 4:02 pm

That’s a good point about anaerobic water. I’ll make some holes in the upper portions of the outer containers to allow air flow to the bottom chambers.


Marloes Veeckman May 18, 2013 at 7:08 am

I have the same problem. You did this in January, we are now May. Did it work, is it still working? Did you make the extra wholes to avoid anaerobic water like Christine mentioned? Let me know the outcome!


Angela aka Farmer Jane May 18, 2013 at 7:15 am

Hi Marloes,

I should have done an updated post about our containers. Sorry about that! We did add lots of extra holes, and it did allow the air to keep from becoming anaerobic. However, we developed a LOT of gnats due to the constant moisture of the soil. The problem became so bad we needed to put them outside and they died from the cold (We endured the gnats until April and couldn’t stand it anymore). There wasn’t anywhere in the house we could keep them that wouldn’t cause us to be infested with these little buggers. Hopefully others haven’t experienced the problems we did.

Other than that, the herbs were growing well, and we enjoyed having abundant fresh herbs at our disposal everyday.


Marloes February 18, 2014 at 7:02 am

I came to check how it works again, and had completely forgotten about my question. Too bad it didn’t work because of the gnats (which are probably something like fruit flies I suppose). I really miss fresh herbs, but there doesn’t seem to be another option than to water them…


Angela aka Farmer Jane February 18, 2014 at 7:29 am

Hi Marloes,

I believe that beneficial nematodes may be the answer to this dilemma. Greenhouses use these beneficial creatures as a first defense against soil born pests like compost gnats. When you get the nematodes, just follow the instructions on how to activate them, and apply to the self watering garden. They should take care of not only gnats, but spider mites, fleas and any other kind of pest that may enter or rest on the soil.


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