Meg's self-watering planter

By Living's Gardening writer Meg Liptrot

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Meg Liptrot with her self-watering planter. Photo / Doug Sherring
Meg Liptrot with her self-watering planter. Photo / Doug Sherring

This gift makes use of those old square recycling bins which are being phased out around Auckland. They're the perfect size for container tub growing. Simply decorate to disguise their humble origins.

If you have an old or broken skateboard that the kids have abandoned, upcycle the wheels and turn the bin into a mobile planter.

In my case, I discovered Cheapskates had a box of old broken wheels which I could make use of.

1. Paint your bin with primer, then add a couple of coats of acrylic paint.

2. Screw wheels and brackets to two pieces of cut timber which will span the width of the base of the bin

3. Glue the timber and wheels to the base, leaving the drainage hole visible. Once the glue is dry, drill right through the timber and the bin, then bolt securely, tightening the bolts from the inside of the bin.

4. Decorate your bin: I call my design "Samurai" painted black, with bamboo panels made by knotting strips of bamboo together like a window blind. Secure to the bin by drilling holes through the top overhang, threading the cord through, and knotting on the other side. Alternatively, use the glue to decorate the bin with items such as pebbles, driftwood or shells.

5. For the watering bladder, drill small holes around the circumference of the bottle at the most durable points near the bottom and top. I drilled eight holes in total. Then fill the bottle with fine pumice to slow down the flow of water.

6. Half fill your bin with potting mix, then insert the water bottle in the middle, with the top just proud of the final soil level. Fill the remainder of the bin.

7. Plant your bin. I chose a mix of Christmas-coloured edible annuals and perennials: strawberries, chillies, basil, sage, lettuce and low-growing flowers like Alyssum and Lobelia which will drape over the side.

8. Water the plants in. Tell the recipient of your DIY Christmas pressie to use the water bottle bladder for watering. It will encourage the plants to seek moisture deeper in the soil.


The free stuff
1x phased out square recycling bin
A set of old skateboard wheels and brackets, plus screws (or there is a range of new castor wheels at Bunnings).
A 1.25L plastic soft drink or water bottle Several bamboo canes
A hardwood plank (Transfer Stations have free timber piles, if you don't have spare timber under your house)
Old acrylic paint (can also be sourced from a Transfer Station, or your neighbour's garage)
Plants - you can grow your own from seed, or divide pups from existing plants, such as strawberries

Stuff to buy
A plastics glue
Black synthetic fine cord
Nuts and bolts
Potting mix
Pumice for the watering bottle


Ruler, handsaw, drill, screw driver, paint brush

* Thanks to Ian at Cheapskates Khyber Pass for the wheels, and Richard at Placemakers New Lynn for sacrificing the lettuces in his garden.

- Herald on Sunday

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