Saving Our Youth with Self-Watering Containers

A few months ago I came across Mike Lieberman’s website, the Urban Organic Gardener.  He posted several how-to videos about making self-watering planters out of reclaimed five gallon pails.    He does an excellent job explaining how to make them, so I’m not going to repeat all of the steps in this post.

I decided that this would be a perfect project to try out with the Save Our Youth Project of Red Salmon Arts, housed at Resistencia Bookstore.  We had already planted a small herb and vegetable garden, but since they had little soil and far more paved parking lot, containers made a lot of sense.

Czarina, Rene and the other staff and volunteers of Red Salmon Arts already do superb work with young people via poetry and arts.  They recruited me to add a gardening component to their workshops.

Below are our steps towards turning a bit of parking lot into a vegetable garden.

Jacob drilling drainage holes in the inner bucket.

I want to thank the staff at Central Market Westgate in Austin for providing me with empty peanut butter and almond butter buckets from their bulk department.  My friends wonder why my car always smells like peanut butter.

Cutting the copper tubing for the water inlet.


We modified Mike's design by cutting tabs into the bottom of the old yogurt container so that it wouldn't slide around.

Jacob and Crayvon adding the pre-wetted potting mix.

I find that adding some water to the potting mix prior to planting makes it easier for the soil to take up water.

Rene, Crayvon, Czarina and Jacob show off the finished planters.

Given the shift in Austin weather to some cooler fall temperatures we planted collard greens, chard and broccoli.  As the young people get the hang of caring for these plants we will probably make several more containers.  In total we spent about one hour making the containers and less than one hour planting them, making it an easy way to transform a patch of asphalt.

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2 Responses to “Saving Our Youth with Self-Watering Containers”

  1. Nice. Thanks for the shoutout. Like what you did with the yogurt cups as well. Good call on that.

  2. Geoff says:


    Thanks for your comment. Next project will be a modification to make a strawberry planter.