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2 Ways To Make A DIY Self-Watering Planter Before Your Vacation

Emma Loewe
Author:
June 9, 2021
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
2 Ways To Make A DIY Self-Watering Planter Before Your Vacation
Image by Kaat Zoetekouw / Stocksy
June 9, 2021
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The flight is booked; the itinerary set. Your bag is packed with clothes you haven't worn in eternity, and you're ready to take your first real vacation since February 2020. You're just out the door when you spot them: The houseplants you've lovingly cared for (and that have cared for you) through months of lockdown. Will they make it on their own while you're away?

Plants are more resilient than we give them credit for, and most will bounce right back after a short dry spell. But if you're going to be gone for more than a few days, you'll want to have a plan for ensuring your foliage doesn't get frayed in your absence. Self-watering pots and watering globes are made for just that, but you can also craft something similar in a pinch.

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These two DIY self-watering planters come together so quickly that you'll still make it to the airport on time.

For larger pots.

For larger pots and plants, organic gardener Allison Vallin Kostovick of Finch & Folly farm in Maine recommends using a water bottle as a makeshift globe:

Materials:

  • An empty plastic water bottle
  • Scissors, a safety pin, a thumbtack, or any other sharp object
  • Your plant
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Method:

  1. Thoroughly water the plant first.
  2. Remove the cap from your water bottle. Poke a few small holes all around the perimeter of the bottle.
  3. Bury the bottle in your plant's soil until just the spout is sticking out. The part with holes should be underground.
  4. Fill the bottle all the way up with water.
  5. Depending on the size of the pot, you can repeat this method with another bottle if there's room.

Why it works:

When too much water collects at the bottom of a plant's pot, it can drown its roots and lead to root rot (plant killer No. 1). The small holes on the bottle won't inundate your plant with water but rather provide a steady stream when the surrounding soil begins to dry out. "It's going to be like an irrigation hose: slow-release," Vallin Kostovick tells mbg. This solution should keep your plant's soil nice and evenly moist for one to two weeks.

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For smaller pots.

If your pot is too small to fit a bottle, try the shoelace trick instead.

Materials:

  • A large bowl or pitcher with lid
  • A clean shoelace
  • Your plant(s)
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Method:

  1. Thoroughly water your plant first.
  2. Fill a bowl or pitcher with water. The larger the plant, the more water you'll need. Let your shoelace soak in the water for a few minutes.
  3. Put your plant next to your water source. Leave one end of the shoelace in the water and poke the other end a few inches into your plant's soil, so it forms a little drip system.
  4. To prevent evaporation, place a lid or cover on top of your bowl.
  5. You can use this trick to water multiple plants using the same water source, too. Just gather them all around the same bowl.

Why it works:

Thanks to capillary action, the water should bind to the shoelace and travel in a slow stream from the bowl into your plant. This jerry-rigged irrigation system is better for small plants since it doesn't carry much water at a time. It should also last one to two weeks.

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The bottom line.

While both of these hacks will give your plants more water than they would get otherwise, they won't replace a good long soak. For that, urban gardener and chef Marie Viljoen says, "you really need a good friend. [When I travel], I ask friends to water, give them a little tutorial, and make sure to reward them very well when it's all done." Perhaps with some plant cuttings they can propagate?

Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.