DIY Real Buckets - Self Irrigated Planter

How To Build Your Own Self-Watering Bucket System.

Today, I'm going to show you how to make a version of the Real Bucket system. It's a simple SIP bucket, which stands for Sub Irrigated Planter. It automatically waters your plants from the bottom, so it's easy to use and have success with.

Want to Grow the Dankiest Herb Possible?

Get Scotty Real's 5 Ways to Nail Your Next Grow


Real Buckets; Parts List

Here's everything you need to make your own self-watering Real Bucket system.


You're going to need some trimming scissors. You can use any kind of scissors you want. I like the Fiskars pruning scissors. We're just going to cut some soft hose with them.

Step Bit

You'll need a 1/2 inch Step Bit. You can get these at Home Depot. I get mine at Harbor Freight, where they're a little bit less expensive. We'll use this Step Bit to make some really clean holes in the plastic buckets.

T Pipe Fitting

Next thing you'll need is one (1) 1/2 inch Polyethylene "T" Pipe Fitting. You can get these at the sprinkler section at Home Depot.

Elbow Pipe Fittings

You'll need two (2) 1/2 inch Polyethylene "Elbow" Pipe Fittings . You'll probably find them sitting right next to the T's over at the Home Depot.


Next you'll need three (3) 1/2 Hydro Farm Grommets. These are a specialty item, so you might need to find them on Amazon. They're inexpensive, but it's important you get the right ones; 1/2 inch Hydro Farm Hide Grommets.

Float Valve

To control your reservoir, you'll need one (1) 1/2 inch Float Valve. Again, the best place I've found to get these is on Amazon.

Poly Tubing

You're going to need 36 inches of 1/2 inch poly tubing. Find the softer tubing, as opposed to the hard, "Funny Pipe", sprinkler stuff. It's a lot easier to work with.

GroBucket Inserts

We're going to be building two Real Buckets. So we're going to need two GroBucket inserts.

These turn your five gallon buckets into SIP buckets, which is half of what makes this whole Real Bucket system work.


We're gonna need one (1), three-gallon bucket to serve as a top of your reservoir.

You'll need three (3) five-gallon buckets; one for the reservoir, and two for the growing buckets.

And finally, a lid to put on your three-gallon bucket. You want to keep the dirt and dust out of your reservoir.

Assemble Your Real Buckets

Where to Drill Holes in Your Real Buckets

Take your five-gallon buckets and measure an inch and a half from the bottom of the bucket. Take your 1/2 inch Step Bit and drill a hole, the entire width of your Step Bit.

Next, flip your three-gallon bucket upside down and drill a hole in that with the same 1/2 inch Step Bit. You want the hole to be about two inches from the edge of your bucket.

How to Cut Your Poly Tubing

Cut your 1/2 inch poly into two sections, about 14 inch long, each. It doesn't have to be exact. You can be a quarter-inch off and you'll be fine.

Insert Your Grommets

Next, insert a grommet into each of your three (3), five-gallon buckets. Make sure the angled side of the Grommet is on the outside of your buckets.

Connect Your Pipe Fittings and Tubing

Take one Elbow Fittings and attach attach it to the end of one of your 14 inch pieces of Poly Tubing. Take your other Elbow Fitting and affix it to your other piece of Poly Tubing.

Connect them in the middle with your T Pipe Fitting.

If you're having trouble connecting the Pipe Fittings to your Tubing, there are a couple tricks to make it easier. You can use some cooking oil as lubrication. If that doesn't work, try putting your Tubing in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. That helps soften it up.

Connect Your Buckets

Line your Buckets up in a row, with the drilled holes all facing out in the same direction. Link them together with your Pipe Fitting/Poly Tubbing combo.

Attach your Elbow pieces to the Grommets on each of your end Buckets. Insert your T Fitting into the Grommet of your Middle Bucket. This one will be the Reservoir that automatically waters your two Buckets on the sides.

Setting Your Float Valve

Installing the float valve is easy. Fist, position the floater facing inward, like in the picture below.

Take the nut off. Take the washer off. Attach the float valve through the bottom of your three-gallon Bucket. Then, secure the washer on the inside of your Bucket. It's really easy stuff.

With your three-gallon Bucket upside-down, set your Float Valve to rest in the "closed" position, about 3.5 inches above the base of the Bucket. Lifting your Float Valve should bring it into the "open" position.

This will control the water levels in your Reservoir.

Filling Your Real Buckets

Water and Soil

Now you're going to put the final touches on your Real Buckets System.

Assemble your GroBucket Inserts and set one in each of your outer Buckets. Line up the opening on the Insert with the Grommets in your Grow Buckets.

Rest your 3-Gallon Float Valve Bucket inside your 5-Gallon Reservoir Bucket and fill it with water. You'll get about 4 gallons of water in there.

Fill your two outside buckets with Coco Coir. These are the buckets your plants will call home. I use Canna Coco for this part. They put out a high-quality Coco product.

Planting in Your Real Buckets

Feeding Your Plants

Instead of adding nutrients to the water, I add Grow Dots directly to the Coco Coir. They feed your plants for the entire growth cycle. Doing it this way also keeps your nutrients from clogging up the reservoir.

You don't have to go crazy mixing in the Grown Dots. Just mix some in by hand. You'll be fine.

And now, the moment we've all been waiting...

Potting Your Plant

Pull your plant out of the cup. It's very simple.

Use your hand to dig a small hole in your soil and place your plant in the hole. Squish the coco up around your plant to set it in place.

Now we're going to top water with Recharge until the Coco is fully saturated. This will help your plant take root in its new environment. Mix some Recharge up and you're ready to go. You'll use about a gallon of Recharge water for each 5-Gallon Bucket.

Completed Real Buckets

And there you have it, your complete Real Bucket System.

If you've done everything right, your Grow Bucket Dipstick will be between the second and third marking.

Last step, put a cover on the top of your reservoir. Keep it clean. Keep the dirt and dust out of there.

This is my idea make it super simple for you to grow plants at home. I've grown half a dozen harvests this way and had great success. That's why I'm sharing this.

I know that y'all can make some innovations and help me improve it. So, if you've got anything to say - any innovations, any ideas - please leave a comment below.


Submit a Comment

Real Growers Inc.
1801 Airway Ave
Fort Collins, CO 80524

Real Growers Inc was founded in 2014 to deliver a natural product that can improve our soils and grow fantastic fruits, vegetables and grasses.

We are a family-owned small business, and we appreciate your support!