Self Watering Planter with Big Mama

Single drip system planter 

A self watering planter can easily be created with a single drip line. We use the Big Mama™ Gro-Block as our growing medium. First start your seed or cutting in a GRODAN Starter. Then place the seedling into a small 3" or 4" Gro-Block to make a transplant. Once you have a good transplant established, follow the directions below to create your self watering planter.

Shopping list

  • A small but wide container with lid (make sure Big Mama fits on top of it; it is 8x8")
  • Small aquarium submersible pump
  • Plastic tie fastener
  • Drip stake to insert into the Big Mama
  • 1/2" tube about 4 inches long
  • 1/4" tubing long enough to reach from the container to the top of the drip stake
  • Barbed connector to connect 1/4" tube to the 1/2" tube
  • Utility knife (or hack saw)
  • Drill with 1/4" drill bit
  • pH and EC meters
  • Timer
Planter 1
  1. Assemble all your materials. Make sure the bucket is clean, especially if you are recycling an old bucket (such as this sturdy cat litter container). 
Planter 2
  1. Cut a square piece out of the lid that is about 6x6". You want the Big Mama block to sit on top without falling into the hole. Drill a 1/4" hole at one end of the lid. Cut a piece of the 1/4" tube (however long you need to go from the bottom of the bucket up to the top of the Big Mama; add about 6" more of tubing before cutting).
Planter 3
  1. Attach the small piece of 1/2" tube to your submersible pump. Close the end of the tube with a plastic tie. Make a small hole in the 1/2" tube somewhere between the closed end and the pump, and insert the barbed connector into the hole. Connect the 1/4" tube from above to the connector. Insert through the drilled hole and attach the drip stake to the other end. 
Planter 4
  1. Prepare your Big Mama block as you would pH condition any other block. Cut out a little of the stone wool from the top of the Big Mama so you can insert your transplant in the smaller Gro-block (the Gro-block does not have to sit all the way inside the Big Mama). 
Planter 5
  1. Pour the correct amount of plant food into the water (follow label on whichever hydroponic plant food that you use). Checking pH is important. Always adjust pH so that it is around 6.0 for most plants. A squeeze of lemon helps bring pH down a point in a gallon of water. EC is also good to measure so you know the concentration of food your plant is getting. At transplant, an EC of 1.5-2.0 is plenty for most plants.

    Place your Big Mama with the inserted smaller Gro-block on top of the bucket. Place the drip stake into the smaller Gro-block.

Planter 6
  1. Set your pump on a timer so your dripper comes on for 10-15 min per day. When the plant is mature, you may need to have the timer come on more frequently. Amount of watering will also depend on the environment (how hot and dry it is; intensity of the light, etc). Place outside or under a grow light indoors. How much light and how long depends again on what you are growing.


Cucumber 2 weeks after transplanting into the Big Mama single drip system.

Change the reservoir with fresh solution at least once a week if at all possible. Just recycle the old solution by dumping on some plants outside. Drain the solution carefully so you don’t damage your plant or the roots growing in the bucket (you may want to consider adding a spigot or drainage hole to the bottom of the bucket for ease).

If you maintain your system in a very sterile and controlled environment, you may be able to just add plant food and water as it gets depleted in the bucket, without ever changing the reservoir. But always maintain a pH around 6.0 and adjust your EC depending on the maturity of the plant. If you are growing a flowering plant, you will need to switch to a Bloom plant food at flowering. (since it contains more phosphorous and less nitrogen)

Overall keep an eye on your plant for insects and diseases. Always remove dying leaves and discard. With these type of passive systems it is VERY important to keep the growing area clean and disease free.

A smaller version of this system can be made for our 6" Hugo block; but remember, the bigger the block, the bigger the plant and the more stable it will be. You can also adjust this system for loose GRODAN products such as the Grow-Cubes™. Simply create a frame where the pot containing the Grow-Cubes sits on top of the bucket (the reservoir). All the rest of the parts remain the same.

With a little work, you will soon have beautiful plants growing in your home-made drip system!