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Create a Self Watering Garden

This post brought to you by Miracle-Gro. All opinions are 100% mine.

How many of you are thinking about starting a garden this year? Intimidated? I’m with you. I started my first garden last year with my “backyard salad beds” post, and I’m embarrassed to tell you that it was a total and complete failure.

backyards garden beds

The thing about gardens is that you have to be consistent about watering them. I was consistent about watering my garden …I consistently forgot to water it. I got no lettuce, and my “salad beds” continued to be empty dirt piles in my backyard. So sad. Hey, I can only keep so many things alive at once, and my husband and kids are doing great.

Lets change gears for a second so I can introduce you to my “little” brother Eric.  I know we spend a lot of time talking about Adam’s giant family on here, but this is my brother and my only sibling.


As you can plainly see, Eric was blessed with the ability to get a tan and I, sadly, was not.

Eric also has a green thumb. He’s so good at growing stuff that calling it a green thumb is practically an insult. He has a green thumb on steroids….a chartreuse thumb, if you will.

A few years ago Eric and his chartreuse thumb decided to tackle the old horse pen at my parents house and turn it into a garden. Not your normal garden though, he wanted it to be attractive, functional, and nearly maintenance free. And he wanted everything in it to be edible.

And so, the “food forest” was created.

horse pen turned garden

We live in south Texas, where it is CRAZY HOT during the summer (and frequently shorts and t-shirt weather on Christmas). We also happen to not get a lot of rain…we could go all summer without getting a drop. Its not easy to have a garden here.  Eric created the food forest in a way that when it rains (or when you give in and finally water it) the water runs downhill and is deposited into the places that need it most. Then he covers everything in an insane amount of mulch to keep the soil moist and safe from the scorching sun.

gardening with lots of mulch

Things grow great here.



food forest

This garden is mostly herbs, fruit trees, and leafy things, but they also have two more giant gardens with all your normal (and some not so normal) stuff.

So for Christmas my brother took pity on my terrible gardening skills and made a garden. A garden that I never have to water! Here is how he did it.

He started with this lonely corner of my backyard…

cold empty backyard

As you can see from little suited up Levi, it was cold…well, Texas cold.

Then he ordered some GOOD garden soil and had it delivered.

peg pergo kids tractor

(Elijah was pumped about using his new tractor to move it.)

Eric made two piles of garden soil, spread it, surrounded them with a thick layer of mulch. Then he lined it with rocks we had lying around the yard…standard garden stuff. This is where I would have planted seeds and called it a day, but Eric had better plans.

First he dug a trench and laid in PVC, one arm going to each bed and one that went to the edge of the garden.

laying irrigation PVC

Then he added an adapter to each PVC arm and added drip tubing, like so…

drip tubing in a garden bed

Here’s  a close-up of the adapter, and he secured the tubing to the ground using cut pieces of wire.

drip tubing details

Then the PVC leaving the garden got a  hose adapter.

hose adapter

Pretty great right?

It gets better. I can’t even be trusted to remember to turn the water on and off each day, so Eric added a programmable timer to my spigot. I had no idea these things even existed. You can put in what days you want to water, times of day, length of watering, etc. Then you completely forget about it until it’s time to go pick your veggies.

hose bib irrigation timer - never water your garden again

This does mean that I have a hose permanently running through my yard. You could bury it so that you don’t have to look at it, but we live on solid limestone and that just wasn’t going to happen.

self watering garden

(BTW, those are green beans in this bed near the house. I had perfectly spaced out the beans when I planted them, then evidently my kids dug them up and put them all in one hole. Oh well…they’re growing, right?)

Here is what my garden looks like today. It’s still in the beginning stages growth-wise, but everything is coming up beautifully.

use drip irrigation for your garden and never water again!

Image and Font

In there we have lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, canary melon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, onions, green beans, snow peas, parsley and basil.

How to create a garden that waters itself

Oh, and of course, more mulch. Mulch is the word.

garden that waters itself

And that, folks is my kind of garden.

Here is a supply list and links for all the items Eric used to make the garden self watering…

This spring I have teamed up with Miracle Gro to get some outdoor projects done…and to motivate YOU to get some outdoor projects done. With a little bit of prep you can also have a garden that you don’t ever have to think about, even if you don’t have a chartreuse thumbed, overly tan, super helpful, gardening brother. You can follow along with Miracle Gro through the The Gro Project on facebook, get ideas for fun garden projects on pinterest, and check out Miracle-Gro online to access their library of articles and videos full of gardening tips.

Miracle Gro has even offered to throw a BBQ where I invite family and friends over to eat and then trick them into doing work. It’s like they read my mind… people are pretty willing to help you out if you fill them up with ribs and beer beforehand.

Want to see what we’ll be working on? I have my sights set on the area between our house and our garage.


It looks horrid, but I think it has a ton of potential. I see lots of mulch, new plants, stepping stones and bench. Perhaps a few less plastic toys (we’ll just banish them to the backyard as to appear classy).  Perfect for a BBQ workfest ;)

(see the finished side yard HERE)

I’ll leave you with this adorable picture of Elijah lounging around the garden soil…





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  1. What an awesome Christmas present!
    It’s a great idea too, a self watering garden – we don’t have your rain problem here in the UK but I’ve definately missed out on the green fingered gene (we call our home ‘The House of Plant Death’), this system looks like it could actually work for me though!
    I love looking at your beautiful photographs, I’m totally jealous!
    Thankyou for sharing this.


  2. Hey Ashley, you are so lucky to have such a wonderful brother to help you with your garden, he truely knows his stuff! Your garden looks great! His gardens are awesome! Looks like you will have a fun BBQ, looking forward to seeing the results!

  3. That garden looks great! I keep meaning to run some sort of permanent water line for mine – each year I try some different temporary solution that ends terribly. Every place we move, I keep having to learn the quirks of gardening there. Here, we end up with too much humidity that rots everything eventually. Yuck.

    That spot by the carport looks perfect for a major gardening overhaul. Have fun! Creating new outdoor areas is always so fun!

    1. Thanks Jayna! It’s growing like crazy, I had planted some melons and squash and it looks like a jungle now. Humidity rot sounds disgusting. It’s humid here in Texas, but nothing like Virginia (isn’t that where you are now? Maryland?). When I lived in Virginia during Adams AIT it was insane…I would want out of the apartment and my sunglasses would immediately fog up. Blech.

      I need to go digest a bunch of your blog and catch up! How is your little man? Levi is, whew…he is busy. And stubborn. And so snugly :)

  4. Never banish the toys! They outgrow that stage so fast, you’ll be the one missing them. Turn them into planters when they outgrow them. Thanks for the post, I really needed that since I recently killed my first blueberry bush. It is the watering, I just know it!

  5. South Texas here too, Corpus to be exact. I would love a garden but I have to fight my male dog just to have a little flower bed in the front :(, my daughter lives in Austin & can grow anything, she literally throws her pieces of onions, bell peppers, egg shells ect out into her backyard & everything (but the egg shells) grows.

  6. It’s early here. My eyes don’t focus. You have a very ingenious brother even if at first I thought that said self weeding garden. But Miracle Gro should call me, we really like beer.


  7. You know what would be the perfect answer for that spot btwn your house and your garage? Another project by your brother Eric – the poster boy for Miracle Gro with his Miracle Self Watering Garden! Maybe you can guilt him into some self watering flowers on the off chance you ever have time to stop and smell them lol! Not to let Adam and his brother off the hook – I am sure after that fabulous Farmhouse table they built that they can whip you up a gorgeous bench too – check out this one I have been eyeing up ! ;) http://gardenbenchplans.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/simple-garden-bench-plans.jpg

    1. Wow that is a nice bench! I was hoping to find some old bench at a garage sale or something and let everyone off the hook, but…

      And don’t worry, Eric is invited to the BBQ. He’s the guest of honor :)

  8. I owe you an apology. I really, really wanted to do a landscape design for you, but it turned out to to be the time as much as that I just don’t think it’s possible (for me, anyway) to know what’s best where without actually seeing the property in person. I’m sure your brother chose the best spot for the veggie garden; I would only have been guessing from the survey and some photos, etc., and the same would have been true for the rest of the space. So please forgive me. And I’m glad you have an expert right in the family who could see it through where I failed miserably.

    1. Devon, do not even think twice about it! It was a very generous offer but is completely 100% fine that you weren’t able to do it. I understand. If you had gotten it done I probably would only have ever getting around to doing 25% of it and feel terrible for wasting your time. So I should really be saying thank you for saving me the guilt :)

  9. What a great brother you have! And what a great gardener he is! It really takes perseverance to grow veggies in bad soil. Keep us updated with pictures. What a cute pic of Elijah!

  10. That’s awesome, now you can have salads every day, and no watering! Wonderful.

    When I got married the second time, I arranged to have an irrigation system put into the backyard, but to save money, we had to dig it. Our yard was huge, and my spouse spent a huge amount of time out watering, especially since we were getting married back there. So there we were, two days before the wedding, chiseling away at this dry-as-concrete grass and dirt, for miles and miles. She said grumpily, “why on earth did we have to do this now?” I said, “but honey, it’s for you!” LOL. After I realized how ridiculous that was! But I have to say, once it was in place it was fabulous.

  11. That is an awesome garden! That is really impressive that he was able to do all of that. As for not being able to bury the hose, I can relate. Limestone is nice to have a house on, but doing anything under it is just not an option. Enjoy your new garden, thanks for sharing!

  12. Fantastic! That looks like some happy, healthy lettuce! I’m terrible about remembering to water my garden, as well, but thank goodness I live in New England rather than Texas – it’s been raining here for nearly a week straight, now. ;) What an awesome resource your brother is!

    Stopping by from DIY by Design. :)

  13. Ha, I knew as soon as I saw the pic of your yard that you must live near us (I live in Kerrville, TX) I have been wanting a garden for some time now but do good to remember to water the 3 potted plants on my porch! I might have to give this a try. . . if only I had a brother with a green thumb to do it for me ;)

  14. Hi! Another Texas gardener here. Your brother is a wonder. You are lucky to have such a talented relative! Just wondering how the timer is working out for you. We had the same one and it broke in no time at all. Justy wondering if that was a fluke and we should try another one or if its a problem with the brand. The reviews on Amazon are mixed.

    1. Honestly, I removed it because of there was some sort of clog near the faucet and never got around to putting it back on. It didn’t break…but it wasn’t on there that long so I can’t vouch for it or anything. It’s the one my brother picked though, so it must be one of the better ones (he does his research).

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