Self-watering SIP Sub-irrigated Raised Bed Construction (How to Build)

Self-watering SIP Sub-irrigated Raised Bed Construction (How to Build)

This DIY tutorial explains how to build an S.I.P. Raised Bed. But going further, it also teaches the fundamental mechanics of a self-watering system. Although this focuses on a wicking bed, the same principles apply to sub-irrigated tote containers. You’ll be able design and build a water-saving grow system that meets your individual requirements.

★★ EPDM LINER 45 Mil (Fish Safe):
This is now my preferred liner:

• Internal Dimensions (select your own length & width): 71.75″ L x 30″ W x 16.5″ (deep)
• Over Flow Drain Hole Height: 3.25″ up from bottom
• Recommended Gap Between Drain Pipes: 0.25″ (minimum) – 0.75″ (maximum)

• Rooftop Gardens
• Impermeable Surfaces (Patios, Driveways, Parking Lots)
• High Drought Areas
• Contaminated Soils (Heavy Metals, Nematodes)
• Urban Environments

A self-watering garden bed translates into easy gardening! But you may wonder: What type of materials should I use? Is treated lumber bad? What kind of lining should I use? How deep should the bed be? How high should the overflow drain be? Should the pipes be wrapped? Do you need a plastic cover? What kind of dirt or soil should I use? What kind of potting mix do you need? Do you need to use fertilizer strips?

Once you have the answers to these questions, all of the guess work is removed. The only thing left is for you to start designing and building! Once you’ve made the jump to a sub-irrigated garden, you’ll quickly appreciate the convenience. This allows you to be away for longer periods. Rain water is collected and saved for later use. When you do need to water, it’s so easy. You’ll love it, and your plants will love YOU!

► See Video UPDATE 1 (Rainy Periods & Moisture Levels):

► See Video UPDATE 2 (Watering & Aeration Screen):

► See Video UPDATE 3 (Winterizing Planters & Totes):

For general S.I.P. info:

For more info in this box check out my website:

For instructions on building the raised SIP grow box (seen at the intro):

Using Gravel in SIP Wicking Beds?

What should you grown in an SIP?

Refreshing SIP Potting Mix (What’s wrong with bagged manures / composts?):

I used a couple bags of Miracle Gro potting mix, which I bought in bulk for CHEAP. That stuff works (although it is synthetic). However, you can go purely organic in your mix composition if that is your preference. Use whatever ingredients conform to your gardening philosophy. Just be sure to follow the guidelines discussed in the video.

#Irrigation #RaisedBedGardening #GardenDesign #GoGreen #EasyGardening #WaterConservation #UrbanGardening


W E B ➝

F B ➝

I G ➝

T E E S ➝



  1. Colin Munro on September 4, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    Been following your excellent Vlog and have now bought all the gear to copy yours. Just one question! How quickly does the water move from the chamber that the fillers in to the other chambers, I noticed you’ve not fitted any connector pipes. Just checked out your update and you’ve answered my question. 🙏 🇬🇧.

  2. Luis Maldonado on September 4, 2021 at 10:58 pm

    It’s sooo coool

  3. C M on September 4, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    Hi Albo, After watching this last year, I put together a couple 4×8 beds with fantastic results. Actually had to pull plants out because they were overcrowding each other with such wonderful growth. Question for you though: How do you drain out last year’s water when spring comes and you’ve got 3 inches of stinky water remaining in the bottom from last year a well as accumulated snow melt? Wouldn’t it be better to let the dirt dry out a bit? I was turning the dirt over in one bed today and there was an overpowering smell of anaerobic decay from (what I would guess)the dirt staying moist from last year. It’s like the smell of a swamp.Thanks for posting all these videos. Enjoy learning so much from you! From NJ

  4. kimberly bahrs on September 4, 2021 at 11:00 pm


  5. Sherilyn Sorensen on September 4, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    I loved your thoroughness in explaining the sip raised bed. I have two questions:
    1 ) In extreme heat how do you keep the water in the reservoir cool?
    2) How do you flush fertilizer salts from the system?

  6. Dale Wolver on September 4, 2021 at 11:03 pm

    It’s been about 6 years now, wondering how this box is making out?

  7. Bendonal Pappin on September 4, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    I just built two of these using the design. He suggests 4"-6" soil depth for herbs. One end of mine has this depth and is constantly wet on the surface. I’m going to try and lower the drain pipe to see if it drys out a bit. Really don’t want to have to take this apart to lower the floor.

  8. Dave Cooper on September 4, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    What a great detailed tutorial!
    I want to try this in our community garden. I’m thinking it’s a way to have protection with plastic overhead, but to be able to water much more easily, or even rig up a rain feed somehow.
    I’ve got a feeling you might be talking about that in another video!
    Many thanks!

  9. Lindsey Horner on September 4, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    Question: I understand you can’t make it too shallow, but what about too deep? I will be building my boxes 30” high. Should I first fill the bottom with regular dirt, and then stick my liner in at that 18.5” depth, or would it be possible to place it deeper (say 24”)?

  10. Stephen Ho on September 4, 2021 at 11:08 pm

    Roughly how often we need to watering or filling up? This can be good to go vacation without worry. Thanks.

  11. Mr Ahmed on September 4, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    How does it work? I don’t understand , how the plants going to get water?

  12. Karen Stewart on September 4, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    I watched this video over and over, and over again. It’s so helpful. I decided to try it using stock tanks. One of the difficulties is that not all the pipes can lie straight because of the rounded ends of the tanks. Also, three of my tanks are 12 inches deep, and three are 24 inches deep. I’m working on the first 12 inch one now. I used three-inch black drains rather than four. There are a lot of gaps, so I stuffed them with a vermiculite/peat moss mix. I hope it works. I’ll post an update once I know.

  13. KJH on September 4, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    I have a question I hope someone can answer. My husband bought a pre-fab corrugated metal bed that is 2′ deep. In this video, it is recommended that the beds be about 16.5" deep. So we are dealing with an extra eight inches. Is 2′ too deep? Will the water wick up that far? Thank you so much.

  14. munchkin5674 on September 4, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Another version of a wicking bed! : )

    Today’s treated lumber is safe to use in raised beds. In creating a wicking type bed, you might be using some type of liner anyway.

  15. Rhonda Smith on September 4, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    Use untreated cedar instead of chemically treated pine or composite.

  16. Thomas Adams on September 4, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    Zip ties would be better to hold that garden fabric in place over the tubes

  17. eel nad on September 4, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    can this style of self-watering planter be used to plant tall bamboo for screening purposes?

  18. Brenda Porter on September 4, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Thank you for this, I have a question would 24 inch deep bed be too high and does raised bed soil work as well? I’m planning on building another raised bed and want to implement something like this.

  19. Lance Owens on September 4, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Holy kale great shirt

  20. jonathan robinson on September 4, 2021 at 11:15 pm

    Why not just put a layer of gravel under the bed?

  21. William Washington on September 4, 2021 at 11:19 pm

    Your video says not to use bagged compost. Should we not use compost at all like our own that we’ve composted? Loved the video btw plan on making this with my kids

  22. shecalledmelisalou on September 4, 2021 at 11:21 pm

    Why shouldn’t you use manure?

  23. Jake on September 4, 2021 at 11:23 pm

    With lumber costs, I’m thinking of going with galvanized metal beds instead.

  24. Tom Hardaly on September 4, 2021 at 11:24 pm

    24:30 can you use liquid fertilizer when you fill them up with water?

  25. Alan Reeves on September 4, 2021 at 11:25 pm

    Hi, and thank you for a great video. Can you please tell me how much vermiculite you used in proportion to the potting mix in the bottom? Thank you.

  26. William Mathews on September 4, 2021 at 11:25 pm

    Thank you Sir for your wonderful, informative video on the building of a raised bed, several years ago now!
    In one part of the video you explain how to "cap off" the ends of the irrigation pipe with landscape fabric and duct tape. Is the purpose to completely block the flow of water or to allow water to continuously seep through?
    I ask this question because in my country (New Zealand), the term "landscape fabric" is not known. There are different kinds of fabric with different characteristics and names so if you could

  27. Paul Pham on September 4, 2021 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks for the great content. How often to you need to fill it up ?

  28. Tom Wilder on September 4, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Al. This is an incredibly detailed video and I want to thank you for your descriptions and content. I just completed a 6×3 bed 20" high like this… and the design I created was great because of you. I will caution folks who think this this looks great and might be easy to… think again lol. Although I chose to raise my bed by 4" over what Al describes here, mixing 27 cubic feet of soil is no small task. Wheelbarrow, tarp etc…it is bust ass work to get this mix right. Next time I will get the help of my able bodied son!. Happy growing and thanks again!

  29. jjjjjjjj56374 on September 4, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Great video. Kind of made me chuckle, though, when you said not to use manure and then you said worm castings would be good. Worm casting is worm manure…

  30. Guillermo Rosa on September 4, 2021 at 11:31 pm

    Love your patience explaining everything with details

  31. Mantush Raj on September 4, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    Love you from India

  32. AlboPepper - Drought Proof Urban Gardening on September 4, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    Learn more about how to use a self-watering planter:

    For a QUICK intro to SIPs (under 5 mins):

    SIP Raised Bed (Update 1) + Self-Watering Containers + How-To Monitor Moisture Levels :

    SIP Raised Bed (Update 2) + Watering & Aeration Screen Explanation

    SIP Raised Bed (Update 3) + Winterizing Planters & Totes

    Self-watering planters have pros & cons. Read more about how they can benefit you the most:

  33. Chad on September 4, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    Great video really enjoy the content! Just a quick question, what are your thoughts on using sand to level out just above the drainage pipe and using a layer of geotec on top of the sand and topping up with your soil mixture?

  34. David Blum on September 4, 2021 at 11:35 pm

    You recommend a 45 mil liner. Can you get a way with a thinner pond liner? What is the minimum?

  35. Alfred Olivas on September 4, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    Thank for your entertaining and informative video. One question: Do ALL the corrugated tubes actually fill up with water? And if they do, does the water from the first tube seep out and go into the soil and then water seeps into the other tubes? What do you think about possibly connecting the tubes while still allowing them to allow water to evaporate/pass through to the soil (via fabric windows). DO you block water coming out of the drainage tube while the tubes fill? Thanks!

  36. Thomas Pagluica on September 4, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    Great video, watching it for the 3rd time now , picking up the smaller details. I’m hoping to build mine 30” high. How deep is too deep for the wicking action to work without worry? Thanks for the video.

  37. lelechim on September 4, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    I was going to use cedar wood, 1" thick, 8" wide, but I guess 8" is too shallow, so I’ll need to use two such boards to make 16"! Would 1" thick suffice? 2" seems like a bit much. What size pieces of wood should I get for the "blocks" on the sides? I was thinking 2×2" square pieces cut to 16" long.

  38. Mel Bee on September 4, 2021 at 11:40 pm

    This is great! I haven’t been able to find my answer, I am making a planter fence, it will be 4ft tall x 5ft long 18in wide. Can i use a self watering system if it will be that deep? i want to plant vines that will grow up a trellis making a privacy fence and then screen. They will live in the pot forever.

  39. Ken Cheney on September 4, 2021 at 11:41 pm

    I am planning on doing this in a planter that doesnt have a bottom and isn’t going to be lined. Just one long tube folded back and forth with a cap at each end. Any issues with that?

  40. marianne roberts on September 4, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    I adapted your design into an elevated SIP. All is good, but my drain tube is leaking. I didn’t seal it around the liner. Is that a problem? How do I know if the water is all around the bottom of the box. Should I just trust the plan?!?

  41. Chris Chambless on September 4, 2021 at 11:43 pm

    why not use straight PVC pipe instead of a tube that could bend?

  42. Shahram Javani on September 4, 2021 at 11:44 pm


  43. nellyville41 on September 4, 2021 at 11:45 pm

    So I just made one yesterday after watching your video. I made it out of a wine barrel that’s cut in half. My question would be on the corrugated pipes. I was able to squeeze 5 pipes side by side cut to the appropriate length but it is a squeeze. I originally did 4 and filled it with peat/vermiculite/pumice at your 3:1:1 ratio. Then I squeezed the 5th one in but now my main concern is if it’s too tight and there’s not enough wicking potential. If I remove one of them I’m afraid of it being too saturated. I planted a blueberry bush so it needs constant moisture. Should I dig it out and remove one? Thanks!

  44. D C on September 4, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    Interesting, I would have thought the plants would eventually punch through the corrugated pipe. I’m going to build one of these, glad I came across the video.

  45. Teal Kerberus on September 4, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    If you design in an adjustable overflow pipe height, you can raise the water level for new seedlings to establish, and progressively lower it back to normal as their roots grow.

  46. joe smo on September 4, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    Have you ever worked with a box that is taller than 16.5 inches deep? I would like to set one up maybe at like 30 to 36 inches. Would i have to install a false bottom to raise the water level up or will the soil still draw the moisture up high enough to work at 30+ inches high?

  47. Lisa McKnight on September 4, 2021 at 11:52 pm

    Great video and ideas. If I want to put my raised planter on a cement block, would you recommend putting something underneath the pond liner, (ie cardboard) or use a plastic hardward cloth below to keep the pond liner a little above the cement or should there be no issue with it directly on the cement?

  48. dtisue85 on September 4, 2021 at 11:53 pm

    Why would be the reason to not mix in horse manure?

  49. Mark G on September 4, 2021 at 11:55 pm

    Thanks so much for making this video and inspiring me to make SIP pots out of IKEA waste bins with the normal perforated 100mm piping, 32mm filling pipe and 14mm overflow piping with self galvanising tape used to get water tight fittings for the pipes and to keep the root barrier material in place rarher rhan duct tape……fingers crossed it all works out 🤞
    Thanks again and all the best

  50. quinsopher on September 4, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    Good job, great moustache

Leave a Comment