The Best Way to Water Your EarthBox® Container Garden

The Best Way to Water Your EarthBox® Garden

Just like how water is critical for humans to function, it's also essential for plants to grow—and providing the proper amount of water to your plants may be the most important task in gardening. That’s especially true with gardening containers.

Water has a lot of important jobs in the garden: It helps with photosynthesis, delivers nutrients, and protects plants against diseases. In addition, plants use about 95% of the water they receive for transpiration, which is basically how plants breathe. On hot, sunny days, the plant's transpiration rate increases—so wilting occurs quickly unless plants are re-hydrated continually.

Whether you normally wake up early in the morning or wait until the evening to do your watering, chances are it isn't enough during peak growing season. By using the EarthBox® Automatic Watering System, water is delivered into the reservoir as your plants need it, without wasting a drop. Read on to learn more about this sophisticated system.

Watering “Just Right” with the EarthBox® Watering System

The single biggest reason many container garden plants fail is due to over-watering. Over-watering washes away nutrients, reduces oxygen intake, and causes root rot. One awesome thing about the EarthBox® gardening system is that you can't over-water! Once the reservoir is full, excess water will run out of the overflow drain, so there’s no point worrying about how much to water.

If you think gardening with EarthBox® is easy, just wait, because the Automatic Watering System (AWS) is a game-changer! After the initial set-up, the watering system will make sure the reservoir always has enough water! Therefore, we call it watering "just right".  

How Self-Watering Planters Work

All EarthBox® gardening systems are sub-irrigated planters (SIPs), or self-watering—meaning, plants get watered from a reservoir at the bottom and take the water up through natural capillary action. Each EarthBox® Original system has a nearly 3-gallon water reservoir at the bottom of the container. You add water to the reservoir through the fill tube that sticks up out of the top of the system. It's like how a person gets oxygen while using a snorkel.

Key benefits of watering from the bottom include:

  • Efficient and even watering
  • Stronger root development
  • Better nutrient absorption
  • Fertilizer salts are pushed up and away from the growing medium
  • Helps conserve water
  • Easier for plants' roots to absorb nutrients

Different plants require different levels of water consumption. Having a full reservoir takes care of this need, regardless of where you are located, because we all know the USDA zones and climate also play a huge role in how much water your plant will consume.

Your plants are smart. They know what they need and how much to drink. They’ll help themselves to the water provided whenever they need it, which is why the reservoir should always have water available. Just as you can’t overwater with the EarthBox® gardening system, plants will only take what is necessary.

What's Included with the EarthBox® Automatic Watering SystemEarthBox 2-Box Automatic Watering System Components

Your AWS will include these components:

  • 1 Pressure Regulator
  • Sensors (2, 4, 6, or 12)
  • Black T-connectors (1, 3, 5, or 11)
  • 1 Reducer
  • 1 Splitter
  • .25” (inner diameter) tubing
  • .125” (inner diameter) tubing
  • Instruction manual

Simply connect the Pressure Regulator to a constant-supply water source, such as an outdoor spigot for a garden hose. Then, connect the larger tubing and T-connector between the Regulator and the Sensor in your EarthBox® system's fill tube. The Sensor is designed to respond to the pressure inside your EarthBox® system's water reservoir. The Sensor head will then drip water into the reservoir accordingly. It will never over-water and will help maintain the appropriate water level according your plant's needs.

Remember, when setting up and using the AWS, make sure all EarthBox® gardening systems are on a level surface so the water inside the box is evenly distributed.

Below is a diagram of setting up the EarthBox® Automatic Watering System 2 ways:

EarthBox® AWS Set Up Options

If you have more than one box and want even more water efficiency, here is a YouTube video for setting up multiple systems.

Automatic Watering System Assembly Tips and Tricks

If you are having trouble assembling the tubing and connectors, you may need try one of the following methods:

  • Try using a non-petroleum-based product, such as silicone grease, to make it easier to assemble. We do not recommend using petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline®) or other oils.
  • Try using a lighter or heat gun on the ends of the tubing to soften it up before pushing it onto the connectors.
  • Use latex or nitrile gloves for added grip to push the tubing onto the connectors.

Automatic Watering System Troubleshooting

There are many factors to consider when experiencing any problems with your EarthBox® Automatic Watering System—where you live, how long you've used your Automatic Watering System, and how well your AWS has been maintained—all factor in to the lifespan of the product, and how well it will work. As would be expected with any mechanical product, you may experience some minor issues after usage. Below is a troubleshooting guide to help you restore proper functionality of your AWS.


1. The EarthBox® overflow drain is leaking/overflowing

  • You have the wrong size water fill tube
    • Check to make sure the water fill tube only sticks up 1½ inches above the top edge/rim of the EarthBox® container.
    • 1st generation water fill tubes are too long and will need to be replaced with 2nd generation water fill tubes that measure 12 inches long. All 1st generation fill tubes have a rolled rim and are longer than 12 inches.
    • If you're using an EarthBox® Junior, you will need to replace the water fill tube with an EarthBox® Original water fill tube that measures 12 inches long.
    • If you're using an EarthBox® Root & Veg, you need to use the water fill tube that came with the box, and purchase the AWS designed specially for the Root & Veg.

  • The water fill tube is not situated properly
    • Carefully remove the sensor from the fill tube and place it in a clear cup, holding it upright in place. If it eventually stops dripping water after it fills enough, then the AWS is working and your water fill tube may not be situated correctly.
      • Original and Junior gardening systems: water fill tubes should be pushed all the way to the bottom of the box into the water reservoir. They should lean to the outer corner of the box, NOT sit completely upright.
      • Root & Veg gardening systems: water fill tubes should NOT be pushed through the aeration screen to the bottom of the box into the reservoir. They should lean to the outer corner of the box, NOT sit completely upright.

  • The water spigot is turned too high
    • Be sure you only turn the spigot a quarter-turn when turning on the water. Having it turned on full blast may strain the system and cause damage to the internal parts of the Pressure Regulator.

  • Plant roots may be taking up too much space in the water reservoir
    • The roots may be clogging the reservoir. Try reaching into the overflow drain and pulling out any roots that are hanging out and are easily removable.

  • The boxes are not level
    • Make sure each EarthBox® is on level ground. If the box is sloped or lopsided, this can interfere with the sensors accurately reading the water level.

  • There is a clog in the water fill tube
    • Remove the sensor and look down into the tube, using a flashlight if needed. Sometimes frogs and other critters can get in there and block or move the sensor.

2. The EarthBox® isn't getting any water

  • The Sensor is not dripping any water
    • Swap the non-working Sensor with one that is functioning properly. This will determine if the sensor is malfunctioning or if there is a problem with the box.
    • If the Sensor does not work when swapped, it may have debris lodged inside, causing it to malfunction.
    • Double-check the Sensor functionality by removing it from the fill tube and placing it in a clear cup, holding it upright in place. Check the clear tube to make sure there is no debris inside.
      • If the Sensor is still not dripping any water into the cup then there is a malfunction. Remove the screws from the Sensor and carefully separate the head, paying attention to which way the rubber diaphragm is facing. You may notice debris such as dust, dirt, and even spider webs inside. Clean the parts and reassemble the Sensor head. Repeat the cup test.
      • If the Sensor is dripping water and eventually stops after it fills enough, then the AWS is working.
      • If it continues to fill and eventually overflows the cup, there is a malfunction. Remove the screws from the Sensor and carefully separate the head, paying attention to which way the rubber diaphragm is facing. You may notice debris such as dust, dirt, and even spider webs inside. Clean the parts and reassemble the Sensor head. Repeat the cup test.
    • If the Sensor swap determines that it does actually work, then there is a problem with the EarthBox®
      • Make sure the EarthBox® is level so that the Sensor can read the water level accurately.
  • The Sensor is dripping water, but the reservoir is empty
    • Certain types of plants—such as some indeterminate tomato varieties—may take water faster than the AWS can provide.
      • You may have to manually fill the reservoir if your plants are stressed.
      • Always check daily weather predictions and have a plan to provide adequate shade to stressed plants if you notice they look wilted or are drooping during the day.
3. The AWS Pressure Regulator isn't working
  • Check to make sure the spigot is hooked up and turned on

  • Check to make sure the spigot is located higher above the EarthBox®
    • If you are running a hose along the ground and hook up the Regulator to the end of the hose, it will be very difficult for the water to pump up to the boxes rather than flow downward.

  • Check to make sure you are using a water source with enough pressure
    • Rain barrels and other standing vessels don't provide enough pressure on their own.

  • The filer/screen might be clogged
    • This is common if you have well water, hard water, or soft water. Carefully remove the Regulator from the spigot and pull out the filter.
    • Take a toothbrush or small wire brush and lightly clean the screen if you notice any mineral buildup. Installing a home filtration system can help mitigate mineral buildup.

Set It and Forget It!

You will literally set it and forget it with the EarthBox® Automatic Watering System. The superior design establishes a constant water source to your EarthBox® gardening systems, allowing you to spend less time watering and more time enjoying your garden. It's the perfect option for your plants while you are out of town on vacation or at work.

EarthBox® AWS

Tell us in the comments: How has the Automatic Watering System helped you? Share your experience with us!