Bottle Drip Irrigation

Bottle Drip Irrigation

It’s time to water your plants frugally. You have two precious commodities. Water and your time.
I fill my bottle drippers with the garden hose. This is quick and saves time. It reduces water loss via evaporation from the leaves.

You can recycle plastic bottles.

The used bottles are buried between plants. They take seconds to fill.

All water gets to the roots of each plant unlike sprinklers which allow much of the water to be trapped in the foliage.

“One of the best ways to provide a steady water supply to your plants without your constant attention is the gradual watering system or drip irrigation.

“Through this method a device is employed that slowly delivers water into the soil directly around the roots.

“Commercial watering spikes can be purchased from you local garden centre however, using recycled materials you can make your own drip irrigation system for free.” 1

Select one of these topics below

How To Make It - Step-by-Step

I prefer to have the bottle standing right-way-up as I think it looks nicer and it keeps debris out of the bottle thus keeping the holes from blocking.

The materials:

* 2 litre plastic soft-drink bottle or water bottle * Sharp small screwdriver, pointed hole-maker or drill

This can be used in container gardening, raised bed gardens and open vegetable gardens.

Using your pocket knife, make 2 small slits in the bottom of your bottle. Make two more small slits half way up your bottle. Then fill your dripper bottle with water to test it. Does it drip slowly? Or empty too quickly?

Dig a hole next to your tomato plant. Place the bottle right-way-up in the hole. Fill the bottle with water from the hose. Add liquid fertilizer from time to time.

This will slowly deep-water your tomato plants and most other vegetable plants.

You can learn more about this on another website.

Only two very small holes are needed at the lowest place on the bottle.

I prefer to leave the lids off. This means I can fill them in a shorter time each day without removing the lids. If you replace the lid on the bottle after filling with water it will release the water more slowly. You might like to experiment with this.

Place bamboo stakes next to each bottle. As the plants overgrow the bottle, you will still find it by seeing the stake.

Here I am making another hole slightly higher up the bottle. If I screw the lid on, this hole acts as a breather. Water will not come out. Air will go in. Try this.

However, if I remove the lid, water will come out this hole as well as the holes in the base.

You can make larger holes, and partly fill the bottle with coarse-sand or soil to slow the flow.

Fast fill. Slow release.

Funnel Orientation

Some people like the bottles upside down, like a funnel. Here is the upside-down orientation for your consideration.

“Drill 4-8 small holes into the cap of the plastic bottle. If you want it to drip slower use less holes, faster use more holes. Don’t make holes that are too small, they will become clogged up by debris. Remove the bottom of the bottle by cutting across with a sharp knife. I find a serrated knife works well. Removing the bottom of the bottle creates a funnel for you to easily pour water into. The wide mouthed opening will also catch some water when it rains.” 1

“Dig a hole next to a plant or in between a grouping of plants that is deep enough to bury at least one third to one half of the bottle. If you position the bottle in amongst a grouping of plants it will be hidden from view. Place the bottle in the hole with the cap side down and secure it into the hole by pressing dirt around it. This will ensure that your bottle stays in place. Pour water into the bottle until it is full. You can add fertilizer to the bottle every few weeks so that your plants are fertilized right at the roots.” 1

I prefer to remove the plastic lid altogether and stuff a small rag stopper tightly in the lid hole. This prevents the holes blocking up.

“You will need to fill your bottle when it is empty, once a day or less depending on how much direct, hot sun your plants receive. Make several bottles to place in all your large containers or next to plants in your garden such as tomatoes that require a lot of water.” 1

How this plant dripper saves your time

This can reduce the time it takes to water your plants.

Just zip along the rows filling each bottle with water from your garden hose.

Also, you can water them in the hot sunlight because you will not get water on the leaves.

Auto-fill Drip Irrigation System

Until now, I’ve been filling my drip irrigation bottles by hand. To save time, today I tried to auto-fill them using connectors and a feeder hose. I made a hole in the lid. I used a drill. Placed the lid on a wood bench. Drilled the hole. Inserted a feed hose connector (from garden centre). Then I pushed on a short length of feeder hose. These 3 litre bottles are my preference. The other end of the feeder hose attaches to a push-in feed hose connector on our black alkathine hose. This comes from the garden tap. I joined the dripper bottles to the thin-wall alkathine using 4mm Offtakes, by Plassay, Yates, obtained from a garden center. Connects 4mm feeder tubing to 13mm water line. Water comes from the tap, through a tap-timer ($NZ 24) along the 13mm garden alkathene hose (thin walled hose) then into the thin feed hose. This enters the top of the bottle. Close-up of 4mm Offtakes, by Plassay, Yates, obtained from a garden center. As the bottle fills with water, air escapes around the connector in the lid. This is necessary so pressure does not build up until the bottle is filled with water. Water drips out two small holes in the base of the plastic bottle. The bottle is mostly buried. I set the timer for 20 minutes. The tap-timer turns off the water after 20 minutes and my drippers keep irrigating the garden under the surface in the heat of the day. Turn on and I walk away! Let me know if you have an improvement on this.

Update
potsI’ve gradually changed from using plastic bottles to using the plastic pots in which plants are sold. I have found the large opening easier to fill, especially when I use a bucket of liquid compost water. So, after all this, I’m now using the plastic pots rather than bottles.

References and Photo Credits

1 Trail, Gayla. Make Your Own Pop Bottle Drip Irrigation System, Growgirl.

2. Photo of orange dewdrops by Neil Fowler http://www.flickr.com/photos/31878512@N06/4666821126/

3. Photo on hose and water by Beth Harper http://www.flickr.com/photos/beth-harper/2585531028/in/faves-50830261@N05/.

4. Photo of water drop by Photo by Axel Bührmann, http://www.flickr.com/photos/snapeverything/837315316/in/faves-50830261@N05/

33 Comments

  1. If I leave the lids off, I can not make the holes higher up the bottle, correct?

    Reply
    • Yes you can. I leave the lids off, make large holes, and bury the container until all the holes are under ground.

      Reply
      • I would have never thought of this, but I’m going to do this today because I’ve been working with my soil for 2 years now I’ve been composting, now if I do this I don’t have to worry about my soil drying up so quickly, this is really going to make a big difference in my garden. THANK YOU

        Reply
  2. Could this be adapted using gallon sizes bottles for really big pots? I was getting ready to convert my pots into self watering containers but this seems as effective and a lot less costly :$

    Reply
    • Sure it can. Beware of overflowing if your pots are kept indoors.

      Reply
  3. This is a great idea. I plan on using this in my large pots and raised beds

    Reply
  4. Will this work on my indoor plants?

    Reply
    • What about the overflow when you give more water to your plant than it can receive? Be sure you do not overflow your hanging pot plants and flood your furniture.

      Reply
  5. Hey,

    Just wanted to say that we love this idea. We always recommend it to people for their planters.
    Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  6. For all you novice gardeners, like myself. This is NOT a case of more is better!! My first go round I put 8 holes in my bottles. Yeah, the water just gushed right on out of the bottle, almost faster than I could fill it. Whoops!!! I’ve redone it, and am hoping my plants can survive on the one bottle I’m going to give them before I leave for 2 weeks. Luckily they had a nice day long drenching 2 days ago.

    Reply
    • I overcame this by burying my bottle so that the holes are all below the ground. Even large holes take a long time to drain this way.

      Reply
  7. Great tip and will SO be using this idea this summer! I live in Texas and we get very hot and very dry summers!

    Reply
    • Best part is using liquid fertilizer rather than just plain water.

      Reply
  8. Love this idea!

    If using in a raised bed (4×8), what kind of spacing should each bottle have?

    Reply
    • One bottle between two plants. The space is not used anyway and you’ll not have to weed there.

      Reply
  9. Thanks for the tip! Even though, I don’t live in a super hot area, this is still plenty useful. I appreciate the post!

    Reply
  10. I was wondering if you have any advice for using this bottle method on a raised bed for square foot gardening? Specifically, I wonder if the bottle would take up too much space or be too close to some plants. All of my beds are 3X6′

    Reply
    • The space between young plants needs to be weeded anyway. As plants grow, the bottles become hidden under the leaves and vegetation.

      Reply
  11. Great idea save water and reuse plastic bottles. Wish I had seen it before this summer’s planting. Won’t forget for next though.

    Reply
  12. Very good idea we will have to try this in our garden even in Wisconsin it can get dry. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  13. I do the same, but rather than ugly plastic bottles I use old glass bottles and you can buy a good set if small drill bits most any place like Home Depo or Lowes for under $15!

    I even use some of my antique glazed moonshine looking jugs! They hold almost a gallon and do a great job and look nice too!

    I really hope the different states will come up with some kind of recycling for plastic bottles, it’s really a shame that there not doing it in the US everywhere:(

    Reply
    • I have not used glass. I did not know you could drill a hole in glass.

      Reply
  14. This is an incredible idea. We live in the hot desert and so watering is vital but watering the leaves we run the risk of burning them from the sun. This will work great for our needs. Thanks for the fantastic idea!

    Reply
    • Thank you. Let us know how this goes for you.

      Reply
  15. How do you keep the dirt from clogging the holes?

    Reply
    • I put a scoop of sand, soil or compost in each pot.

      Reply
  16. I prefer the plastic bottles for watering and the large pots in the corner of the beds for worm composting.

    Reply
  17. Explain the pots version? Can’t seem to grasp the how to

    Reply
    • Use old plant pots instead of bottles. You can fill them fast with a bucket. You can use liquid compost tea.

      Reply
  18. In response to your reply about clogged holes, I don’t understand your sand/soil/compost method. You add it into each bottle prior to adding water? Also, would shredded newspaper mulch be a good addition to this irrigation?

    Reply
    • Yes. Add sand to plant pots as they have large holes in the base. The water exits slower.

      Reply
  19. So now that you are using plant pots do you just plant the pot and fill with water? Any type of lid/top? Most ingenious idea love it. Thank you.

    Reply
    • No lid is needed. If organic material like leaves fall inside the pot then it will not be a problem.

      Reply

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