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

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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.

UPDATE DEC 2016: I recommend using rope wicks rather than hole in the bottle. See this more recent post on an improved version of this method.

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.

Alternative method using PVC

You may also like this alternative design which uses PVC pipes from the recycle center. Instead of bottles, you can recycle PVC pipes and save yourself a lot of time and water. More…

Update Dec 2016: I recommend using rope wicks rather than hole in the bottle. See this more recent post on an improved version of this method.


irrigation 2

Which irrigation method show you use?
potsI use recycled PVC piped or plastic pots in which plants are sold, or plastic bottles.

Pots are great as the large opening is easier to fill, especially when I use a bucket of liquid compost water. I use the plastic pots rather than bottles for liquid fertilizer. PVC pipes for long gardens. I use bottles for short gardens and pot plants.

More small garden irrigation plans

Read more here. Here is another post about irrigation using PVC piping.

References and Photo Credits

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

2. Photo of orange dewdrops by Neil Fowler

3. Photo on hose and water by Beth Harper

4. Photo of water drop by Photo by Axel Bührmann,