Pop Bottle Drip Irrigation

Wilted Purple Coneflower .png

Late last year someone had the bright idea to “fix” the old plumbing in the house. This “fix” lead to there being no outside water access, that means no garden hose, and since water is kind of essential to gardening outside this has made this year interesting. In a way I’ve been preparing the garden for something like this; as a rule I don’t coddle weak plants that can’t survive the hot dry conditions of my small garden. If a plant can’t survive in my clay soil on spring and summer rains and the occasional supplemental watering–then it wasn’t meant to grow for me. I’ve been fortunate that we’ve had a lot of rain and it hasn’t made watering an issue. The past two days though the sun has been shining in Chicago and a couple of plants are not liking this development. When I transplanted one of my Purple Coneflowers this spring I didn’t take a large enough root ball with it and now it is letting me know that I did a poor transplanting job by wilting.

Since I don’t have a water access through the garden hose I can’t give this Coneflower the slow, deep drink of water it needs. Fortunately for the plant–I have some clever moments.

Pop bottle drip irrigation.png
I turned to my stash of empty pop bottles and created a pop bottle “drip
irrigation system.”  I got several empty pop bottles and poked small
holes in the bottoms of the bottles. I added a layer of gravel to the
bottom of each bottle to weigh it down. I placed each of the bottles in
a circle at the base of the plant. I filled the bottles (placed the
caps back on) with water that will slowly drip out of the bottom
delivering water where it is needed.

I could have used a
watering can but that would require that I stand out in the sun and
heat and the water would naturally splash and run off to areas where it
wasn’t needed and be wasted. Letting it drip slowly at the base of the
plant prevents water from being wasted. The gravel at the bottom of the
pop bottle is optional, I did it to keep them in place and so they
wouldn’t get blown around the garden when they were empty.

In a potted container I’m thinking of doing the same with some tall and thin bottles of water, but burying them halfway in the potting soil so they can’t get knocked out or blown away when empty.

You could also take the same idea and flip it upside down. Cut off the bottom of the pop bottle and poke the hole in the top of the bottle cap, place the cap on, and insert it (cap first) into the ground. I personally don’t care for this method because the large opening allows or bugs, dirt and garbage to collect inside the soda bottle, but it is another option.

Update: See Container Garden Pop Bottle Drip Irrigation.


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  • Well, duh. I've just been searching all over the web for "watering bulbs," which are rather beautiful glass bulbs with a narrow nozzle that you fill and then upend in your plant, the theory being that it only releases water as the soil dries out. Your solution is just as elegant, and reduces/reuses/recycles. Definitely going into my front porch planter, which I always forget to water, poor thing.

  • In reply to naxn:

    Hey Xan,

    You just reminded me that I was suppose to buy some of those bulbs to try them and see if they work. I've seen them at Dollar Tree, CVS & Walgreens.

    If you try it in a container garden try one of those fancy bottles of water. If I wasn't one of the poors I could tell you which brand of bottled water I'm thinking of, but you've probably seen them around. They are the long thin bottles of "gourmet" water that look more like vodka bottles than water bottles. They are a lot nicer (as far as plastic goes) and sturdier than the water bottles that have the ridges and the nipple caps and wouldn't look too junky.

  • In reply to naxn:

    I've seen this with the bottle stuck in neck first and the bottom (now the top when inserted in to the ground) cut off so it's easier to refill. Of course in MI we have a bottle law meaning we get money for returning our bottles, but other non-soda bottle would also work.

  • In reply to gardenfaerie:

    Garden Faerie,

    Yeah I've seen the upside down version and didn't go with it myself because I'm lazy and eventually it will fill with garden debris and I won't clean it.

    On Twitter we were talking about how one could also use milk jugs. Thanks for commenting.

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    In reply to MrBrownThumb:

    Inverted wine bottles work very well! Recycle and have fun while collecting the decorative watering bottles!

  • In reply to naxn:

    Simple, elegant, and cheap, I love it! I always thought the inverted bottles were unstable, adding the rocks for weight is a fantastic idea. Thanks for sharing.

  • In reply to Elaine:

    Hi Bucolic Bushwick,

    Glad you liked the idea. Thanks for signing up and commenting.

  • In reply to naxn:

    Great idea!

  • In reply to naxn:

    Synchronicity! I was just wondering how I could provide a slow drip to my container garden, like you I have no outside water source ... great idea that I am planning on incorporating immediately! Thanks :)

  • In reply to OhioMom:


    Glad this post was of some help.

  • In reply to OhioMom:

    That's a great drip irrigation system! You should really check into an actual drip irrigation system though, they are not as expensive as people will tell you, and fully automated beats filling an empty pop bottle, plus you won't have that litter in your garden.

  • Hi Joe,

    Thanks for stopping by.

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