Wednesday, July 4, 2012

DIY Container Irrigation System

If you are anything like me you might forget to water the garden and plants every so often. And by every so often I mean that Jeremy spends more time asking me if I watered the garden and plants than I actually spend watering. When he suggested an irrigation tool to help me limit how many times I’d have to water the tomatoes we planted in our bucket containers I was all about it.

Lunch Meat Containers
¾” PVC Pipe

Grab one of those lunch meat containers that you have lying around your kitchen and drill some holes into the sides and top, turning it into a colander.  You might have to use small bits and work up to ¼” like we did since the plastic is so soft. This is going to be your water reservoir. The holes are going to allow water to enter the container and essentially feed water to the plant from the bottom up.

Drill a drainage hole into the side of the bucket, level with the top of the water reservoir. This hole acts as a guide to make sure the plant isn’t overwatered. When watering the plant, the water level inside will reach the height of the hole and seep out, letting you know you’ve added enough.
Next cut a piece of PVC pipe. The piece should be the length from the top of the water reservoir to just above the top of the bucket. The PVC pipe is used to get the water to the reservoir directly. 
Since your water reservoir is holding the water delivered by the PVC pipe you won’t have to water your plant every day. Depending on how hot your summers are you can skip 2 or 3 days between watering your plant. The soil around the reservoir will actually draw the water up to the plant roots. Neat stuff right?
You don’t need anything fancy to keep your pieces in place. Some lightly packed soil will do the trick. Place the water reservoir in the center of the bucket and the bottom of the PVC pipe opposite and level with the drainage hole. Scoop the soil in and it all should stay in place. If it is still loose, pack the soil a little by hand.  When the bucket is ¾ of the way full with soil, add your plant. If you are transplanting from a container like we did, remember to separate the roots a bit before placing the plant in the soil. Add more soil to keep the plant in place and you’ve put together a nifty container irrigation system.

The last step is getting the water into the water reservoir. Take your hose and fill the PVC pipe slowly by just barely opening the hose valve. Give it time to drain so that the top of the plant doesn’t become flooded. It will take a few minutes before you see water seep out the hole on the side of the bucket. Note: it will be water seepage. I was expecting a stream of water out of the hole but as Jeremy pointed out, the water isn’t under pressure so nothing spectacular here.


  1. Thank you for a great tutorial! I have a secret watering tool myself. My hubby asks me every morning if I have watered. I tell him "no" and he waters for me - magic!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this! I am just like you, I always forget to water my plants. I will definitely try this project. Does the holes in the container really take care of the irrigation? The irrigation in montgomery al can be very expensive so a DIY project sounds great to me. Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi Dorthy, thanks for stopping by! The PVC pipe takes care of watering for 2 to 4 days depending on what the weather is like where you are. For us in the Southern California heat it is usually about 3 days. Since you are filling the bottom of the bucket with water, the hole tells you when to stop filling up so you don't over water. Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any other questions.


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