Adventures in DIY Pop Bottle Irrigation

It has been a scorching last couple of weeks with highs in the 90s every single day here. The forecast predicts more of the same for the foreseeable future, which is unusually hot for us here in the Chicago, IL area. It hasn’t rained a lot here either so I have spent a lot of time watering. I have part of my back garden hooked up to drip irrigation, which makes life 100 times easier & for that I highly recommend it. However, I have yet to hook up my entire garden on drip & these hot & dry days had me a little concerned for some of my plants. 

holy grail hibiscus picture
My Holy Grail Hibiscus & assorted herbs on a rainy & not thirsty day.

My hibiscus in particular is one of those plants that should never dry out & it’s bad news bears if you ever see it wilt. To my surprise, it started to wilt a bit last week & I just couldn’t seem to keep up with the amount of water that it wanted. So, I did what everyone does when faced with a problem, I Googled it. A few searches later & I came across a few pop bottle irrigation tutorials. I had a couple of empty 2-liter pop bottles & I love a good experiment, so it was off to the races.

diy pop bottle irrigation image
Orange soda bottles & compasses don’t meet often enough.

First step first was to wash the bottle. The last thing that I needed was a bunch of ants to come a crawling on over & feast on the sugary goodness that is leftover orange soda droplets. After the bottle was all cleaned up I had to figure out a way to poke holes in the bottom of the bottle. Good thing I still have a compass from whatever grades I needed to use a compass in. I read that I needed to poke a lot of holes in the bottle, so a lot of holes I poked. Then off I went to dig a hole next to the thirsty hibiscus. I had intended on nearly burying the entire bottle, but I ran into a very large root exactly where I needed to dig, figures. So, I settled on digging a hole that could accommodate half of the pop bottle. I set the bottle in the hole, surrounded it with soil & started to fill it with water. Then I continued to fill it with water realizing that the bottle sure was taking a long time to fill up. I had clearly poked too many holes & the bottle was draining nearly as fast as it was filling. But I wanted to see this experiment through, so I capped the bottle tight to attempt to slow the drip, gave the plant a good regular watering near its base & finished my gardening chores. I returned to the bottle a mere 10 minutes later to see that it had already completely drained. Drat.

pop bottle irrigation image
So many holes were poked.

So, the next day was round 2 of my pop bottle irrigation experiment. This time a 2 liter Coke bottle was set to the task. The washing happened & then the poking. This time I only made 3 small holes at the bottom of the bottle. I swapped out the orange soda bottle out of the hole for the Coke bottle & hoped for the best. I started to fill it with water & noticed that it was actually filling with water this time! I quickly capped the bottle off tight & watered the base of the plant as I normally do. Garden chores were then done & I returned another 10 minutes later to see that the water in the bottle was at the same level as when I left it. A gardening miracle! It takes about 2-3 hours for the bottle to completely drain all the water, which is still a little fast for me, but I’ll take it.

coke bottle drip irrigation picture
& the Coke bottle has entered the arena

Meanwhile, my hibiscus seems to be loving all this extra water. Gone are the days of the dreaded almost wilted leaves. It’s out there standing tall with the most alert leaves you ever did see. The plant is supposed to get huge, so I am not really concerned with having half a pop bottle buried in my flowerbed since it will be covered soon enough with foliage. The bottle is also near my strawberry plant which is sending out runners like no one’s business. I’m sure the strawberries will also be thankful for 2 liters of extra water. My plan is to only fill it on super hot days & to maintain my regular watering schedule, since this is supplemental water & not a replacement for regular watering.

pop bottle drip irrigation picture
My little DIY water reservoir all tucked away back there.

I am really happy with my little pop bottle DIY so far & I have been looking around my garden to see where I might install another one. Maybe near some of my tomatoes & cucumbers in my Sophia Petrillo raised bed victory garden? Those guys are always in the mood for more water. I really recommend it if you are facing similar problems during this heatwave, especially if you already have bottles lying around. It’s such a great way to reuse items that you would normally have no other uses for. Plus, it makes your thirsty plants happy & you less stressed. Who doesn’t want that? Happy gardening, everyone!

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