Plant watering bottle tips

Written by james young
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Plant watering bottle tips
Use plastic bottles to efficiently water plants and recycle them in the fall. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

Empty plastic bottles and jugs make handy irrigation tools for the garden. The technique originated 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, according to David Bainbridge, author of "New Hope for Dry Lands: A Guide for Desert and Dryland." Where drought prevented trees and crops from growing in the sandy soil, farmers buried unglazed pots in the earth near the plants and periodically filled the pots with water. Moisture seeped through the pot walls into the root zone. Plastic bottle irrigation works in a similar way.

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Perforated Bottles

Drilling two or three holes in either the cap or the bottom of the plastic bottle or jug converts the used container into a simple drip irrigation device. Some gardeners prefer to drill the holes in the cap and cut the bottom completely off the bottle to allow easy filling. Burying the bottle top 4 inches deep beside the plant places the water below the hot dry top layers of soil and encourages deep rooting. Perforating the bottom of the bottle and burying the container upright lets gardeners seal off the contents. Pets won't be tempted to lap from the closed bottle, which can dispense fertiliser solution as well as irrigation water. Closing the container also prevents windblown debris from clogging the drainage holes.

Manufactured Nozzles

Several companies manufacture drip irrigation nozzles which replace the caps of plastic bottles. Some resemble spikes, and pressing the plastic tip into the soil puts the irrigation outlet at the correct depth as well as hold the bottle in position. Others include ceramic filters that dispense the contents of the bottle very slowly. Since bottles don't create much water pressure, nozzles with filters or small drip-emitter openings clog easily. Algae growing in the nozzles could quickly seal the system. Regular cleaning of both bottles and nozzles helps prevent this problem.

Wicking Systems

Another old Middle Eastern technique -- wick irrigation -- also adapts easily to plastic bottle applications. In desert areas cotton wicks inserted into a water jug carry the contents slowly to the root zone of plants. Nylon rope washed with detergent works as well and doesn't nurture mould as quickly as cotton will, according to David Bainbridge. Set a plastic bottle filled with water beside the plant or buried in the ground, and run a length of the washed rope to the bottom of the container. Cover the exposed part of the rope with a piece of plastic tubing or old garden hose to limit evaporation, and bury 6 inches of the free end of the rope in the ground beside the plant. The wicking action provides a constant source of water so long as you don't let the container run completely dry.

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