Modified bottle watering large shrubs

Spring City, TN

(Not sure if this is the right forum...)

I am planting new shrubs on a big terrace that will be too spread out for drip or soaker hoses and too far away for garden hoses to reach practically. I am playing with the idea of a modified buried bottle method. These are LARGE shrubs, 3 & 5 gallon pots, and since I will be carrying water to each of them in 1.5 gallon jugs, I'd like to water really well only a couple of times/week to establish them and next year only as needed -- Rose of Sharon, Forsythia, Crepe Myrtle, and Leyland Cypress.

I know some people bury pop bottles nose down, cut the bottoms off, and when you fill them up, this delivers water slowly down to the roots. That sounds like a good idea not to waste water. But I don't think half a dozen pop bottles buried around a shrub is going to be practical.

I was considering 3" pvc pipe. I could spray paint dark green so they wouldn't stand out like white PVC pipe against the forest backdrop. And I could get a lot of it relatively inexpensively. If I buried it (or drove it) 12-18" deep when I planted the shrubs, I could leave enough above ground as a resevoir and fill with the 1.5 gallon plastic jugs -- 2 of those would be 3 gallons of water delivered directly to the roots. I could do 4 jugs for 6 gallons if that was needed.

I might have to attach reducers to make it 3" down to 1/2" so the water would slow down and be more of a funnel.... Or I could cap it and drill a small hole in the bottom or side. I have drills, PVC saws & glue, etc. I'm not worried about the construction part. I just want this to be practical and effective.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

The first thing I would do is check on the weekly water requirements for each plant. Then I would to a test run on my pvc, you may not need to cap or drill if there is enough soil in the base of the pipe to slow the water flow. Drive a piece of pvc into similar soil and watch/time the water flow. I would suggest digging out the soil so that only a few inches of soil would fill the base of the pipe. If that doesn't work, then consider removing the pipe, drilling a few small holes and repeating the process.

Spring City, TN

Oh, that's much easier. THANKS!

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Surely. Please do let me know how it works.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

I've also used gallon milk or water jugs without burying them. I poke holes all over the jug with an awl. Then set it right near the plants you want to water. That way I can put as many as I want out at one time and move them around as I need them. When they're not being used I remove them so they don't detract from the garden.

The number of holes is kind of a trial and error. if you make too many holes the water may flow out too quickly, so start with less. You can always add more. It's simple, but efficient.

Kiowa, CO(Zone 5b)

Ent...have you also considered adding Hydrogels to the soil too? That's what I'll be doing this fall when I also will be planting Many, Many new shrubs (and maybe some milk jugs too, lol.). If you decide to add them just make sure they are hydrated first, I know....I did it wrong the first time, lol. Kathy

Thumbnail by warriorswisdomkathy
Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

I wonder if just jamming a pipe down there is going to water it evenly?
I'd think that a 2 to 3' square ring of perforated PVC pipe with a Tee for the supply water inlet would be the way to go, and when it is empty it will supply air for root aeration, similar to an e-bucket. still I'd think that over time with soil compaction the pipe would fill up causing reduced capacity. You might want to wrap it in a mesh of some kind. Do you generally replace the sub soil with an improved type of soil that might flow better?

I should have read your OP more carefully, 3 and 5 gal pots? Why not just make an e-bucket? Forget what I said above, I was thinking in ground. Here is an e-bucket in a very big pot:

This message was edited Aug 6, 2012 10:12 PM

This message was edited Aug 6, 2012 10:34 PM

Spring City, TN

Well, tried several different ideas, most of which failed miserably, and here are the results. Went with 3" pipe, used PVC cleaner/glue and attached a "temporary cap" on the end. They were 40c instead of $4 for the "good solid" cap. Spray painted the outside of the pipe and the first couple of inches inside the pipe with hunter green paint to it would blend better than LOOK-AT-THAT-WHITE. Used my Dewalt and a spayed (sp) bit and just poked the guide point of the bit through the temp cap in 3 places for weep holes. In the tub it took 15 minutes to drain the whole pipe.

Filled the planting hole with amended soil, dug a hole in the amended soil and put the 3"x24" pipe in the hole with the new shrub so the shrub was 2" above the bottom of the pipe -- why 2" because I wanted the roots to REACH down and I guestimated that wouldn't be "too far" for them to go. I dunno, this is seat of my pants here.

Planted the shrub like I normally do, small amount of water crystals in the bottom of the hole, backfilled halfway up with amended soil, watered well, finished planting the shrub. And haven't been able to test because it's rained every day since. LOL.

I am debating capping the pipe or not. It would reduce evaporation and keep debris out of the pipe. The cap would be pretty snug or it would blow away. This might create problems getting the cap back off for watering, but could solve that with a screw drilled into the top for a handle. Not sure it would capture enough rainfall to make any difference since the shrubs would be getting water from the rain anyway.

What did NOT work was shoving the pipe in the ground. Or burying an uncapped pipe. Or using 12" terra cotta chimney flues with no bottom -- same problem, got fierce washing when I poured water in. Don't want to use the 4" pipe because the cost doubles from 3" to 4" for no reason known to man. And planting more than a couple inches away from the pipe meant the water went DOWN and didn't water the shrub.

Will let you know how this works when we get more 100 degree dry days.... which is likely.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

Count me as another person who should have read your post more carefully as I, also, thought you were planting in the ground.

PeteB7 had a good idea and made me wonder if you are aware of the DG Forum on Ebuckets? Members have been growing things for years in home-made self-watering containers and the ideas for what works well have evolved. Although there are many threads, last year was kind of a landmark one, in my opinion, because after trying different things, people put their heads together and came up with something that works really well.

The link Pete posted is written by a very active DG member. In that post she's using a nicer looking pot than the standard 5-gallon bucket with the same concept. Because I haven't been following the forum lately, it's possible other members have gone to this as well, but I'm not sure.

I'll have to put links in the next post since, like a dummy, I started typing first and would lose everything if I went looking for the thread.

Even if you aren't interested in the technique, it might be fun to follow.

Algonquin, IL(Zone 5a)

OK, here is the thread that actually has photos of the system and it's components. It's from 2009...boy time flys! It you scroll down a ways gessieviolet posted some pics. The thread has continued and is very active. In fact, I just saw a new post yesterday. I've also seen links for similar ideas with other pots, some larger and some more decorative.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

PeteB and NutsaboutNature, the shrubs are going into the ground...just in an area that is not feasible to add irrigation....or at least that is my understanding as Etnredclay said he was digging holes for the shrubs...and that they were large shrubs that came in 3 and 5 gallon containers.

Etnredclay....sounds like you have a solid plan. Good job. I did run across this site...I have no idea what they cost, but it may be worth a look. They carry all sorts of caps and plugs for pipes etc.

Trumbull, CT(Zone 7a)

Curious - how is this working out?
I'm still not clear if they are in the ground or in pots, can you please
confirm one way or the other?
I thought not being on a terrace, then read about digging ...?

This message was edited Jun 15, 2013 3:38 PM

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Why not buy a longer hose?

Build a berm out of soil around each plant. The first year, just a bit larger than the original can diameter, the second year at least a foot larger all around. Break down the berm when regular rains might over water the plant.

Mulch to help keep the soil moist between watering.

You can use the drain pipe water system, too. There are 2 types of 3" or 4" drain pipe. One sort already has holes. If you bury 2-4 of these vertically around the plant and fill the pipe with 3/4" drain rock and a mesh over the top then you would only need to fill the berm once. As you are filling it, a lot of the water will be going down the pipes. By the time the water soaking into the soil has slowed down, and the berm is filling up, there is a lot of water in the soil around the plant via the pipes.
Another method of filling the pipes with water is a drip system. You might not even need the pipes if your soil accepts water fairly well. Drip systems can be installed in places that are a bit more difficult to do in ground PVC systems.

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