Garden Irrigation by curlydock

Here is a garden irrigation technique I am experimenting with. I have been using it for about a year. The testing is incomplete because this year there was plenty of rain. I am hoping this technique will reduce the amount of water needed to water a garden.

Fig 1
At various places in the garden plastic bottles are buried upright up to their mouths. The mouths of the plastic bottles are wide enough to accept the necks of inverted glass bottles, such as a wine bottles.

fig 2
The bottoms of the plastic bottles are either cut completely off or perforated. The perforations begin or the cut is at a level about five or six inches below the surface of the soil. Whether to cut or perforate may need to be determined by trial and error. If the soil does not drain well, you may want to cut the bottom completely off. If the soil drains very well, then you may prefer perforations.

The idea is that the water should slowly permeate the lower root zone without saturating the upper root zone. The longish neck of the wine bottle insures that the water level will never rise above the mouth of the wine bottle, which should be about two inches below the surface. Once the water reaches the mouth of the wine bottle, the water will stop feeding until the water recedes below that level by gradually soaking into the soil. The water will be fed automatically at a rate that will be just at the rate at which the earth can accept it. None of the water should reach the surface.

My wine bottles are filled from a rain barrel. Hold fingers over the wine bottle as you invert it over the plastic bottle so that you don’t lose too much water. There is no point to getting water on the surface and, in fact, there are good reasons not to. The surface is kept damp only when seedlings are first germinating or their roots are not long enough to reach the level of the neck of the inverted wine bottle. After that, irrigate only with the wine bottles.

I am hoping the advantages of this method are:

1. Cheap. A friend supplied me with plenty of empty wine bottles. The plastic bottles are typically the ones that single-serving juice came in. They have mouths wide enough to accept the wine bottles without being cut down.

2. Re-use bottles that would have been piled in a dump or re-cycled.

3. I believe less water will be needed to keep the garden hydrated because the water is not poured over the surface where most of it would either evaporate or run off. Instead, it is fed directly to the deep roots where it is most needed. The upper roots of the plant are more for oxygen absorption than water or nutrient absorption. This technique should reduce the likelihood of drowning the plants by over-watering.

4. I think the drier soil surface will discourage slugs. I understand that slugs like things nice and damp.

5. Other irrigation methods are more of a tear-up. More of the garden surface needs to be dug up. The burying of long drip pipes would need to be done before the garden is planted. The wine-bottle method could be implemented after the garden is growing.

6. The wine-bottle method seems ideally suited for cold frames where it is especially important not to get things too damp. The frame will have a cover to keep rain off. The wine bottles full of water could be kept in a warm place. When they are used, they will help to keep the root zone of the cold frame plants nice and warm. The bottles could be warmed on a sunny windowsill or in a solar oven.


If you try this wine-bottle technique for garden irrigation, I would like to learn of your results and what you think of the method.

fig 4

Published in: on November 6, 2006 at 9:46 pm  Comments (46)