Drip feeders are great for a variety of different vegetables, perennials and annuals. Many plants prefer the moisture at their roots instead of from overhead sprinklers which can encourage some leaf problems. There are many retail products available, but this Soda Bottle Drip Feeder makes use or recycled materials and works really well.
Soda Bottle Drip Feeder is a great DIY Project.
Watering from the root area instead of overhead encourages a plant to develop a healthy root system and prevents fungus and other problems that overhead watering encourages. You can, of course, use a retail drip feeder hose for the task, (affiliate link) but this handy DIY tip will help your plants and make watering an easy chore.
Just take a large 2 liter soda bottles (BPA free is best for this use on vegetables, but normal soda bottles are fine for flowers and shrubs), and use barbeque skewers to poke holes in them. (I’d use less holes than this image shows so that it would be a very slow release, but it depends on how dry your soil gets.) Chemicals: Be sure to click here to jump to the bottom of this post to see one of my reader’s tips for making this type of project with terra cotta pots, if you are nervous about plastics leeching out into vegetables.
Insert the soda bottle into the space next to the plant when it is young and leave the top off. Leave the top exposed. When it gets empty, just top it up from the hose.
This is a great image shared from a Russian Gardening page that demonstrates the project well.
Reader suggestions for this Soda Bottle Drip Feeder Project.
The popularity of this post has been amazing. It is extremely popular on Pinterest thanks, in a large part to this pin which has gone viral this week. Thank you to all the readers for the comments. Here are some of my favorite ways that readers of the page are using this idea in their gardens:
- Use rain water collected as the source of the water that you add to the bottle for extra pure watering source. (love this idea!)
- Placing the bottle in a nylon stocking keeps most of the dirt out of the bottle.
- Milk bottles are larger than liter bottles and will water for longer than soda bottles.
- Insert a funnel into the top of the open bottle to make watering easier. (this sometimes catches the rain too!)
- Freeze the water in the soda bottle drip feeder first. It makes it so much easier to poke the holes. Thanks for this tip Connie!
- Marla, a reader of the blog, inserted a water meter near the roots and says that there is still moisture after three days of non watering in 100 degree heat! Amazing to know, Marla!
- Sterling suggests cutting the top 2-1/2″ from the soda bottle, flipping it over and puting it back into the bottle that was left from cutting with the top removed. This way, the main part of the bottle still holds the water and the upside down top acts as the funnel. and little will be lost to evaporation. Great tip Sterling!
- Joyce suggests this: just cut the top off a smaller soda bottle & attach it as a funnel. Or use a 2nd bottle the same size, cut the top off & clip the screw-on part so it can be forced into the soaker bottle. These are all great ways if you have no funnel.
- Jennifer did this soda bottle drip feeder with milk jugs last year. She says “One thing no one told me was to put a hole/holes in the very bottom of the jug. All my holes were about an inch from the bottom so there was always an inch of water sitting in the jug. That inch of water grew algae and I lost 2 cucumber plants. Be sure to put some holes in bottom so it can all drain completely.” Great tip Jennifer!
- If you don’t like the idea of plastics near vegetables, this idea is great for other perennials that like watering such as Elephant’s ears, Canna Lilies, creeping Jenny and Ostrich Ferns.
- Bob says he tried the soda technique and found it labor intensive. Instead he suggests this: Use a piece of PVC pipe with a funnel at the top to fill the bottle. And mark the bottle tops with something that they stand out so to make it easier to find when you go looking. You may also want to add liquid fertilizer during the growing season as needed.
- Celesta suggests this: Try gluing your funnel into a convenient length of PVC pipe for your height. (affiliate link) This will save a lot of bending to get the water into the neck of the bottle. It also makes it easier to spot in the garden too!
- Jennifer suggests this tip for plants that do not like so much water. Poke a hole in the bottom fill and put cap on to adjust the rate of the drip(the tighter the cap the slower the flow) Jennifer also ties hers to the stake so they don’t blow away.
- Sitting water can attract mosquitoes. Jess suggests this tip: When she does this in her raised vegetable garden, she leaves the caps on and unscrew them as needed. Otherwise I get mosquitoes hanging around and tree seeds in them. It works amazingly well though. Tomatoes love it!
- Karla suggested this tip: Have smaller bottles filled with water to add to the opening so you don’t need a hose.
- Wayne has an interesting tip for moisture on Tomatoes in general. He suggests mixing sheet rock from remodeling works for those with clay soils. He suggests mixing it with straw. This helps break down and loosen clay bound soils. You can also add sand from rivers. This should improve soil conditions tremendously.
- Chrissy has a similar idea. She uses a 5 gallon pail, and drills holes all around and then she planted tomato plants all around it, and filled it with manure. Each time she filled the pail to water her tomatoes, the tomatoes received a healthy dose of poo stew. Chrissy ended up having massive tomato plants, and more tomatoes than she knew what to do with. Thanks for this tip, Chrissy, and I absolutely love the term “poo stew!”
If you have tried this soda bottle drip feeder and had success, please leave your tips in the comments below. I will update the article periodically with your ideas.
Note on the plastic bottles and chemicals forming.
Some of my readers have expressed concerns about the possibility of chemicals forming in plastic bottles and leaching out into the near by soil.
Belinda, a reader of the blog has a great tip as an alternative to this soda bottle drip feeder. She suggests doing a similar idea with 2 terra cotta pots (unglazed). Fill in the hole of one with waterproof caulking. Then, Iine the other make the hole a little bigger for easy watering. Then you just seal the wide end of the two together, and then bury them next to your plants, leaving the top hole uncovered. Belinda uses a shard from an old pot to cover the hole after watering – and a funnel helps to water. Because the terra cotta pots are not glazed, the water leaks out slowly. This idea takes more room in the garden than a bottle because it’s wider, but it is a great idea if you are concerned about the possibility of chemicals from the plastic bottles. You can adjust the pot size for the size of the plant you are growing and also how often you water.
Even inserting an unglazed terra cotta pot in the ground near plants will work, since the unglazed clay will allow the seepage of water out the sides of the pot.
I really appreciate this tip Belinda. Many readers have expressed concern about the possibility of plastics leeching chemicals and this gives them a great DIY alternative.
If you are looking for a similar idea that uses water from a glass bottle, try this Plant Nanny Wine Bottle Stake Set. (affiliate link) These nifty bottle holders are designed so that a recycled wine bottle rests securely inside; providing a ready supply of water. They are intended to water a large container plant.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."