There are many retail products available for watering plants at the roots, but this Soda Bottle Drip Feeder makes use or recycled materials and works really well.
Drip feeders are a great idea for vegetable gardening projects. Many plants prefer the moisture at their roots instead of from overhead sprinklers which can encourage some leaf problems.
Vegetable garden hacks are popular with budget friendly gardeners. After all, who doesn’t like to save money?
It is not just vegetables that will benefit from this project. If you love growing perennials, you will know that some of them really like even moisture in the soil. The drip feeder is perfect for that!
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, but this handy DIY tip will help your plants and make watering an easy chore at little to no cost.
Some plants, such as tomatoes will get leaf problems if most of the watering comes from above the plant so root watering is best.
To make this soda bottle drip feeder, just take 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 barbecue 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.)
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 website that no longer exists but it demonstrates the project well.
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 a while ago. It has been shared almost 680,000 times!
Rain water is a great source of free water. Collect in in rain barrels and you will have extra pure water to use for adding to the soda bottle drip feeder.
I love anything that can help our environment, and this gives the best water, is economical and will be near by when the drip feeder needs to be refilled.
If you don’t like the idea of using plastics near vegetables, use it for watering plants like Elephant’s Ears, Canna Lilies, creeping Jenny and Ostrich Ferns. They love a moist tropical environment and will grow beautifully.
Note on the plastic bottles and chemicals forming:
I have suggested using BPA free plastics to use this project for vegetables and saving normal plastics for flowering plants. If the idea of using plastics (even BPA-free ones) still makes you nervous, here is an alternative solution suggested by a reader, Belinda, using terracotta pots instead.
Drip Watering with Terra Cotta Pots
Belinda suggests doing a similar idea with 2 terracotta pots (un-glazed). To do this, just fill in the hole of one with waterproof caulking. Then, line 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 terracotta pots are not glazed, the water will leak 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 un-glazed terracotta pot in the ground near plants will work, since the un-glazed clay will allow the seepage of water out the sides of the pot.
These alternative projects give readers with concerns about chemicals leaching out a great DIY alternative.
Reader tips for using this Soda Bottle Drip Feeder Project.
Many of my readers have made this drip feeder and tested it and have come back with some great suggestions on how to best use it.
Thank you to all the readers for your comments. Here are some of my favorite ways that readers of the page are using this idea in their gardens:
- 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!
- Karla suggested this tip: Have smaller bottles filled with water to add to the opening so you don’t need a hose.
More reader suggested tips for drip feeders
Sterling suggests cutting the top 2-1/2″ from the soda bottle, flipping it over and putting 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!
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. 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.
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!”
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! Are mosquitoes a problem in your yard? Find out how to make a homemade mosquito repellent with essential oils, and learn about other mosquito repelling plants here.
Steve suggested using a large strawberry pot and to invert a bottle on the top. Plant in the pockets on the side and the inverted bottle will do the watering. This will work for smaller plants and make it much less time consuming than watering daily. He says he know it works since his plants are huge and blooming!
Sarah has tried this idea for years but finds it great for keeping her veggies watered but finds it time consuming for a lot of plants. This year she attached a hose the length of her tomato patch to her faucet then punched holes in the hose near each plant.
She then pushed flow-through Rain Drip adapters into the holes in the hose, and added a length of Rain Drip 1/4″ tubing to the end of each adapter. Finally, she put the length of tubing from the hose into each bottle.
Now, when she turns on the hose, the water flows from the faucet to the hose to the 1/4″ tubing and into the bottles deep watering ALL my tomatoes at once. It’s working GREAT!
Add your ideas for using this project in the comments below.
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.