Growing Water Bottles
Continuing with the gardening theme :
In addition to planting pots, I’ve also been planting plastic bottles.
These ones are for watering strawberry plants. I’ve got an established bed of strawberries (well, it’s one year old) and a new bed of strawberries, containing eight baby plants. In the latter, I actually planned what I did (for once in my life). So these bottles are nicely spaced out, one for every two plants, with water coming out evenly on each side – hopefully.
I poked holes down two sides of each bottle, using a red-hot pin (heated over a candle. I’m pretty low-tech). I also poked a couple of holes in the bottom of each bottle, to allow water to fully drain from them every time they’re filled up. Bottles are planted right way up, and the tops are cut off for ease of filling, but placed upside-down in the planted bottles to stop creepy-crawlies from setting up home and to reduce the amount of soil and debris that can fall in and start blocking up the holes. Up to now, they have been filled by watering can, but soon I will progress to using a hose to top them up – when the rain stops, the ground dries out and I connect a hosepipe to my new water tank!
In the older strawberry bed, I have some plants which were purchased and some plants which are ‘volunteers’ – children grown from runners sent out by the adult plants. So they’re rather scattered, and the planting of plastic bottles had to be equally higgledy-piggledy in order to try and distribute some water to every plant.
It’s not so pretty and organised, but hopefully these guys have a strong enough root system that each plant will be able to take advantage of a nearby bottle.
It’s rained a bit over the past few days, and it’s expected to rain on and off for the next week, so watering will not be on my to-do list. However, during a recent warm, dry spell, I was refilling the bottles every two days. The older plants seemed happy with this, but one of the baby plants started to go into a state of collapse one hot afternoon, so I took to giving all the babies a sprinkle on the surface every time I filled the bottles. Once this damp spell passes, I hope they won’t need assistance any more.
The proper name for this system is “vertical pipe irrigation.” The idea is that water is carried directly to the root area, so there is no wetting of the soil surface and consequently almost no loss due to evaporation. It’s usually associated with planting young trees in a dry area, but I think it will suit the strawberries. They can be very thirsty while they’re fruiting, but they don’t have a particularly deep root system. So far, the plants are looking very healthy, with plenty of flowers and a few berries already on the way so I’m quietly confident about this one. My one concern is our very hard water – I suspect the pin-holes will become bunged up with a deposit of lime. I guess it will depend on how much tap-water I use, as opposed to rain-water (3,000 litres stored as I type. Woohoo!).
A side benefit of this system is that it’s a way of re-purposing what were originally single-use plastic bottles. We’ve cut down our plastic consumption so much that we had to beg, borrow and steal bottles for this experiment.
I’m experimenting with a total of three ‘alternative’ irrigation systems. In my last post, I introduced the clay pot irrigation system, from which I’m expecting variable results depending on the individual pots. There is a huge “Hmmm” in my mind about that one, to be honest, and I suspect I may replace some of my cheap-o terracotta plant pots over the next few weeks. I may even choose to swap some out for plastic bottles. We’ll see. But the good news from the clay pot bed is that we have a couple of potato plants showing their little faces.
Finally, here’s a hint about the third irrigation system I’m trialling :
Anyone want to guess what’s going on here?
Next in series : The Third and Final Experimental Irrigation System
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