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

Previous in series : We’re Growing Pot

4 thoughts on “Growing Water Bottles

  1. I didn’t think about the situation of growing under plastic. Plastic is everywhere in our planet now. If you eat clams or oysters, you’re ingesting microfibers of plastic that they sieved out of the water. I would not be surprised if we all have plastic somewhere in our guts. Here in the US many vegetables are now sold wrapped in plastic. Especially the English cucumbers-are they too tender for the mechanical handling? I don’t know. So much of it now is already in plastic bags. This serves to keep it from being contaminated but damn it, a paper bag would do just as well.

    As for slugs……….arrrggggh. The nasty little critters eat my flowers, my vegetable starts, etc. I don’t stomp on them, I stick them in a jar filled with ammonia…or sometimes, when I’m feeling especially aggravated, with salt water. The worst ones are the little brown ones. I’m told they were imported to America by a Frenchman who thought he’d make a killing selling escargot to Americans.
    Welllllllllllll, although I will admit to a liking for them when they’re cleaned,cooked and served properly, but all in all, we Yanks just don’t eat them. But I do l know after seeing the ravaging they do to a garden that there’s a Frenchman I’d seriously consider killing if I had a time machine……………………..
    Just to make you feel a LITTLE better, I live in the Pacific Northwest. We have half a million (welllll) different species of slugs…one is the banana slug.Look it up in Google images, as it won’t let me post a picture of one here. They get BIG. I’ve seen them as long as 6 inches.
    But…….they stay in the forest, where they should be.


  2. I had the same thoughts…the stuff leaching from the plastic bottles (i.e. PCBs, pthlates (spelling?)) might get into the berries, but…I’m not enough of a chemist to know or even probably bring it up.
    On the other hand, your idea of using them for a slow watering system is really quite ingenious. Do you have a problem with slugs? I don’t know if they’d be attracted to plain water, but you never can trust a slug (or a snail).
    All winter long I search them out and kill them but it doesn’t seem to matter, they’re still haunting my garden.

    You might want to try using glass bottles. I’m betting you don’t have any shortage of wine bottles in France (duh?). I think I remember a way of cutting a glass bottle in half…it involves tightly wrapping a wire around a bottle at the spot you want it to break and then heating the wire with a blow torch. Glass being brittle, it’s supposed to make a clean break. It’s been a long time since I saw any sort of information , I should probably google it before I go any further.

    As for the what my guess is, it appears to me that you have created a miniature green house/cloche, whatever, to allow a tender plant to get a jump on the growing season. That plastic must concentrate solar radiation (meaning..heat) and by the time the sun really decides that it’s growing season, your plants have already developed a strong root system and leaf growth.
    Am I right?
    I’d try it but if the raccoons and the deer didn’t knock them over first, I’d probably forget them until much too late.


    • The PCB fear raised by Sprocket is probably a genuine risk. HOWEVER… this is a trial system, I reckon it will only be in place for this summer. If it works, I’ll replace the plastic water bottles with something more permanent. I don’t see it working with glass bottles…. too much catastrophic risk, methinks. I may come to an arrangement with some guttering downpipes. We’ll see what this year brings before we get stuck into next year. Slugs & snails… far, far less of an issue here then in Ireland due to the dry summers. I think I’ll be able to keep on top of them with some judicious stomping. They broke my little heart in Ireland 😦
      As to your guess about the final photograph… the hint is “irrigation system”. My way of saying you’re way off the mark. Post on this coming up shortly!
      PS (editing to add this!) about plastics and their ghastly habit of leaching into soil. Think about the vegetables you buy – organic and non-organic. Many of them are started under sheets of allegedly bio-degradable plastic (it breaks down but oh-so-slowly so it stays in the soil for years at a time). Others are grown in plastic tunnels which stay in place for years and years. Chemicals leaching into the soil from plastic tunnels? Seems possible to me. So we’re probably all consuming way too many plasticky chemicals as it is. Not excusing my bottles in any way… just saying that nothing is pure these days. And it was nice to re-use them.


  3. Bravo for all your ingenuity. We are looking forward to strawberry shortcake or more. The only problem I see with plastic bottles is the chemicals etc. that the plastic is putting into the soil and eventually into your strawberry. We too are cutting down on our use of plastic. We purchased a Berkey(UK) water system for the kitchen to cut down on buying bottled water & plastic in the stuff that comes out of the faucet. We already have 3 separate water filters that water has to travel thru before it gets to the sink. The Berkey gets rid of all the impurities especially plastic residue. the water tastes remarkably fresh. You certainly can stop by for a taste test.


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