Three Easy, Low-Tech Ways to Keep Container Gardens Watered

Potted flowers and a citrus tree on a deck

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Container gardening is, in many ways, one of the easiest ways to grow flowers and edibles in your garden. You can take advantage of sunny areas, and it doesn't matter how awful (or nonexistent) your garden soil is, because you can fill your containers with perfect, fluffy soil. But watering can be a challenge, especially during hot, dry weather. Here are a few tips for keeping your container gardens happy.

Three Easy Ways to Water Container Gardens

The point of these three methods is to provide a steady, slow trickle of water to your container gardens. In hot, dry weather, containers often need to be watered twice a day. If you're going to be away from home, and are worried about your container gardens drying out, these methods can buy you some peace of mind.

1. Plastic Bottle Waterer
This idea, via Mr. Brown Thumb, is a great option for both container gardens and for watering individual plants in your garden. Simply poke a few holes in the bottom of a plastic water or soda bottle (I know many treehuggers don't buy bottled water or soda -- check your neighbor's recycling bin.) Add some stones to the bottom to keep the bottle from blowing away when it's empty, fill with water, and set it in your container. The bottle will slowly trickle water, and your plants will get a good, deep watering.

2. Plastic Bag Waterer
This is a method I came up with during a long dry spell earlier this year. It makes use of gently used zipper top bags or other plastic bags. It's based on the same principle as the above plastic bottle waterer, but since the bag is so flexible, you can fit the waterer in between plants a bit more easily. This is important if your plants have already started to fill in a bit and you can't fit a plastic bottle between them. You can reuse the bags over and over again, as needed.

3. Terra Cotta Pot Waterer
This idea is based on the old technique of burying unglazed terra cotta jugs (called ollas) in the garden, filling them with water, and letting them slowly release that water into the soil. For the container garden version, you do need to do a bit of planning ahead of time (so if you already have a container planted, this won't work for you.)

Simply get a small (3 to 4 inch) diameter unglazed terra cotta pot. Use clay to seal up the drainage hole in the bottom. Then, bury the pot in your container so that the rim of the pot is even with the surface of the surrounding potting soil. Then, when you want to water, simply fill the terra cotta pot, and it will slowly release the water, keeping your container garden soil moist. The video below shows this method in action in a garden -- just scale the size of your terra cotta pot down so it fits in your container.