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Water the garden while you're away (2016 update)

This is a method that I use in hot weather so that I don't have to water every day.  With the holiday season coming up, the hardest thing about going on holiday is leaving my garden, particularly in hot weather, as I worry that it will dry out and all my hard work will whither and die.  We pay someone to come and check on the animals, but as we use grey water for the garden, if we're not home, there's no water to use on it (and we're not going to waste our good drinking water!).

Some unusual plants popped up in our garden....

The solution came in a post from Emma at Craving Fresh.  She uses beer bottles full of water and pushed into the soil to keep it moist between watering.  I tried it the first time just before I knew I was going to be away for a few days.  Pete was going to be home, but not sure if he would get time to water, so I placed beer bottles full of water next to my favourite plants, just in case.  It was very hard to choose which plants received a beer bottle though, they are all so precious!  I set it up a couple of days before I went away so I could see how much water was used.  Some bottles were almost full the next day and others had drained a few centimeters.  I guess it just depends on the soil drainage.  I would recommend doing a trial run so you can assess your soil and see how the plants cope.

Since I first tried this method, I have found that its also useful for reducing the frequency of watering.  I can set this up as I'm watering one day, and then I don't have to come back and water for a few days as they plants are recieving a drip-feed of water from the bottles.  I have a stockpile of bottles as you can reuse them for a long time.  I place them around any new seedlings to make sure that they have moist soil as they are getting started.  I find that glass beer bottles work better than plastic as they are rigid, so the sides don't suck in at the water drains, this make them slower to drain (comparing pouring from a plastic bottle vs a glass bottle if they are both turned upside down, the bottle needs to gulp air to release the vacuum as the water leaves the bottle, the plastic bottle will empty more quickly).

How do you manage your garden while you're away?


  1. Good idea! I could see my hubby going for this one - an excuse to drink some beer (like he needs an excuse) and then he lends me the bottles. Win-win!

  2. Tried to leave a comment here yesterday but it disappeared??!! Anyways, I was saying the beer bottles are a good idea. You can buy those screw in devices to attach soft drink sized bottles to as well, which hold more water?

    Our wicking beds will be OK when we go away, as they have a good reservoir & we will fill them before we go. Might add shadecloth over some garden beds, and have been wanting drip irrigation for ages, so might finally have to get on to that one (we have the piping/ attachments & even a timer from the previous owners and when we get back, we can hook it up to rainwater tank instead). Our neighbour will come water for us, and hopefully harvest stuff to stop any rotting fruit/ veg piling up (he can take the produce home too!)

    It would be a shame to lose all our hard work for the season so far, for one hot week in peak season, wouldn't!! Good luck...

  3. My husband was also very keen to do his part when I told him I needed beer bottles for the garden!

    I'm going to be filling all the beer bottles up and placing them strategically around the place before we go on holiday. Hopefully it will be enough to tide the plants over, with a good spread of pea straw to help retain moisture in the soil.

  4. This is such a great tip We are going away for a week over Xmas so will give this a try in a few spots.

  5. Let me know how you go everyone! I'd like to know if it works for you and any other tips you have from your own experience. Dixiebelle is right, there are other bottle options, but I liked beer bottle idea because we had lots of beer bottles (well enough anyway, don't want to sound like a drunk). Also because its a rigid bottle, the water drains out slower (a flexible bottle is able to compress as the water drains, the rigid bottle needs to wait for the air to break the vacuum, sorry to get all engineering on you). Soft drink bottles would provide more water, but we don't drink soft drink, so its hard to get the bottles!

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  7. Thanks Liz, I have used plastic bottles but did not realise glass bottles released the water more slowly. I am currently trialing mixing coconut fibre - coir - into my mulch to see if this helps with retaining surface soil moisture. The coir holds water for longer and I mix it through my back fill soil when I am planting but this month has been the first time I have mixed the coir with mulch products.

  8. Very clever. We definitely need some solutions for our hot dry spells. I will give this a try.

  9. I have a little system I'm trialling at the moment, for setting up trees when first planted. I imagine it would work in a vegetable garden too. I'll write about it on my blog, one of these days. :)

  10. Hi Liz, thanks for the great tips, such an awesome idea. I was just wondering, sorry to sound a little behind here, but do you replace the bottle top and pierce it so the water can drip out or just leave it off altogether?

    1. Hi, good question! I take off the lid and jam the bottle quickly into the soil so that it forms a plug and can only drip out slowly. But if that didn't work for you, your suggestion of using the caps would also work :)


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