When gardening in a low-water time (like the current drought in southern Ontario, or the major drought in California), not only plants, but the bees that pollinate them, need water. This waterer is simple to make and maintain. It provides water for bees when all the puddles have dried up without providing a habitat for mosquito eggs and larvae.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
The materials you need:
- glass pie plate for the base: this is readily found in thrift stores or garage sales. It is also easy to clean.
- plastic 1 liter bottle with cap: the cap keeps out debris and regulates the water flow
- clean sand for the base
- stones to set in the base for decor and to provide landing spots for bees. Most of the rocks should be flattish so that the bees can land on edge of them and lean in for sips of water.
If you don't have a sheltered place for the waterer, an inch of gravel larger than a quarter-inch but small enough to fit through the bottle's top will help stabilize it when water is low in the bottle and the wind is up.
The only tools you need are either a hand drill or power drill with a 1/16 inch drill bit.
Step 2: Set Up the Base
Start with a clean pie plate.
Scatter about an eighth inch of sand in the bottom of the pie plate.
Arrange some interesting rocks on the sand, leaving room for the bottle to rest on it.
Step 3: Drill the Water Feed Hole in the Bottom of the Bottle
Drill the narrow hole ( 1/16 inch) in the bottom of the bottle.
If you are using a hand drill, secure the bottle in a Work Mate or bench vise. You may need to make a starting scratch through the glossy exterior. Otherwise the drill may skitter across the bottle's bottom.
With a power drill, you can hold the bottle on a flat surface with one hand while running the drill with the other. Start slow to get the first bit of gloss removed, then increase speed to drill through.
Step 4: Determine the Cap Closure for Your Desired Water Drip
Put some water in the bottle. You will see a substantial flow with the cap off. If you set the bottle in the waterer like this, it will soon empty and overflow the waterer. Left standing, the deeper water will host mosquitoes.
Put the cap on the bottle and screw down tight. You will no longer see a steady flow, but only a slow drip.
Unscrew the cap until you get a drip rate that will keep the sand in your waterer moist (with a shallow layer on top). You will need a higher drip rate on hotter, drier days.
Step 5: Set Up the Waterer
Once you have a drip rate set, squeeze the bottle to moisten the sand. Release the squeeze to have the bottle just dripping (air is still entering through the looseness of the cap threads) and set it in the waterer.
If you are setting it in an open spot subject to breeze, you may want to put about an inch of quarter-inch or so gravel in the bottle to weight it so it won't blow over.
Depending on heat and air dryness, the 1 liter bottle supplies water to a 9 inch pie plate for up to a week. I check on it when I'm doing my plant watering, adding water if needed. I can also adjust the drip rate then.