Introduction: IcePop Drip Irrigation for Your Garden.

Picture of IcePop Drip Irrigation for Your Garden.

This little Instructable is for people that have very small gardens in an urban setting perhaps, the sort of plot you might find in a CSA garden. The kind of garden that used to be called a kitchen garden.

For example, I'm growing pumpkins in a non-traditional garden. It's located on the embankment of a town road that runs by my home. It's convenient for me. I get my mail, weed, water and generally check on the progress of my pumpkins every day.

Traditional watering methods are geared towards having a ready and large supply of water. This ready availability isn't always the case anymore.  I'm not going to drag a hose back and forth for twelve plants.

I've read that drip irrigation systems are better for the plants and better for the environment. With this in mind and my usual thrift (cheapness) I've designed a drip irrigation system that uses 100% recycled items and derives from power that I would be using anyway, my freezer.

If you think I've taken a bit long on the intro, not to worry. The "Instructable" its self is quick.  

Step 1: Freeze the Water Filled Bottle

Picture of Freeze the Water Filled  Bottle

This is pretty simple.  Freeze a one liter PET bottle of water.  Be sure to leave a space for the water to expand as it freezes so it won't burst inside your freezer.  Leave the label on or take it off.

Step 2: Preparing Other Items

Picture of Preparing Other Items

Complexity isn't one of my problems 8-D. The chip bag doesn't recycle in my area and the Broccoli rubber band is epic in my house as they get used for everything.  So, take the empty chip bag and slit it so that you have a flat sheet of mylar with advertising on one side and a plain silvery surface on the other. Wash any chip grease or debris off.  It's easier to handle and you wont' attract any ants.
The Broccoli band needs no prep.

Step 3: Wrap the Bottle

Picture of Wrap the Bottle

Roll the bottle up in the Mylar and put the rubber band around the neck area to secure it to the bottle.

Additional note- if you have packing peanuts or thin sheets of plastic foam or other insulating product (I don't recommend fiberglas for this) you might want to wrap that around the bottle first.   I'd squish the peanuts a bit so they are easier to handle.  The insulating properties will make the ice last longer.

Step 4: Place the Bottle Next to the Plant(s) to Be Irrigated

Picture of Place the Bottle Next to the Plant(s) to Be Irrigated

Since my garden is on sloped land the angle wasn't an issue but if you are working on level dirt then you'll want to prop the bottom of the bottle up a bit so that more of the water can leak out to the plant.
Loosen the cap so the water can leak / drip out.  This is the "Drip" in Drip Irrigation.  It's a bit fiddley trying to get it to drip the way you are pleased with but once it's adjusted you can leave it alone for the day.

Step 5: Enjoy Your Success

Picture of Enjoy Your Success

It's tempting to stand there and watch it work so indulge for a while but remember, you've done this so that watering wont' be so time consuming and fruitless.
I tend to not plant in rows but in bunches.  (It's that non-conformist streak in me sticking it to The Man).  
One of the benefits is that using this planting system I can use one bottle to water several plants at once.

No, I didn't plan that, it just worked out that way.  Bonus!

Step 6: Unexpected Bonus

Picture of Unexpected Bonus

This last image is late in the day and long after the ice had melted.  I had watered the other plants with jugs of water in a traditional manner, trickle and splash in other words.
What the image is showing is that the dirt where the ice bottle drip irrigation was place is still damp compared to the traditional watering method.
I have placed no amendments in the dirt to enhance it's water retaining ability. It would appear that this system has the ability to continue keeping the dirt moist for the entire day.      Yippee!

Step 7: Final Thoughts-

This is intended to use only re-cycleable items and this keeps it cheap and beneficial to most everything I can think of, your wallet, the environment, the plants etc.

Please don't think you can't substitute another product for one of mine- please change it up and make it yours-but if you could, please share your ideas with me/us.

Since this is made from what would be ordinarily rubbish there is a temptation to chuck it all when you are done.  Please do your best to put the parts in the appropriate places.  

Keep in mind that since these items do not degrade in our lifetime you could store them for the next growing season instead of tossing them out.


jturner29 (author)2014-05-04

Good idea. Although you might wanna see what drip irrigation actually is because although a good idea. This is not drip.

BobS (author)2010-07-14

Nice idea, but not environmentally friendly. It costs a rather large amount of energy to freeze a liter of water per plant per day...

marcintosh (author)BobS2010-07-15

BobS - thanks for sharing your concerns.  I appreciate your thinking about the impact on the environment and energy usage. To reply and justify my use of a freezer-

1) My fridge has an attached freezer. It's on top of the refrigerator portion of the machine and not a separate unit. My freezer is only half full at any given tim  . I can't change the settings for each portion independently. In less expensive units like mine, the freezer is cooled first and then the rest of the unit and finally the crispers. The freezer freezes full or empty, can't help that. I don't pack the freezer full of bottles and I don't reccommend that to anyone else either.

2) This was intended for small gardens with limited plantings.  Also please see the part about planting in bunches and not in a row formation.  This makes it possible to get the most benefit from each bottle and to be able to use fewer Garden IcePops.  Think "Container Gardening not "filling the root cellar" gardening, sort of a kitchen garden, a window box garden if you will.

3)  My tap water is quite chilly - about 55-58 degrees so a drop of 26 (or so) degrees isn't that wasteful to my way of thinking.

4)" to freeze a liter of water per plant per day..."  Please see the last image.  That bunch of pumpkin plants was still a bit damp the next morning after I took those pictures.  I was amazed.  If the everyday, everyday thing is worrisome then try it every other day or every third day.  The cooling water delivered over time reduces the dirts temp and soaks the dirt all of which enhances deeper root growth.  Lawn professionals advise that you water your lawn deeply once or twice a week, not lightly every day. This makes the roots dive deeper for the water.  I'm hoping for the same effect here with my silly Itty-Bitty Pumpkin Patch.

I also felt that it was more environmentally friendly to use wasted refrigeration cycles and a single liter of water (+,-) in a fully recycled container two or three times a week than to purchase a hose (manufactured on the other side of the world and transported to my local store)  to drag  across 150'  of yard to dribble water from a well across a ten foot garden area for and hour a day every day. 
It is the most environmental bang for the buck.
At least that's the way I looked at it. 

As always, your mileage may vary 8-D

BobCat (author)marcintosh2010-08-21

You are wasting large amounts of electricity. The freezer runs longer when liquid water needs to be frozen. That takes more energy and money.   

I know you mean well, but you simply have no grasp of physics if you think this is in any way environmentally friendly. It is in fact one of the worst ideas I have ever seen here.   

By the way, your freezer is actually set to 0-5 degrees   

so not only did you miscalculate the temperature drop, but you ignored   

it takes *at least* 50 watt-hours just to freeze 1 liter of water that is *already* at 32F. Just as a rough estimate, adding the 50F temperature drop, and because the efficiency is actually much lower, I'd say you are using several hundred watt-hours per bottle.   

Fill your bottles with water, pour them on *well mulched* plants, and save money and reduce your carbon footprint. Pumpkins don't need constant drip irrigation anyway.

MrOddjob (author)BobCat2012-10-28

I may be missing a trick here, but on the UK side of the pond, we get government pamphlets advising people on how to save energy. One of the things they advise is to keep the freezer as full as possible. An empty space in the freezer is wasting energy so keeping it full is more efficient. They also advise that failing anything else to put in there, stuff the empty space with newspaper!

marcintosh (author)BobCat2010-09-30

BobCat, It's taken me a while to get back at you. No apologies though. Your trolling commentary-“You are wasting large amounts of electricity.
"I know you mean well, but you simply have no grasp of physics if you think this is in any way environmentally friendly. It is in fact one of the worst ideas I have ever seen here."
are biting, to the point and patronizing. It’s the patronizing that’s most annoying. Well, that and the fact that you’ve ignored reality.

BobCat, you must have noticed that there are things known as "Ice Cube Trays" and that these items arrive in each and every new refrigerator and can be purchased independently of a refrigerator at many retail locations around the United States. There are also (if you can believe it) Automatic Ice Cube Makers that reside inside the more expensive refrigerators. Restaurants have machines that can produce tons yes, tons of ice each and every hour. Horrendous in scale don’t you agree?  As an aside- this is sarcasm. I’m not being patronizing. There is a huge difference.

So I have to ask you BobCat, why the hate? What have ice cubes done to you?
You see (and here is the crux of your lack of reality check) two trays of ice cubes from official ice cube trays are approx 1L of fluid. EACH cube is (+ -) 1 oz

it takes *at least* 50 watt-hours just to freeze 1 liter of water that is *already* at 32F. Just as a rough estimate, adding the 50F temperature drop, and because the efficiency is actually much lower, I'd say you are using several hundred watt-hours per bottle.

At this point in your patronizing comment your logic was fully off the rails cost wise and, well, any way you look at it, you had shot your bolt.

BobCat old chum, I think that -
#1 you failed to do a Reality Check before you posted your poorly researched comment. Really, think about what you wrote there. If this were truly the case, wouldn’t there be more discussion regarding the banning of Automatic ice cube makers by Green Peace or the Sierra Club?
#2 you are unnecessarily rude and patronizing with this comment.
#3 I think that you are no longer reading this because you have given up reading and are trying to write a reply full of justifications and hubris. (Look it up.)
#4 for the record it is you with the poor grasp of physics and, as stated prior, reality.
#5 it took me this long to reply as I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t be as rude as you. I’m not sure I made it though. Oh well. Please put me on your “Ignore” list. I think it’s best.
Best regards,


BobCat (author)marcintosh2010-10-01

It is too bad you do not wish to learn from my carefully researched comment. I was not being rude, I was being realistic.

If you unplug one of those stand-alone ice cube makers, you save 100% of the electricity. Do you agree that this is a fact?

Now, plug it in, make ice, and melt it outside. Do this over and over. How much electricity have you used? More than zero, obviously. Actually, quite a lot, and I calculated the amount for you.

Now, go ahead and be as upset as you want, it makes no difference, the universe works the way it works, and you simply do not understand its ways.

Oh, and your hubris will be followed by ate. Look it up. Nah, I'll do it for you.

zutcom (author)BobS2010-12-02

Oh, come on, now! Marcintosh's freezer is already on and I don't think that adding a dozen bottles into it will increase the freezer's power consumption. Think of it as power recycling: the freezing power would have been wasted on air, now it is used to freeze something that, in turn, creates life.

I think this is very environment-friendly.

marcintosh (author)zutcom2010-12-02

Thank you - Zutcom-A little bit of trolling going on here though. 
  For your edification, please read BobCat's entry. It's cute.  I wouldn't want to live next door to him though.
And for the record I have lifted this directly from the 'ible-
"This little Instructable is for people that have very small gardens in an urban setting perhaps"  AND THEN THERE'S
"I tend to not plant in rows but in bunches.-snip-
One of the benefits is that using this planting system I can use one bottle to water several plants at once"
So I got that going for me.  But you know, haters gonna hate.  Thanks for the support though I appreciate it.

BobCat (author)marcintosh2011-01-27

I notice you have once again thrown insults at me. There is a "Be Nice" policy here, and you are not being nice. So I have reported your comment.

Also, this instructable is wasteful of electricity, as I and others here have pointed out.

stellarstina (author)zutcom2011-01-21

I wonder how much of "global warming" is caused by people blowing hot air?

marcintosh (author)stellarstina2011-01-21

A lot. Instead of taking things for what their worth, some folks would rather rail senselessly and ad nauseam. The time spent trolling could be better spent volunteering at a charity or even trying to improooove an instructable. Sort of turned me off to posting ideas and projects.
I'm no shrinking violet and in fact I love a good roast but this isn't anything but simple-minded gainsay.
I did look for ways to develop an Ignore list but gave up.
Thank you for the support-I appreciate it

penandsword (author)2012-07-10

This is an excellent idea that I am definitely going to start doing with my plants. I am growing tomatoes and peppers in hanging buckets and when I water them the water just runs out the bottom onto the ground, not doing my plants any good! With the weather being between 90 - 105 every day in the summer, I would have to water them 2 or 3 times a day to keep them from drying out and wilting (which frankly I don't want to do).
Thanks for the tips. :D

scmtngirl (author)2010-07-14

This is incredibly clever. Ties into the totally intriguing idea of guerrilla gardening and making use of wasted public space. I might just need to try this in my neighborhood. Props!

kittywitty (author)scmtngirl2011-10-18

I agree... I need space for my goal of a giant pumpkin (500 pound type) and I might just borrow public space for it. And some of these watering instructables :)

marcintosh (author)kittywitty2011-10-19

If you lived closer I'd let you garden here. Heck for a 500 lb'er I'd be cool with growing it in the center of the lawn.
How cool would that be?

kittywitty (author)marcintosh2011-10-19

I have picky neighbors... one neighbor had a wonderful full size bronze ram in his front yard, and another neighbor petition to have it removed.

marcintosh (author)kittywitty2011-10-20

There's two ways to prevent that kind of thing.
#1) be threatening and ignore everyone else. Not much fun
#2) be inclusive and invite everyone to a breakfast or picnic or ice cream social sort of thing. Get on a committee with the person that doesn't like you and let them get to know you better. That usually works best.
OR your neighbor could just move or put up a fence.
Last winter I cleared my whole neighborhoods driveways of snow each time it snowed. Made some new friends and converted some skeptics so, I winned 8-D.
Good luck with the punkin' growin'. keep me updated, please.

marcintosh (author)scmtngirl2010-07-15

scmtngirl- thanks for commenting and the compliment -

I hadn't really thought about that aspect of gardening- guerilla gardening and all that. When I drive on a highway that has one of those 200' wide medians I'm always thinking of ways to put that dirt to use, so how did I just entirely overlook that aspect, pretty funny.

This started as a joke about this house being "The Pumpkin Atelier" and morphed into a public experiment on carefree / careless / brainless gardening. (Long story)  The dirt is road side fill. It's sandy with lots of weeds, rock and after years of snow plows there's a high salt content too. To plant them I kicked holes in the dirt and tossed some seeds in and covered them up. No counting, No hilling, No weeding just toss and go. To my surprise some managed to sprout. At that point I became more interested in their welfare 8-D

If I actually get some pumpkins I'll just give them to the little kids in the neighborhood. I've got nearly 20 flower buds on twelve plants so far. As long as no critters eat them for a snack I'll have a pumpkin for every kid. I mean really, what am I going to do with 20+ pumpkins? Have you ever tried to eat one of these things? Ugh!

At any rate, the Garden IcePops came about because it's been so humid with no rain and really hot for a few weeks now.  I didn't want to make a big deal of watering them but I didn't want them to have sprouted only to wither away.  It seemed like a nice compromise to use recycled items on these particular plants and since I'd never seen this anywhere else I thought I'd share the idea.

Guerilla gardening you say  .  .  .  that's funny.  I read about that in Mother Earth News and I admire those that make all that effort to make a statement.  I'm just trying to grow some pumpkins for kids and have some fun at the same time.


scmtngirl (author)marcintosh2010-07-16

Very interesting - thanks for the backgrounder. Maybe throw a circle of leftover chicken wire or welded wire around each plant just to discourage any animals from chowing down on them. I know that I would be incredibly disappointed to find them all gone one morning, even if it was minimal work to begin with!

marcintosh (author)scmtngirl2010-07-16

GREAT IDEA! Just last week I found some chain link left by a previous owner. It was headed for recycling but I think I can make it work.  Thanks for mentioning fencing.

Serendipity eh?

I know that I would be incredibly disappointed to find them all gone one morning, even if it was minimal work to begin with!

I really didn't care too much when I started but ,as people will, I began to make plans and now I've developed a level of concern about these silly pumpkins.
I have nothing else to be concerned about.  *sheesh*  *facepalm*

l8nite (author)2010-07-14

a small hole drilled in the cap works nicely to allow drippage, I haven't tried the freezing part b4. Im not sure that one liter is enough water for one squash plant a day let alone several

marcintosh (author)l8nite2010-07-15

Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.  To reply to your comments-

In the last image I've shown the difference between traditional watering and this type of drip irrigation. Regular watering has dried up hours before and left it as dry and hard as before I watered, the IcePop watered plants dirt is still moist. Mind you, i've made no amendments to the soil to improve it's water retention abilities.

"a small hole drilled in the cap works nicely to allow drippage" I like the hole idea- what size drill do you use? I didn't drill a hole because I wasn't sure what size I should use and the simple unscrew adjustment worked well enough for my needs.

"I haven't tried the freezing part b4" The frozen part is twofold concept- In humans cold water hydrates better- perhaps it's good for plants too. I know that warm or hot water will wilt a plant. Melting the frozen water is this systems method of flow control (as well as the cap) too.

"Im not sure that one liter is enough water for one squash plant a day let alone several." Before I was doing this they weren't getting any water so there's that to be considered. You could also bump it up to a two or three liter bottle if your conditions warrant more water.

kittywitty (author)marcintosh2011-10-18

With regard to human absorption of water:

1. Room temperature water makes more sense to me for human absorption (see link above).
2. Simply unscrewing the cap slightly will cause a minor leak.
3. The colder water is better in terms of slowing down evaporation.
4. Gardening rule of thumb is one inch of rainfall per week for 'normal' climate conditions.

Thank you for the instructable. Yours and others will help my plants out tremendously.

khuse (author)2011-08-18


I'll be investing in a small chest tyep freezer sometime soon, and I always use extra bottles of frozen water to make it more efficient; its easier to maintain your freezer's temperature if you have soething like that to fill the 'empty spaces', so someone else's over-analyzed assessment is their baliwick, not mine; let them stress over things that I know better about.

I container garden when I do garden; and this year, this would have worked out much better than the put one tote inside another system I used; it would have been MUCH more efficient and delivered much more water to the root system than the other methid. Once I get things set back up; recently moved to Texas where this method will work GREAT for me; I am going to use this method of watering my plants and know that they will have the water the need without it being wasted.

I will DEFINITELY use this idea as soon as I get things set up and get some small bottles to do this with; I will look around and find like 8 ounce bottles so I can use this idea for my houseplants, KUDOS! for this one!

arether (author)2010-11-20

This is great. I had a balcony garden this summer and had a heck of a time keeping it adequately watered. This would have been a nice way to keep up on it. I'll remember this for next year. Thank you!

fat64 (author)2010-07-21

This was a really cute tip! I think I am gonna do this since I am working most of the days and my garden is often dry again after a couple of hour in the sun. Perhaps use bigger bottles.. ^_^ Is the timespan for one day or longer (50cl pet)?

marcintosh (author)fat642010-07-21

Fat64 -Thanks for the comment and the questions.  It's great to see people have an interest.

my garden is often dry again after a couple of hour . . .
The effect lasted, for quite a while but I'd suggest using a bit of thin foam between the bottle and the mylar.  That might extend your melting time and yes a bigger bottle would most likely help.  I've used styro peanuts that I crushed but you could use a styro take-out box that you cut up.  Previously I had access to foam that came between sheets of printing materials (printing plates)  That was about 3/16ths or so.  If you had some foam core that was beat up you could use that as well I think.

Since you are gone for the day I'd suggest that you try it on a weekend day first.  That way you could keep track of it a bit better.  If in fact you felt you needed to keep track of this.  For me, it didn't matter and anything was better than what I was doing.

is the timespan for one day or longer? 
I'm not exactly sure what you mean here.  The images I used are from a single day, from about 10am to 4pm or so.  The water is dispensed slowly over time and as such, it soaks into the dirt as opposed to when I would just pour water around the plants for a minute or so.  I can't say with any accuracy when the ice melts or how long it lasts as I'm busy and forget to check on it's progress.  I can say for certain though that the ice is gone within very few hours (@ 90deg) if that long.

I think that covers it.  If not then by all means,  please try again.  Some days I'm better than on other days.

fat64 (author)marcintosh2010-08-17

Sorry for the delay, I am a slow user to Instructables. I tried it out on three 0.5 liter and they lasted very long time , it was wet til the next day at least, which were great for my chili/paprika plants outside. Sweden had some hot days and this was a fun little project to try out. Grateful for the elaborate reply you gave me. All the best to you!

marcintosh (author)fat642010-08-15

It depends on the amount of sun, how dry it's been, and the ambient temp among other things. So the best I could say is "It depends" which is a lousy answer but it's all I've got. So if there's any question about how long or how much, I'd try using it on the weekend to see how long it lasts or just use the biggest thing you have. I would certainly try to find a way to insulate the bottle a bit like wrapping it in day old newsprint or something like that. Does this help?

Rokko8652 (author)2010-08-14

I would possibly surround it with rocks, or secure it with two stakes and some string if you live in a windier area.

marcintosh (author)Rokko86522010-08-15

Capital Idea! I didn't have to be concerned about it blowing away because I'm downhill from the plants but, yeah, think about pinning it down so it doesn't blow away when it's empty. Jeeze that was a bit dopey on my part. I didn't even consider that - My apologies for the oversight and thanks for pointing this out - with solution.

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