Introduction: Make a Hidden Christmas Tree Watering System

About: I am: * A frequent public speaker and writer on productivity, organization, motivation, and technology * President of Spears Technologies, Inc. * Author and instructor for Microsoft's SharePoint…
This easy-to-build system is disguised as a wrapped present under the Christmas tree. It allows easy refilling and can water your tree for several days if you are away from home.

There are many benefits to decorating with live Christmas trees, but the daily watering can become a bit of a hassle, especially if your tree stand is difficult to reach. It's also impossible to travel for any extended period of time without getting someone else to water your tree while you are gone. This system will eliminate both those problems.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:
- One live Christmas tree.
- One live Christmas tree stand. Although you can't see it in the pictures because of the tree skirt, I used a tree stand with a 1-gallon reservoir, 360-degree x 10-degree tilt with a foot locking mechanism. Any tree stand should work though.
- A bucket that's about as tall as the top of your tree stand. Any plastic container that holds more water than your tree stand should work though.
- A box with a lid. The box should be big enough that your bucket can fit inside it.
- Wrapping paper and bow for decorating the box.
- Approximately 4-feet of 3/8" plastic tubing. Other dimensions may work and you can go longer or shorter if you need, but 4-feet met my needs well.
- Two 3/8" Compression Couplings x 3/4" MIP Brass Adapters with nylon or plastic bushings for the compression couplings. It's important that the compression end be the same size as the outside diameter of your tubing, but the other end is unimportant. This will be used merely as a weight to keep the end of the tubing in the bottom of the reservoir and bucket.

Step 2: Decorate the Box

I already had a wrapped box with a removable lid that was just big enough to hold my bucket. There are several other excellent Instructables to help you with wrapping gifts, so I won't go into those details here. Suffice it to say that you want to make your box look as nice as you can. Decorate the lid separate from the box so the lid can be easily removed.

Step 3: Position Box and Bucket

Place your bucket or other plastic reservoir inside the decorated box and position it where it will be easy to access. You may be tempted to put it in the very back, but resist this temptation--you may discover that the very back may be nearly as difficult to reach as it was to crawl on the floor to fill up the Christmas tree stand's reservoir every day. Remember that you are building this to make the job easier, not harder. You spent a lot of effort to make sure the box was decorated nicely, so put it where your guests can see it--show it off!

Step 4: Install Brass Fittings on Plastic Tubing

The two brass fittings serve no other purpose than to weigh down the ends of the tubing to ensure one end stays in the bottom of the bucket and the other end stays in the bottom of the Christmas tree stand's reservoir.

Separate the components of the brass adapter. Slide the compression nut onto one end of the tubing, slide on a plastic or nylon bushing, and then insert the tubing into the the body of the coupling. Once the parts are positioned on the tubing in this order, you can tighten the nut onto the coupling. It's not necessary to make this an incredibly tight connection--it doesn't need to be water-tight, it just needs to be tight enough to keep the adapter from falling off accidentally. I recommend using plastic or nylon bushings instead of brass bushings as the brass may cut your tubing if you tighten it too much. Repeat this step for the other end of the tubing.

In the picture, the plastic bushing is turned the wrong way, but since it isn't necessary to create a water-tight seal here, it's no big deal.

Step 5: Start the Siphon

This is the most difficult step in the process. It's not incredibly difficult, but may be a bit frustrating at first.

Begin by filling the Christmas tree stand's reservoir about half-full with water. Then fill the bucket to a level that is no higher than the top of your Christmas tree stand's reservoir. Warning: It is important to make sure that neither the water level in the tree stand reservoir nor the bucket is ever at a height above the top edge of other container. If so, you may end up with a nasty mess on your hands. I'm not responsible for damage to flooring, carpet, Christmas gifts, furniture, or anything else that gets damaged through the use or misuse of this system!

Once both containers are half full, submerge your tubing assembly fully into the bucket. This will allow the tubing to fill with water. Once it is full, grab a brass fitting in each hand and place your index finger over each end of the tubing. This will allow you to move the tubing without any water pouring out. While you keep one end submerged in the bucket, place the other end in the tree stand. Do not remove your finger until the brass fitting is well submerged in the water in the tree stand. Once it is submerged, release your finger and push the end into the tree stand as deep as it will go--you want the brass fitting to be on the bottom of the tree stand's reservoir.

If you were successful in this step, you should have a working siphon system between the bucket and the reservoir in the tree stand. To test this, add some more water to the bucket. If the system is working properly, you should see the water level in the tree stand reservoir rise with the level of the water in the bucket. It will rise slowly, but you should see it rise. If the water levels don't change together, then you probably have air in the tubing. Try restarting the siphon again. You may able to tell if the tubing is full of water by pinching it. If you see any air bubbles or pockets in the tubing then this is a sign you don't have a working siphon.

Step 6: Make Sure Tubing Stays Securely in Place

It is very important to make sure the brass fittings and the end of the tubing is as close as possible to the bottom of the Christmas tree stand's reservoir and the bottom of the bucket. This will ensure that they siphoning effect continues. It will also make it more difficult for someone to accidentally knock it out of the reservoir. In our home, we don't have pets that climb in the tree nor small children who might be playing under the Christmas tree, so this isn't an issue in our house, but you will want to make sure the tubing is secure enough for your own household. Plastic wire-ties are a good option to secure the tubing to keep the tubing from pulling out of the reservoir.

In the picture here, you can just barely see the tubing going into the tree stand's reservoir. The entire length of tubing is very well camouflaged by the branches of the tree.

Warning: If you have small children or pets this may not be a good system for you. If the tube is ever pulled out of either the tree stand reservoir or your bucket, and allowed to rest at a lower point, such as on a package or the floor, the water in the other container will flow out until an equal level is reached. This could mean that you end up with 2-gallons of water on your floor. You've been warned!

Step 7: Put the Lid on the Box and Enjoy!

Now that you have everything working, the only thing left is to put the lid back on the box. You'll also need to rearrange any presents you moved while you were setting this up. If done properly, no one should be able to tell that there is a bucket of water under your Christmas tree nor a tube running from the decorative box to the Christmas tree stand's reservoir.

You'll want to check the system occasionally to make sure that it continues working properly for you. You may want to make a small mark on the side of the bucket each day so you can tell how much water your tree is consuming each day and you can determine how often you need to refill.

If your bucket is taller than your tree stand, it's also a good idea to make a mark on the side for maximum fill level, just to keep you from accidentally overflowing the tree stand.