How to Save Water in Gardens and Small-holdings: the Scrooge Bottle.




Introduction: How to Save Water in Gardens and Small-holdings: the Scrooge Bottle.

About: The answer is lasers, now, what was the question? If you need help, feel free to contact me. Find me on Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter as @KitemanX

The world is warming. Resources are dwindling. Clean water is in short supply. Recycling is ever more important.

Inspired by a trip to the Eden Project in Cornwall, this is a neat trick to save water in your vegetable garden, especially plants growing in pots and troughs, which dry out more quickly. You can get specially-made ceramic widgets, but this is my version made from recycled materials.

I call it the Scrooge Bottle.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

For each plant or pot you want to water, you need a bottle, and something absorbent to fill it with, such as cotton wool, old socks or the off-cuts from your jeans.

No matter how many plants you want to water, you need a knife, a pin and a pair of pliers.

Step 2: Perforation

The water needs to get out of the sides your bottle, but the bottle isn't porous. Hold the pin firmly in the pliers, and have at the bottle. Please, try not to perforate your hand.

Step 3: Absorption

Now the bottle is riddled with holes, the water could pour out instead of just oozing slowly. The bottle needs something to slow down the water's exit. That's what the absorbent stuff is for.

You could use the knife to shred the fabric so that you can get it through the neck of the bottle, or you could cut the bottle in half and stuff the fabric in easily. When the bottle is stuffed, wedge it back together. You may find it easier to wedge the halves back together if you put a small cut in each half of the bottle so that you can scrunch them up slightly to fit together.

Step 4: Using the Bottle

The bottle's function is to get the water close to the roots of the plant and not waste it in the rest of the soil or to the atmosphere. The best way to do this is to plant the bottle close to the young plant, such as when you plant your seedlings out, with just the top of the bottle sticking out of the ground.

You water the plant by pouring water into the bottle. You can use a funnel or a watering can with a narrow spout. If you live somewhere particularly dry or hot, you can save the lid and replace it between waterings to stop evaporation.

As the plant grows, its root system will grow around the bottle, all the better to absorb the water, plus any nutrients you add. This may reduce the roots' ability to support the plant (because they're all bunched up around the bottle instead of spread out to catch "wild" water), so taller plants may need supporting somehow, possibly with canes or netting.

If your plant has a limited lifespan, the bottle can be dug up and used again, but you may want to wash or replace the fabric inside the bottle to prevent passing any infection from old to new plantings.



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    222 Discussions

    Back in the 70s when we had another big drought I learned to take a tin can, cut holes in the bottom (top removed), submerge it in the soil, and then fill it with water, which would seep out (more quickly than your idea) and reach the roots. I'm so glad to see some great idea on here about saving water! Thanks!

    And for small trees, I used plastic pails that a restaurant received food products in. The same concept - Put a hole in the bottom of the pail, make a shallow hole beside the tree when it is planted. Be sure that the small drip hole is next to the tree. The pails are easy to fill and will collect rain water as well.

    I use this system but I only put 1 hole in the bottle. Make a shallow hole beside the plant to set the bottle in - deep enough for the bottle to stay in place. Fill it with water. The water should drip out slowly and keep the soil moist around the roots of the plant. Sometimes it is necessary to enlarge the hole for water to drip out continuously.

    I wondered if filling the bottle wth sawdust would be an idea. I generate a lot of saw-dust. It would be easier to fill a bottle ( without cutting it ) than using torn-up clothing. When/if it gets yucky, you dump the contents into the compost bin!

    On larger plants, to add stability plant several bottle around the plant.

    Put some pieces of thicker water hose into which you have punched a hole with a thicker needle every 4-5 inches or so into the ground, some 8 inches apart and some 2 inches deep, and seal one of their ends with silicone (or bend it over itself and use some metal wire to tie the ends this way), so no water can drip out through the end. Let water slowly drip into the hoses.

    The reason why the hose has to have a larger diameter, say 3/4 inches or more: if smaller, the pressure along the entire length will not be uniform, causing less water to seep though at the bent/plugged end. Of course, you could address this by having successive pieces of hose laid out in opposite directions, but this makes the whole thing more complicated.

    The water will drip out through all the many small holes, but it will not wet the upper layer of soil, it will just slowly make its way deeper, where the plant roots are located. The upper layer of soil staying dry will also prevent weeds from sprouting, and, being dry, will not conduct the heat of the sun very well - both keeping the lower layers cooler and preventing water evaporation from the lower layers.

    True, it's probably more work, but it's the most efficient watering system I'm aware of. Just by looking at it, you'd say your whole garden is as dry as sawdust. If you stick your finger into the ground, you can already feel the moisture.

    In order to get the right amount of moisture into the soil, you need to experiment a bit, and probably not let water be pumped into the hoses all the time.

    Ive been using something similar for years in the vegetable garden with tomatoes which require adequate water. I use a 2 liter bottle, cut off the bottom. Bury it upside down (neck down) when I plant the plant. With the cap off. I place one between 2 plants. This waters the soil deeply-where the roots need to be encouraged to grow, while leaving the top dry. I also know, by filling the bottle, how much water the plants have been given. (I usually fill each bottle twice. start down the row, fill each bottle, go back and fill again.) It saves tons of water and effort.

    As a bonus, I found that the buried bottle was a preferred home for toads. They were shaded from the sun by the foliage and cool below ground level. They would hop out when I watered and then go back in. And I got free pest control from all the toads. At the end of the year I pull up the bottles, stack and reuse. I have also used large cans with the top and bottom cut out buried next to the plant. Not as good as the 2 liters, but will work if you are short.

    Using dryer lint is a super idea, my 9 lives!

    awesome idea. i'm going to put a few in my garden as i go away a lot. my only concern is that if the bottles are allowed to dry out the surrounding soil will dry out faster as there will be a large air pocket, killing the roots around it. so don't forget about them!!! i hope my housemate doesn't.

    I'm finally starting my own garden and want to use this but I'm a bit concerned about the absorbent material. Is there a risk of mold or fungus on the material and would that put the root system at risk? I really don't know about gardening so I being really cautious with it.

    1 reply

    Any mould that grows will (I think) have already been in the soil, so not an extra risk, but if you're worried, just leave it out.

    I've not needed it this year at all - despite a drought being declared, we've had more rain than we know what to with.

    Thank you for this awesome instructable. I would never have thought of anything like this and it will be very useful for my garden this year! I LOVE IT! My son will enjoy helping me with it too I hope!

    1 reply

    Kiteman! In arid agricultural regions in South Africa, farmers use linear drip irrigation techniques, very similar to what you are doing (locally). It basically involves low flow speed irrigation through thin plastic pipes that have very small (but precise openings) every few meters (yards). Entrenching such pipes should scale-up your idea nicely but would require a source of head (pressure) such as a raised water source, possibly a rain water storage tank? Save water, save the planet!

    3 replies

    A few people have suggested connecting a bunch of these to pipe-work - you could pour water in one end (from your rain butt or greywater tank) and water the whole lot.

    What a valuable comment! I'm working to get a community garden up - no water yet, but a fabulous idea attaching to our city, then catchment system. Thanks!

    I'm on this instructable to find an affordable way to to make an efficient, small home garden. Did not need the reams of climate change debate.