Going on Vacation? 3 DIY Self Watering Ideas for the Garden

self watering ideas

If you are like most of us, sometime this summer you might want to leave town for a few days. Really inconvenient from the point of view of your container plants, but hey, we’re human! No need to hire the next door neighbors kid to creep into your back yard for thirty seconds each day to wet the soil surface and then run off to the mall. Here are some great DIY self watering ideas for your garden, so no matter how much fun you have on vaca, you don’t come back to a plant funeral.

 Number 1:

My personal fav – wine bottle watering. I have personally tested this one out folks. (I knew my love of red wine was good for something other than, well, my love of red wine!)

Rinse an empty wine bottle, (or other glass bottle with a narrow neck) and fill with water. Standing next to your planter, quickly turn over the bottle and push the neck down into the soil near the center of the planter. Make sure the neck is at least several inches underground. The water in the bottle will seep into the soil over several days, keeping the soil evenly moist. It works! Check out how ‘Lettuce Share‘ added some extra modifications (photo above) and made it even better.


Number 2:

This one is better for a larger container or planter, or even a delicate plant in ground that needs a more constant water supply. Rinse an empty two liter soda bottle. Cut the neck off so that the top opening can be easily filled with a hose. Or cut off the bottom and place the bottle upside down. The cut open bottom now becomes the “neck”. Punch or cut small holes randomly through the body of the bottle, as shown in the photo. Dig a hole big enough to bury the bottle in either the center of the planter, or right next to the root system of a plant that is in ground. Pack soil up to the open neck of the bottle. Fill the bottle with water from the top. The water will seep slowly through the holes in the bottle, into the soil. Being buried in the soil will help prevent too much evaporation. This method also promotes a deep root system.

self watering ideas

Number 3:

Use a commercially bought “cheat”… You can either purchase the “as seen on TV” Aqua Globes, or something like it, or you can use the wine bottle technique above with pop bottles by getting yourselves Nanny Stakes to insert the neck into. These give the weaker plastic bottle the strength to be pushed deep enough into the soil.

self watering ideas


self watering ideas nanny stakes

So go ahead, get outta town! These DIY self watering ideas for your garden will keep it all green and happy for your return!




  1. vera costa says:

    Love the ideas (and the argentinean Quara). Will try that this summer

  2. I really appreciate the wine bottle watering tip – tomorrow we are leaving for a week and up till now have been worried about my several pots of beautiful geraniums which are under the hot sun every afternoon. I have enough wine bottles to hopefully remedy my watering concerns, let’s hope the neighbors don’t notice! Thanks! Gloria

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      We use it every summer… and if they do, invite them over when you get back for a wine party! They won’t care after that! :)

  3. I love the idea but what keeps the water from coming out so fast when you turn the bottle upside down?

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      You just do it quickly… not much drips out by the time you get it into the soil, then the natural resistance of the soil slows the emptying of the water… Try it, it really works!

  4. how long does it take for the water to be completely gone?

  5. I have some orchids that I need to water slowly. Those Plant nanny things look great! Where could I find some of these?

  6. I just wander if a bottle with the top pierced won’t work……still sticking it into the soil upside down..

  7. I stumble upon these great ideas just on time for my trip! Love them! (also love your appreciation for argentinian wine!)

  8. I am having trouble with number 2. I am doing milk crate planters lines with thick felt and a bottle in the middle. I’ve mixed compost, potting soil a little bit of clay. The holes end about an inch from the bottom and there’s another 2 inches of dirt under the bottle.
    My problem is the water just leaks right out.
    I’ve tried a new bottle and punched holes with a sewing needle and packed the dirt very tightly around the bottle. Still leaks :(


    • Kathy Woodard says:

      Hi Mary,
      Im a little confused… The idea is to have the water leak out and keep the soil evenly moist… Once the soil is saturated with water, the water will seep out of the bottle slower because it has nothing to absorb it… Does that make sense? Are you doing the milk crates as temporary planters?

  9. You don’t need the plant nanny tops to water with a bottle this way. You do have to use a little coordination but if you quickly turn the filled bottle upside down & stick it into your soil, it will seep out slowly without the cap. I do this all the time to keep from having to water more than once a day in our very hot summers.

  10. Cami jones says:

    You can also fill up a shallow wadding pool. Set your potted plants in them for a few days while your out of town.

  11. OhSally says:

    I measured the distance between the 2 liter bottles I “planted” next to my tomato plants and put holes in a regular hose where each bottle would be. Using Rain Drip (watering system) attachments (the ones that are sharp on both ends and allow the water to flow through) I put holes in a regular hose where the holes lined up with one of the buried bottles, put the Rain Drip attachments into the holes and added 1/4″ tubing to the other end of the attachment. I measured 1/4″ tubing to make it long enough to go from the hose into the buried 2 liter bottle plus a few inches to stuff into the bottle so the water pressure wouldn’t push them out. Next, I put one piece tubing into the bottle. Now, all I have to do is turn on my faucet and all the bottles are filled automatically…no need to try and fill each bottle individually.

  12. Love #1 and will try #2 asap. Thanks for your tips.

  13. Very nice good idea for dry land farmers perpose.

  14. Caroline Jordan says:

    On idea number two what size should the holes be in the bottle? I don’t want the water to flow out too quickly.

    • Kathy Woodard says:

      I would think a wood punch or awl would be a good place to start… they look about the size of the diameter of a pencil to us, or a touch smaller!

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