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A "Redneck" irrigation hack for hard to reach plantings.

Since June 21st we have been officially in the Summer season. Around our neighborhood Summer is closely associated with oppressive heat and humidity. I have already noticed that this past June was hotter than average and with the high temps rain has not always fallen as expected.

Plants that were started this Spring are especially vulnerable to stress from high temperatures and drought. Spring plantings did not have the benefit of a cold dormant season to establish new roots before those roots are tasked with keeping up with the Texas sun. That can result in significant damage and even death in a very short amount of time. Keeping your new plants properly watered throughout their first season can be a real challenge.

Often folks think they are "watering" sufficiently when they spray their plants for a few seconds with a garden hose. This is not always good enough. The volume of water placed on the ground may be good, but if it runs off and does not soak into the root zone where the plant can access it then the water is basically wasted. I have heard many gardeners declare that they "don't know why their plant died", because they "watered it every day!".

One simple trick I discovered many years ago solves this problem effectively. It is NOT the most elegant solution, but it works like a charm at placing a precise amount of water directly into the root zone and at a pace that makes it available to the priority plant. This solution comes in several colors and many different sources and usually costs less than $5 including tax.

My solution?

A 5 gallon plastic bucket, an old wood screw, & a drill bit.

When I had plants that were too far away to reach with a garden hose, and the rain was not cooperating, I needed a solution for how I was going to prevent them from drying out. Bringing water in buckets was tedious, but theree was no easier option. However, dumping 5 gallons of water on a plant just resulted in 90% of the water running away down hill and the plants were still not getting enough. This is when I was inspired by a drip irrigation system I saw, and got the idea to drill a small hole just above the bottom of the bucket and let the water drip out slowly.

The "build":

1) Just about any bucket will do, but the 5 gallon, plastic variety are widely available and reasonably cheap.

2) Find an old wood screw or machine screw in the junk drawer to serve as a temporary plug.

3) Make two holes in the bucket using a drill bit of corresponding size, or just use a driver and run the screw itself into the bucket. You will need to place the first hole about 1/2" above the bottom of the bucket. The second hole can be placed about 1" below the top rim of the bucket. These holes do not need to be exact and it is actually best if they are just slightly wallowed out so that it is easy to thread the screw into the holes by hand - just not so large that the screw slips out of the hole.

4) The hole near the bottom of the bucket is where the water will drain slowly out of the bucket. The hole at the top is a "holder" for your screw while the bucket is emptying.

5) Install the screw in the bottom hole and fill the bucket with water.

6) Place the bucket where the hole will trickle water directly above the root zone of the plant you want watered and unscrew the hole.

7) Install the screw in the top hole for safe keeping while the water in the bucket gently drains.

It can take anywhere from 10 - 30 minutes for these buckets to fully drain and that is a good thing. That time gives the water an opportunity to soak deeply into the soil rather than running off horizontally and being wasted. When you come back to check on the bucket take note of how the ground is evenly wet in a wide circle around the bucket. This is exactly what you want for deep, even watering all the time.

It is recommended that most new plants get no less than 1" of water a week, but that volume can be difficult to gauge with a hand sprayer on a water hose or an automatic lawn sprinkler. I have found that 4-5 gallons of water a week placed tactically at the root zone with this "holey bucket" method is about 1,000 cubic inches of water; equivalent to a solid 1" of water in 7 square feet.

It may look like you left your tools in the yard, but a "holey bucket" is a great solution to the problem of remote watering, deep and even watering, and terrific at water conservation.

You are welcome. ;)

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