A new approach to watering strawberry pots

I'm finally getting to some projects that don't involve cleaning or digging! I've had a couple of strawberry pots for several years, and always have trouble keeping them hydrated during the heat of the summer. Because of this they've sat unused for a couple of seasons now...

...but I've had an idea of how to solve this problem and am finally putting it to the test! I thought of this last year or the year before but other (bigger) projects were always higher priority. I still have a few big projects that I'll start on any day now, but with just an hour or so available last night this smaller one seemed the perfect size to tackle.


The problem is that once the soil in these pots dries out a bit any water poured into the top will run out the side planting holes, barely wetting the soil. So my idea was to sink a pipe into the soil that could be used to water the plants from the center. Luckily I have loads of scrap 3/4" pvc pipe laying around!

Step one is to cut the pipe to length so that it pokes a bit above the top of what will be the soil line in the pot:

Next, a wine cork fits snugly into the bottom end...

...because I don't want the water to run out of the bottom of the pipe...

...I want it to seep out of the drain holes that I drilled. I used a 1/8" drill bit (3mm) but that was just a guess -- a bit larger or smaller would probably be fine too. I put four rows of holes along the length of the pipe. Since I haven't done this before I didn't know how many to drill, so I just put them about 1.5" (4cm) apart.

Next start filling the pot with soil, making sure that you don't clog the pipe. Don't let the end of the pipe plug the pot's drainage hole either!

I've got a selection of herbs to plant here -- some of which are a bit thirsty:

Then it's just a matter of squeezing the plants into the holes and packing with soil. This will be a bit of a mess, but it's the nature of strawberry pots (or maybe I'm just a messy gardener).

And there you have it!

I was surprised at how quickly the pipe drained at first, but then it started slowing down -- I assume after the soil settled a bit.

What did I plant here? Garlic chives (looking very droopy), sweet basil, oregano, purple sage, 'Foxley' thyme, green onions, and in the top curry plant and lemon eucalyptus (and another basil).

Note that since I plan on putting this against the wall on the deck I didn't plant the three back holes. Instead I plugged those holes using flattish rocks of just the right size.

This will look much better once the plants reorient themselves. If I had planned a bit better I would have had these plants laying on their sides for a few days to get them turning in the right direction before planting.

I'll let you know how this watering method works once the warmth and dry weather returns -- it's going to be 42ºF (5ºC) tonight! I'm feeling pretty good about it though (the pipe, not the weather).


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Mark and Gaz  – (May 20, 2015 at 8:29 AM)  

Looking forward to seeing how you get on but in principle it makes perfect sense! Great idea to come up with!

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (May 20, 2015 at 5:47 PM)  

I'm glad you posted this. I've been doing this for years and it works great. I actually use three pipes, but my strawberry pot may be slighter larger than yours.

Lisa  – (May 20, 2015 at 9:48 PM)  

We've done this with soda bottles in the garden. Sink one with holes drilled in next to each tomato plant and you have a watering device. Like a clay olla basically, but not as classy!

Rock rose  – (May 20, 2015 at 10:13 PM)  

It will be interesting to see how this works out for you. I have several strawberry pots and have finally decided to plant them with succulent. So far that is working.

danger garden  – (May 21, 2015 at 12:18 AM)  

Very smart! My one and only strawberry pot is panted up with Agaves, making irrigation a non issue. However I just bought a second and I'm seriously thinking about herbs. I just might borrow this idea.

Alan  – (May 21, 2015 at 6:29 AM)  

Jenny and Loree: I've planted them with succulents before and still eventually have the same problem: the soil shrinks and there's no easy way to rehydrate it.

Gerhard: glad to hear it works! What size holes do you use, and how many of them per pipe? It probably isn't critical but I'm curious.

Gerhard Bock (Succulents and More)  – (May 21, 2015 at 11:02 AM)  

Alan, I got the tip from a friend. I have 12 holes per pipe in rows of three. I don't know what size drill bit I used, but they look about twice as large as yours.

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