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Make a bottle wick watering system

This year I’m growing tomatoes in big pots and tubs around the deck, for several reasons. It’s sunny and sheltered, I can keep an eye out for any bugs or care that’s needed, plus I’m running out of room in the actual garden beds.

Growing tomatoes in pots makes it easier to give them the conditions they need: lots of sun, support for the taller types and plenty of air circulation (to avoid fungal blights). But the challenge is to provide enough food and water. I use pots as big as I can get - the smaller the pot, the quicker it dries out. I’ve got plastic tubs of 20-50 litres, and some large terracotta pots. In hot weather, pots might still need watering daily, so I’m trying a bottle-wick watering system.

You will need:

A 50cm length of hose or vinyl tubing

Polypropylene or natural fibre rope that fits snugly inside the hose (1-2m length)

An empty 2-litre bottle

A craft knife


  • Wash new rope with detergent or soap, and let it dry
  • Using a piece of coat hanger wire as a hook, thread the rope wick through a piece of tubing or hose long enough to reach from the bottle to the plant container and 5cm into the soil
  • Use the knife to make a small hole in the bottle and poke the hose or tubing through, letting the wick hang down inside to reach the bottom of the bottle
  • In the bottom of the pot, add a drainage layer of pebbles/broken china Fill up to 1/3 of the pot with potting mix
  • Coil the loose end of the rope a couple of times around the pot (on the inside). Cut the rope to length as needed
  • Keep filling the pot with potting mix and plant the plant as usual.

Adapted with permission from David A. Bainbridge’s Gardening With Less Water


Simple DIY Irrigation –  Bottle wicks and buried pots

  • Kāpiti Community Centre, Monday 6 November, 10-12am
  • Matai Community Garden, Sunday 12 November, 1.30-3pm
  • Ōtaki College Community Garden, Tuesday 7 November, 2-3pm