Automatic watering @ APARTMENT while on vacation?

KyleGMarch 31, 2011

As a prefatory note, I am fairly new to container growing.

My wife and I live in an second-floor apartment with no water faucet/spigot/thing outside (but we do have a veranda of about 50 sq ft for plants and a couple chairs). We have some plants we need to water while we're gone. We are recent transplants to the area, so we don't have anyone we can ask to come do the watering while we're gone (for a week).

So I'm trying to figure out how best to water the plants while we're gone (a mixture of flowers like marigolds and fruits and veggies like carrots, scallions, jalapenos, etc.).

It seems every system I have found that is commercially available (and also affordable for a young couple growing a few plants for fun) connects to a water faucet outdoors. Our apartment does not have one of these.

Ideally, what I end up doing would be something we stick with, so I don't want "move the plants indoors, connect to indoor sink faucet" to be the solution here.

So any suggestions?

My current idea is to buy a 5-gallon bucket, fill it with water and seal it. Have a hole near the very bottom attached to a spigot, and connect one of those water timers you can buy for about $20 or $30 to it. Then run some hose from that to the plants.

That being said, I'm not sure how to get that hose to water all the plants evenly (I guess drill holes in the hose?) and a few other details.

To repeat myself, any suggestions? Preference is is for something cheap over long-term durability. An ugly rig is fine if that's what it takes. :)

Also, hello everyone, I'm new here!

PS I've also read about a "bathtub method" that I guess I could fall back on (put pots in bathtub, fill with some water (how much?), cover with plastic wrap), but I would love to build something that waters outdoor plants, too!

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

You don't say how long you to be gone, or how many containers to be watered, so it is hard to tell how big a water supply you will need. Your idea of a tank full of water to gravity water is quite doable. Drip emitters would water the amount needed for each container and a battery operated timer is cheap. Al

    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 9:32AM
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Hah, in all my yakking, I forgot the most important bits of info!

We'll be gone one week. (We currently live in central TX, where it's around 65-80 most days now).

We have 12 containers: 3 are one-gallon milk jugs with pepper plants (jalapeno or bell) in each, 3 are 2"x2"x3" containers with just one flower per plant, 2 are about 3"x3"x3" with a plant in each, 1 is 36"x12"x12" (scallions and carrots), 2 are about 6"x24"x8" with many flowers, and one is an 8" diameter round pot about 8" tall with a couple marigold plants.

I'd like to go get some bigger pots to transplant the peppers into before we go, because two of the jugs have multiple small plants growing inside that have just produced their first true leaves in the past week, but it wouldn't become more than 3-4 more pots and then zero milk jugs.

I am now aware that (1) we should have planted the peppers earlier and indoors so they'd germinate earlier; and (2) pepper plants do not like their roots disturbed, so transplanting isn't great. I did transplant one already in a weird and stupid way: I tried to carve out some soil with it to put it in its own pot. the soil fell away, and I was literally left with the plant and no soil in my hands. Nonetheless, I planted it in its own container, and now it's growing quite well. I lucked out, I guess!


    Bookmark   March 31, 2011 at 11:19AM
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OK, is this a good layout for such a system? I sketched something based on what I've read. I don't know if this will work. All the things I'm reading have pumps or at least a pressurized system behind it. This is way smaller and will rely on the bucket being elevated to generate pressure.

Do I even need the timer? And will a 5gal bucket last a week when I'm only watering about 10 small pots with mostly flowers and a few young pepper and carrot plants?


Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 12:42PM
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And since I'm just feeding the water from an isolated 5gal bucket, the backflow preventer wouldn't even be necessary, right? No risk of contaminating a water source via backflow, so that'd be about $10 saved.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2011 at 2:19PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

With a gravity system you will not need a pressure regulator or any backflow preventer, only a battery operated timer and a drip system with the appropriately sized emitters. Five gallons capacity is, if you will pardon the expression,"a drop in the bucket". Al

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 9:56AM
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Why not just use capillary matting?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 3:51PM
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If it were me, I'd probably move the pots inside, out of direct sun, group them close together, tent the group loosely with clear plastic... cheap painters drop cloth type plastic... water well right before I left for vacation... and they should be ok... unless any of the plants are already pot bound and thirsty.

I travel north to visit my children for about a week at a time, and I don't really do anything special for my houseplants. I water before leaving, and ensure the temperature isn't too warm. Of course, they're indoor plants.

I hope you find a good solution...

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 6:43PM
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hl42(7 NC)

We have a setup similar to your sketch. We use a small water fountain pump inside the bucket on a timer instead of gravity feed. This way we don't have to raise the bucket or worry about the water leaking out of the hole at the bottom of bucket. We use the drippers and stakes from a drip irrigation kit. I say set the whole thing up and test for a few days to make sure you have enough water. You may need to add more drippers in pots near the end of the line.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 7:34PM
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Thanks for all the comments! Now to address them:

1. capillary matting
I did not know this existed. I am looking into it, but it seems just putting everything in the bathtub with some water and covering with plastic may be easier.

2. small water pump
How much did you pay for the pump? I can't imagine it's that cheap, and that's our goal: cheap cheap cheap. :)

3. inside + clear plastic + water well = may be ideal solution.

I have sitting on our veranda a 5gal bucket (5gal seems to be enough for a week of absence: I don't even use but maybe 1/2gal per day when watering them), a 4ft tall table, a soaker hose, and a timer. I need to get a hose remnant today and can finish my contraption.

That being said, no alterations have been done to any of these things yet, so if I get some comments pointing out this won't work at all (or I discover it doesn't tonight) then I can return everything no harm no foul (may keep the timer, though, because I love gadgetry).

IF soaker hose doesn't work, I will put everything in the tub with a small layer of water and pray they live. Although really my prized things are the peppers, and they don't really need much water to survive, do they now?

Again, thanks for the comments so far!

(And curse Home Depot for not having flag emitters, which are apparently the type of emitters you need for low pressure drip irrigation systems�"this is the reason I've got a soaker hose now. Also it seems cheaper and since some plants are closer than 18" apart it seems better than emitters.)

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 2:23PM
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You can use regular drip line emitters in a low pressure system. I've done it before. The black 1/4" tubing with emitters every 6", 12", or 18".

Also to hook up your tubing to the reservoir, you can just drill a hole and make a homemade compression fitting. No need for extra couplings.

5 gallons probably isn't enough. You should record how many gallons your plants need a week when you hand water, then use a bucket twice as big. Maybe 20 gallon Brute trash can.

Use a stone grinding drill bit, to drill a hole big enough for a garden hose. (Stone grinding bit drills just a small hole at the end of the bit, but tapers up to about an inch width. So you can drill whatever size hole you want with it).

Cut off a small piece of garden hose, stick it in the bottom of the trash can, then attach a battery operated timer valve to it (about $45). Using connectors attach 1/4" line to your plants and put a spiral of 1/4" drip tube in each pot.

I had a 50 gallon reservoir that used a 1/4 tubing for a long time. No leakage. I have now tested 3/4" tubing into plastic buckets using just the drilled technique, no leaks. Fast and cheap to set up.

Good luck.

p.s. You can see some my pictures at:

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 1:56PM
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