Keep your potted plants hydrated all summer with a fully customized drip line. With the right parts, you can assemble it yourself on a weekend afternoon.

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You're leaving for summer vacation and realize you don't want to come home to scorched, dead flowers (or pay a plant sitter to come over to water). You can make your own irrigation system to water your container gardens from poly pipes and plastic piping parts from the hardware store. The best part is that you can customize your system to fit your garden's size and care needs, unlike store-bought systems that may require you to move your heavy containers. Follow these steps to create your own irrigation system for container gardens.

water irrigation staked plant blue ceramic container with
Credit: Matthew Clark

Supplies Needed

  • Two-way garden hose connector (1/2” faucet hose fitting)
  • Irrigation timer
  • Pressure regulator
  • Mainline drip irrigation hose (1/2” poly drip irrigation tubing)
  • Plant containers
  • Tape measure
  • Tape
  • PVC pipe cutting saw, or a PVC cutting tool (for cutting the poly tubing)
  • Poly tubing end cap
  • Hammer
  • Irrigation micro tubing (1/4” vinyl micro tubing)
  • Drip irrigation hole punch
  • Drip line connectors
  • Drip hose goof plugs (to patch holes that are mispunched)
  • Potting soil
  • Plants
  • Irrigation drippers with spikes, one for each pot
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Step-by-Step Instructions

You can opt to pick up the list of supplies from the hardware store, or use a pre-assembled drip irrigation kit ($42, The Home Depot). For a completely no-worry container garden, attach your drip line to a timer so you can just set it and forget it, which can be especially handy when you're on vacation.

Step 1: Attach 2-Way Garden Hose Connector to Outdoor Water Faucet

Attach the two-way garden hose connecter to the outside faucet. Attach an irrigation timer to one end of the hose connector. Secure the pressure regulator to the timer.

Step 2: Attach Poly Main Line Tubing to Hose Fitting

Push the tubing onto the hose fitting. Tighten the collar over the tubing.

Step 3: Design Tubing Layout

Lay out the tubing and pots to determine the design. Measure where each pot is and mark the tubing (you can use little pieces of tape to mark the tubing). Then, cut the end of the tubing and cap it. Anchor the tubing and hammer down the anchors for security.

Measure the length from the marked spots on the tubing to the spot where the drip head will be inside the pot (add a few extra inches to allow for slightly moving the pots if needed). 

Step 4: Install the Irrigation Tubing

Punch a hole in the mainline poly tubing using the drip irrigation hole punch at every spot you marked. If you punch a hole in the wrong spot, it's not the end of the world—that's what goof plugs are for. Attach a dripline connector first to the mainline tube, then attach the micro tubing drip hose onto the other end of the connector.

Step 5: Install Irrigation Drippers

Plug dripper heads into the open end of the micro tubing, and then put them in your container. Center the dripper head in each pot so that it's just to one side of where you plan to insert your plants (the dripper’s spike is sharp, so it’s easy to insert into the soil). Fill your containers with soil—making sure the tubing is buried under the soil. Then add your plants and enjoy.

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