This is a white sage plant that I put in the ground in late winter. We haven’t had much rain since then so I’ve needed to water it about once a month. Instead of using a watering can or a hose, I find that this drip-irrigation bucket is the best method.

In this post I’ll tell you why I sometimes prefer to water with this bucket, and then I’ll tell you how I make one.

Why water with a drip-irrigation bucket?

I could drag a hose down to the sage plant, but then I’d have to drag it back up the hill and coil it when done. Not only is carrying the bucket less work, but also with the bucket I can know how much water I’m delivering whereas it’s much more of a guessing game with the hose. Today, for example, I filled the bucket up a little over halfway so I know that I gave the sage about three gallons.

Further, I get to leave the bucket in place until it empties. With a hose I would have to stand there as I watered or leave and return to turn it off.

Compared to a watering can, the drip-irrigation bucket can have an advantage too. Take this pumpkin, for example, which is planted on a slope.

It would take a long time to water with a can slowly enough that the water didn’t run off down the hill. With the bucket I can adjust the dripper such that all the water slowly percolates into the soil next to the plant.

(You may notice that there’s a dripline under the pumpkin. Why am I not using that? If I did, then I’d be wasting water in that gap between the pumpkin and the broccoli.)

When not to water with the drip-irrigation bucket?

A watering can or hose is a better option for some plants though. For example, I use a watering can for very small vegetable plants that I recently put in. And I use a spot sprinkler or dripline connected to a hose to water large trees.

In general, the drip-irrigation bucket is my choice for medium size plants that don’t have access to my automatic irrigation system (yet).

How to make a drip-irrigation bucket

How I make a drip-irrigation bucket, in four steps, using these materials:

1. Drill a hole about an inch up from the bottom of the bucket with a 3/16-inch bit.

Locate the hole under where the bucket’s handle falls down, which makes it easier to carry. (Otherwise, the tube rubs your leg as you walk.)

2. Cut a piece of 1/4-inch polyethylene tubing to about a foot in length. Then cut an angle on one end.

3. With needle-nose pliers, pull the tube through the hole into the bucket. If necessary, drill the hole a little bigger to fit the tube in. But be careful not to drill too big or else the hole will leak.

4. Insert a shut-off valve into the end of the tube outside the bucket. This is your adjustable drip emitter.

Now in motion:

Here’s a bonus step that you might want to add. Put in an additional hole and tube on the opposite side of the bucket. This way you can apply water simultaneously in two spots on either side of a plant. This is especially useful for bigger plants.

You can, for example, apply four gallons in total to a plant by putting two gallons out of each of the tubes. This gives the larger plant a broader zone of wet soil to drink from.

Watering a grapevine with two emitters from a bucket.

I’m sure that every plant in your yard is watered by a dedicated emitter or sprinkler that is connected to an automatic system, but if you know anyone as unruly a gardener as me, then let them know about the help that can be found in this mobile drip-irrigation bucket.

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