Watering & Irrigation

5 Hacks for Watering a Container Garden

Watering a container garden can be a little challenging. But we've got a few tricks that will make it easier.

There’s probably not a gardener among us who doesn’t have a few stories of the zucchini they overwatered or the tomatoes that cracked because they let it dry too much between waterings. Unlike vegetables in the ground or in a raised bed, the roots of your container veggies can’t search deeper or wider for moisture. Nor can the soil drain any faster than the container allows.

When you account for the different sizes and materials of containers, figuring out the specifics of watering a container garden isn’t so easy. I won’t even get into what happens when you leave town, and your friend offers to water the garden for you…(In case you’re wondering, we are still friends. That was a long time ago.)

Fortunately, we gardeners are a resourceful and creative bunch, and there are a few tricks that will help keep your container garden nice and watered so you can focus on enjoying the scent of fresh oregano and mint in the garden.

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Watering a container garden: 5 Easy ways that work

1. Plastic bottle. This one takes a little forethought, but it’s about as easy as could be. Grab an empty and clean plastic soda bottle and poke several holes in the bottom and around the sides of the container. Bury it up to the neck alongside your seedlings when you put them in containers. You can fill the bottle with water, which will then slowly drain into the soil. It’s similar to a drip irrigation system.

2. Use saucers under your containers. When excess water drains from a container, it has to go somewhere. If you have saucers under your plants, that excess water will gradually get reabsorbed through the drainage holes or create a little extra humidity around your vegetables.

3. Mulch. It works just as well for help in watering a container garden (or should I say, maintaining the moisture in a container garden) as it does for raised beds and in-ground gardens.

4. Take advantage of your air conditioner. You may have noticed all the condensation that comes from running your air conditioner. This water is perfect for watering a container garden. Depending on the AC unit you have, you could attach a drip irrigation hose to the AC or a basin set up to catch the condensation. You might find this is all the watering your container garden needs. An air conditioner can produce as much as 20 gallons of condensation/water every day.

5. Use a pencil. This is a classic for determining if your plant needs water. Simply insert a pencil about an inch into the soil. If it comes out with dirt on it, you’re good. If it comes out clean, it’s time to water.

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So whether you’re leaving town for a few days or just want a good way to conserve water, these hacks for watering a container garden are yours. Try them out, and let us know how it goes!

Do you have any tips for watering your container veggies and herbs? I’d love to read your ideas in the comments.

By Amanda MacArthur

Amanda MacArthur is Senior Editor & Producer for Food Gardening Network and GreenPrints. She is responsible for generating all daily content and managing distribution across web, email, and social. In her producer role, she plans, edits, and deploys all video content for guides, magazine issues, and daily tips. As a best-selling cookbook author, Amanda cooks using ingredients from her outdoor gardens in the summer and from her indoor hydroponic garden in the winter.

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