Water Your Container Plants Spring, Summer, Fall – Without Lifting a Finger!

I haven’t watered my container plants in three months. And yet they are happy, healthy, and look spectacular. Even with the sun beating down on ‘em every day. What’s my secret? One word: irrigation.

Ok – so I fibbed a bit. While it is true that I myself haven’t watered my plants in many weeks, it is not true that the plants haven’t been watered. They have been watered twice a day without me lifting a finger. And the plants — and me — are much better off for it.

Like a lot of folks, I spend quite a bit of hard-earned money and well-spent love, energy, and time on container plants every year. I’ve got containers on my balcony, patio, and here and there in my garden. I work from home but still find that I can’t always water every morning and every evening. Enter: irrigation.

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Four reasons to try irrigation

  • Consistent watering = happy plants

On the occasion when I couldn’t water first thing due to an early morning call or out-of-house errand my plant friends suffered all day. A day of blazing sun is hard on any container-bound plant even if it gets an early evening drink. Irrigation fixes this problem. My plants are watered before I am even up and at ’em and, for those that need it, a second watering magically occurs. All this consistent watering means the plants get what they need every day.

  • Schlepp no more

I live in the top apartment of my 3-flat building and it’s a loooooong way down to the hose.

View from my third floor balcony showing the schlepp to the garden hose

For years, I filled up a gallon watering can four or five times in my kitchen and schlepped it over to my balcony to give the container garden a good drink once a day. Then I would schlepp downstairs to water. Irrigation fixes this problem. Install your system once, set your water timer, and you will never schlepp again.

  • Vacation without worry

An upcoming vacation is actually the reason why I started investigating irrigation. As a passionate gardener, the thought of coming back to decimated plants would pre-occupy my thoughts over many if not all days of a get-away meant to help me relax. Setting up an irrigation system fixed all of this. Now when I return from vacation there are a gazillion tomatoes ready to pick and eat. It’s like my tomato vine is saying, “to show my appreciation for this swell irrigation system I offer you this candy!” Win, win!

  • No more sprinkling in the night

We’ve all been there. We head out, turn on the sprinkler, come back inside, turn on Netflix, get a call from dear old mom, get the dishwasher going, feed the cat, yawn, and juuuuust as we are tucking in for the night – “Doh! I left the sprinkler on!” My friends, irrigation fixes this too.

The one drawback: laziness

My only complaint: I don’t interact as much with my plants. Watering plants by hand gives you a daily chance to nip problems in the bud (…), handle some quick weeding, and manage things like re-orienting a plant to give it more of a chance to thrive. Frankly, irrigation has made me lazy. Keeping potted plants happy May to September — I just couldn’t keep up the pace. So yes: I’ve become a lazy (though no less passionate!) gardener — and my plants are better off for it!

Don’t hesitate – irrigate! Here’s how:


Rain Bird DRIPPAILQ Drip Irrigation Repair and Expansion Kit


Rain Bird DRIPPAILQ Drip Irrigation Repair and Expansion Kit


Rain Bird DRIPPAILQ Drip Irrigation Repair and Expansion Kit

To start, I purchased a Raindrip R560DP Automatic Container and Hanging Baskets Kit. I went for this kit because it came with a water timer. The cost of the timer alone would have been around $30, so this kit, at about $38 delivered, was a no-brainer.

Just getting the water up to the third floor took about 25 feet of tubing.

I ended up expanding well beyond my initial specs over time to accommodate more containers and a few in-ground plants and so I needed a lot more tubing, drip heads, and other doo-dads. The extra stuff let me irrigate containers on my balcony, plus Earthboxes in my full sun garden, plus potted plants on my brick patio. So I also purchased the Rain Bird DRIPPAILQ Drip Irrigation Repair and Expansion Kit.

NOTE: I didn’t catch this when I placed the orders, but these kits are made by two different companies: Raindrip and Rain Bird. I have not had any problem using these together, the pieces look pretty much identical and fit together just fine.

Included in the Raindrip Kit is the Raindrip Kit is theRaindrip R675CT Analog 3-Dial Water Timer . I have a couple of these and they are super simple to use and work great.  But for my super duper irrigation system I needed three nozzles — one for the third floor balcony containers, one for the ground-level containers, and one for my garden hose for general watering needs so I purchased an Orbit 3-Outlet Programmable Hose Faucet Timer which has worked out great.

This Passionate Chump’s irrigation Set-up

  • Upstairs

For my eight balcony containers, which are rectangular with three plants in each, I used two half-gallon drip heads — {plant} + [drip head] + {plant} + [drip head] + {plant} — set to water for 10 minutes twice a day, once early morning and once early evening. These emit a half-gallon of water per hour. I figured out that the 10 minute mark was optimal by turning on the water and waiting for the containers to drip. Set it, forget it. (After putting together the balcony I had just four drip heads left in the Raindrip kit. Good thing I had my back-up Rain Bird bucket!)

Some of the happy annual plants enjoying the irrigation system I’ve installed in my balcony container garden
  • Downstairs

My Earthboxes and brick patio pots are all on the same tubing run which is about 50 feet of tubing. My Earthboxes are the first stop on this tubing run. (More about my Earthboxes here.) They each have a 2-gallon drip head. This run continues around to the other side of my yard where I have ten medium to large pots that each have a half-gallon drip head. I also have a 1-gallon drip head directed at a Jackmani clematis bringing the total number of drip heads on this run to 14. I set my water timer to run for an hour twice a day on this run. Done.

Go forth and irrigate!

My system took about an hour to set up and has been up and running for over a year now and so far, so good. It’s made it through a brutal Chicago summer, snowy Chicago winter, and is in service for a second summer with no issues.

Depending on your needs, you can get your irrigation system set up for under $40. You’ve probably spent twice that on plants. I definitely think what you get in the end – happy, healthy, always gorgeous plants – is worth the expense.

This Passionate Chump gives the Raindrip Kit, Rain Bird Kit, and Orbits 3-nozzle water timer a green-thumb’s up! Now: go forth and irrigate those container plants!

Have experience with irrigation in your garden? Leave a comment and tell us about it!


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