An automatic watering system for outdoor plants makes life easier, and saves you tons of time. It’s also very easy to install your own, and doesn’t take much time (it’s totally worth every second!). Follow these easy step-by-step instructions to install a DIY drip irrigation system for potted plants.
We have an area behind our house that gets full sun that I always thought would be perfect for growing, but it’s under the eaves of the house so it doesn’t get much water.
My husband put a few pots of peppers there last year, but watering all of those pots became a major chore in the heat of the summer. We had a drought last year, so we had to water these pots a few times a day. Not fun!
My husband told me he wanted to line the area with pots of peppers this year, so we decided to try adding a drip irrigation system to make watering container plants easy.
It turns out, putting in a DIY drip system for potted plants is just as easy as it was to add overhead sprinklers to our greenhouse.
Plus we had some of the poly tubing left over from that project, so we were able to use that for this project – bonus!
What Is A Drip Irrigation System?
Think of a drip irrigation system as an automatic watering system for pots and containers. It hooks right into your garden hose or spigot so when the water turns on, all of your pots will get watered at the same time.
You could turn the water on manually, or set it up on a automatic timer to create a self-watering system for potted plants (trust me, drip irrigation timers are totally worth it, and it’s not very expensive to buy yourself one!).
Benefits Of Installing DIY Drip Irrigation For Containers
Installing a drip water system for potted plants has lots of benefits to you, and to your plants. The main benefit is convenience, and let me tell you, an automatic drip irrigation system makes container gardening SO MUCH easier!
Not only do self-watering plant pots make your life easier, but it’s better for your plants too, and ensures they’re getting exactly the right amount of water.
Consistently watering plant pots not only keeps your plants happy and healthy, it also helps to prevent problems like blossom end rot.
Healthy plants have less problems with pests and diseases, and produce TONS more yummy food for us!? What’s not to love?
Drip Irrigation Kit For Potted Plants
Depending on how many pots you have in your container garden, a drip irrigation kit might be all you will need to install your entire potted plant irrigation system.
Drip irrigation kits are a great way to get started, and will include full instructions for setting everything up. Some kits even come with a timer.
But keep in mind that even when you start with a drip irrigation kit, you might still need to buy a few additional parts (for example, most kits don’t come with a pressure regulator). So be sure to read the details of what’s included in the kit.
Of course, you can also make your own custom drip irrigation system design, which is what we did for our setup since we already had the poly tubing and a few other parts to get us started.
DIY Drip Irrigation Supplies Needed
- Drip irrigation kit (if you want to use it to get you started)
- Mainline drip irrigation hose (1/2″ poly drip irrigation tubing)
- Drip irrigation backflow preventer
- Garden hose connector (1/2″ faucet hose fitting)
- Pressure regulator
- Poly tubing end cap
- Irrigation micro tubing (1/4″ vinyl micro tubing)
- Irrigation drippers with spikes, one for each pot (we used these 360 degree adjustable drippers)
- Drip irrigation hole punch
- Drip line connectors
- Drip irrigation spikes (1/2″ tubing stakes)
- Drip hose goof plugs (just in case)
- Garden watering timer for drip irrigation
- Garden hose splitter (optional, comes in handy if you want to hook up another hose to the same spigot)
- PVC pipe cutting saw or a PVC cutting tool (for cutting the poly tubing)
- Tape measure
How To Install Drip Irrigation For Potted Plants
Step 1: Attach connectors to faucet, hose or spigot – It’s easier to hook everything in if you attach the connectors to your hose or spigot first. So grab the backflow preventer, the pressure regulator, and the faucet hose fitting for this step.
Start by attaching the irrigation backflow preventer onto your hose or faucet spigot (it simply screws on). Next, you’ll attach the pressure regulator, and last the faucet hose fitting (this just screws on too – no tools needed!).
Basically you’ll end up chaining the garden hose attachments together, in this exact order (backflow preventer, pressure regulator, faucet hose fitting).
Step 2: Attach the 1/2″ poly tubing to the hose fitting – Take one end of your 1/2″ poly mainline tubing and push it into the open end of the faucet hose fitting. Once you’ve pushed it in, pull down the collar on the hose fitting piece, and tighten it to secure the tubing.
You might want to kink the tubing and turn on the water to make sure there’s no leaking at this point, otherwise you can wait to test everything later on in step 7.
Step 3: Figure out your drip irrigation system design – The next drip system installation step is to determine how far apart the drip heads will be, so you know exactly where to install the micro tubing.
Figuring out the drip irrigation design sounds hard, but it was actually really easy.
We simply laid out the pots where we wanted them to be, and then laid down the poly tubing hose in front of them (Tip: let the poly tubing sit in the sun for a while to warm up first, it’s easier to lay it flat when it’s warmed up).
Then we measured where each pot was, and marked the poly tubing where we needed to add the drip tube lines for each of the drippers.
Once we measured it all out, we cut the poly tubing at the very end using using our PVC cutting tool (you could use a PVC pipe cutting saw to cut the tubing instead), and caped the tube with the poly tubing end cap.
Step 4: Figure out how long the drip lines will be – Next we measured how long each piece of the micro tubing needed to be for the drip lines.
That’s simply the length from the spot you marked on the mainline poly tubing, up to the spot where the drip head will be inside the pot.
We added several extra inches to the length of each piece of the micro tubing so it would be loose enough to allow room for us to move the pots around a bit if we wanted to (which we have, and it works out really well).
Step 5: Install the irrigation micro tubing – It’s easy to add the drip lines (micro tubing) and the micro sprinkler heads.
For drip line installation you simply punch a hole in the mainline poly tubing (using the drip irrigation hole punch) where you want to add the micro tubing drip lines (these are the spots you marked on the tubing in step 3).
Don’t panic if you punch a hole in the wrong spot. I know that making a mistake isn’t ideal, but if you do end up punching a hole in the wrong spot… well, that’s why they make goof plugs! It’s good to have them on hand just in case.
Next you’ll attach the drip line connector first to the main line tube, then attach the micro tubing drip hose onto the other end of the connector.
Step 6: Install the irrigation drippers – Installing the dripper heads is super easy too. You basically just plug them into the open end of the micro tubing, and then put them into your container.
Our dripper micro heads came with spikes to hold them in place, so they stay where we put them.
We centered the micro heads in each of our pots, just to one side of the base of the plant(s). Be careful not to damage any tender roots or seedlings when your pushing the irrigation spikes into the soil though.
Step 7: Test out your irrigation setup – Before burying the poly tubing, test everything out to make sure it’s all working with no leaks. You definitely don’t want anything leaking.
At this point it’s also a good idea to adjust the drip heads. The tops of the heads twist so you can control the amount of water that comes out.
We adjusted each one to make sure they weren’t spraying outside the pots, and that they were all working correctly.
Step 8: Secure the poly tubing – Once everything was installed and tested, we secured the main line poly tubing into the ground with some 1/2″ drip irrigation tubing stakes.
The stakes clip onto the main line poly tubing, which makes securing the tubing easy. Then we simply buried the tubing in the mulch to give it a cleaner look.
Note, you can install your poly tubing behind your pots rather than in front of them like we did here.
That way, the micro tubing will run up the backs of the pots, and won’t be so obvious.
But it’ll work just fine either way. (We just installed ours in front to make it easier to take photos for you)
Step 9: Set the timer for automatic irrigation – Last, we set the timer on our hose garden watering timer to run on a schedule so we never have to worry about watering these pots again (which is especially nice for watering plants while we’re on vacation!).
Once your automated drip irrigation system is running, I recommend checking on your pots regularly to make sure they are getting the right amount of water. Then you can adjust your timer accordingly to get it just right.
We’ll turn the drip irrigation timer off when we get a lot of rain, and increase the length or how often the drippers run during dry periods.
Not only is this DIY drip irrigations system great so we don’t have to water these pots, but it makes it much easier to ensure our peppers and tomatoes are getting a consistent amount of water.
Hopefully this will help prevent blossom end rot, which was a problem for our container grown peppers last year. Drip irrigation systems are great for containers, as well as the garden.
I know it seems like there are a lot of steps involved with drip irrigation installation, but trust me it really is very easy to do! Believe me, if I can do it, anyone can!
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Share your tips and experiences for installing a DIY drip irrigation system in the comments section below.