Watering Tomatoes Using a 2-liter Soda Bottle

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Many tomato growing enthusiasts will tell you the best way to water tomato plants is by watering deep. By watering the tomatoes deep you supply water and valuable nutrients right where the plant needs it the most – at the roots. Watering the soil and roots of the tomato plant can play a vital role in growing healthy tomatoes and help reduce the risks of some diseases, such as blights.

There are several ways to water tomatoes at the soil level, such as using a soaker hose, drip irrigation, or by simply watering around the plants with a watering can or water hose. Sometimes these systems can be cumbersome, time consuming, and very expensive. A frugal way to water your tomatoes is by using an old two-liter soda bottle.

Here’s how I use a 2-liter soda bottle to water my tomatoes where they need it most – at the roots.

Preparing The 2-liter Soda Bottle

I like to use an empty 2-liter soda bottle for watering my tomatoes, such as the Pepsi bottle in the picture below. Make sure the soda bottle has the screw-on lid.

Empty 2-liter Soda Bottle

Rinse the bottle out thoroughly to remove all the soda and sugar residue from inside the bottle. Once the bottle has been cleaned out, remove the label from the bottle.

Cleaned Soda Bottle

Now that the soda bottle has been cleaned and the label is removed, it’s time to drill a couple holes in the lid. I drill two holes in the lid using a cordless drill with a 3/32″ drill bit. You can also use a 1/8″ drill bit.

Drill Holes In Soda Bottle Lid

I drill only two 3/32″ holes in the lid of the soda bottle so the water will only come out at a slow trickle. If you drill too many holes the liquid may come rushing out too quickly, drill too few holes and it will take forever for the liquid to get to the plant roots.

You can take the lid off and fill the bottle halfway with water. Screw the lid back on and turn the bottle upside down to test it out. The water should come out at a slow trickle. With the bottle half full of water, it should take about 20 minutes to empty. If it empties too slow, simply drill another hole in the lid.

Two Drilled Holes In Soda Bottle

Once you have drilled the two holes into the lid of the soda bottle, it is time to cut the bottom off the bottle. Use a sharp pair of scissors to puncture a hole in the side of the bottle. You want to cut off approximately one-third of the bottom of the bottle off.
Puncture Side of Soda Bottle
Cut Bottom Third of Bottle Off

Once you have a hole punctured in the side of the bottle, use the scissors to cut the bottom one-third of the bottle off.

Finish Cutting Bottom Off Soda BottleWatering Bottle After Cutting Bottom Off

The old soda bottle is now a watering bottle and ready to begin watering your tomatoes at the roots. The bottom portion of the bottle can be used to start seedlings, so don’t throw it away. Simply drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage, fill with seed starting mix and use it to start some seeds.

The next step is to insert the watering bottle next to the tomato plant.

Inserting The Watering Bottle Next To The Tomato Plant

Tomato PlantThe watering bottle need to be inserted next to the tomato plant at an angle in order to supply water to the tomato plant at the root level. The best time to insert the watering bottle is when you are planting the tomatoes. Since my tomatoes were already planted a couple weeks ago, I will be inserting the watering bottle next to an established tomato plant.

The first thing you must do is pull the mulch away from the tomato plant where you will be inserting the watering bottle.

Pull Mulch Away From Tomato Plant

Once you have the mulch out of the way, I use my hand, or a garden trowel, to carefully dig a hole about four to six inches away from the stem of the tomato plant. Be very careful to not expose or accidentally hit the roots of the plant. Dig a hole that’s just big enough for the top of the watering bottle to fit in.

Dig Out Hole for Watering Bottle

You want to try to angle the hole towards the bottom of the tomato plant – where the roots will be after the plant grows and matures. Once you have finished digging the hole, insert the watering bottle in the hole with the lid facing down at a 30° to 45° angle.

Give the bottle a slight nudge to help push it into the soil a little, but again, be careful not to damage the plant roots. Push the soil from the hole around the bottle to help secure it in place and at the right angle.

Push Soil Around Bottle To Secure It

Finish Installing The Watering Bottle

Once you have the soil around the watering bottle to secure it, it should look something like the picture below. You can insert the watering bottle a little deeper if you like, but try to keep at least an inch of it above the soil level. This will help keep debris out of it and keep from clogging it up.

Finish Securing Watering Bottle

The next thing to do is replace the mulch around the tomato plant and fill your watering bottle up with water. You can fill the watering bottle with water, compost tea, or diluted fish emulsion.

In the pictures below, I’m filling the watering bottle with a combination of water, compost tea and fish emulsion. I would not recommend putting granule fertilizers in the watering bottle, they could clog it up.

Fill The Watering BottleFilled Watering Bottle

Now the liquid will slowly trickle out of the watering bottle supplying the tomato plant roots with a nice drink. You can also use these watering bottles for peppers, eggplant, squash and many other plants in your vegetable garden.

Watered Tomato Plant

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Comments

  1. This is a great idea. I’m getting ready to mulch my tomatoes so I will do this as I’m doing that. Why do you cut so much off the bottom? Why not leave as much as you possibly can? How often do you find you need to fill this during the week?

    Thanks for yet another inspiring post!
    .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..John Deere Ride On Gator updated Sun May 16 2010 7:23 pm CDT =-.

    • Hi Jackie! Thanks so much for the kind words!

      I cut about one-third off the bottom because it was difficult to bury so much of the bottle without getting into the roots of the tomato. Maybe I was just chicken to go any deeper ;) I tried using a whole bottle last year and it kept falling over from the weight of the water after I filled it. Plus, I like using the bottoms for a seed starting cup :)

      You can try not cutting off as much, but just bury it deeper. Experiment with it some and see what happens. Let me know how it works, too!

      Depending on how much rain I get, I typically fill it once a week this time of year. When we get into the hot, hazy days of summer I fill it three times a week. Again it depends on how much rain is received.

  2. I did it! I stole Hanna’s 2 liter bottles she’s been using for “bowling”. I found it pretty easy to cut right along the seem along the bottom ~ I think it ended up being about a third. :) Got them all in there and the first day I did it and filled them up it rained great guns that night lol. I think it’s going to be MUCH easier to keep up with during the hot days of summer, and will be much easier to water around the straw (mulch) and make sure they are really getting the water. Thanks for your great tips!
    .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..I Did It! I Finished the 72 Hour Challenge! =-.

    • Awesome Jackie Lee! I think you will find it much easier when watering your tomatoes or other plants. If you ever have questions please let me know :) Thank you for your comments!

  3. Just thought I’d stop back by to tell you the bottoms of the bottles also make for awesome sand castle building at the lake. :) (you know until you get ready to plant things in them next spring.) :)
    .-= Jackie Lee´s last blog ..Building Relationships and Community with Forums =-.

    • What a great idea Jackie! I never really thought about it but the shape of the bottom of the bottles does resemble the top of a castle. Maybe I’ll carry a couple with me to the beach this summer.

      Way to be creative ;)

      Thanks!

  4. This is such a great idea- I really lack a green thumb and am constantly looking for ways to feed my poor garden. I know its the middle of August, and been a virtual drought here in upstate NY this summer, but maybe I can salvage my tomatoes and still have a good crop with your soda bottle idea. :)

  5. During the hot 2010 St. Louis summer my best tomatoes started bursting open. Should I have put a shade over them? I kept them watered, but they kept bursting and then I got several with rotten bottoms. Fortunately I had many plants, so I am still enjoying the green ones ripening in my garage – and it’s almost Thanksgiving! Is there a list for the best tasting tomatoes? Thanks!

  6. I also plan to use the soda bottle next spring. Sounds easier.

  7. HI.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING SO GIVING OF YOURSELF.
    YOUR ARTICLE IS VERY WELL DONE,& I HAVE A LOT TO LEARN.
    WILL TRY TO REMEMBER TO GET BACK TO YOU WITH THE RESULTS OF MY ONGOING PROJECT. I DO PLAN ON HAVING FUN WITH IT.

  8. FarmGirl1971 says:

    The bursting of the tomatoes is from uneven watering. To keep them from doing this make sure you water the same amount at the same time of day….or use the 2 liter bottles and keep them filled. HTH :)

  9. If I am using the 2 liter bottle method for peppers as well can I use one bottle for two plants between the row?

    • Hi Aaron – Yes, you can use one bottle for two plants, but you would probably want those plants to be pretty close together; like 12 inches or less.

  10. I like your watering bottle. We have been using entire gallon milk jugs placed in the soil next to each tomato w/2 or 3 pin holes in the bottom. It works but it is a chore to bury them & then remove at the end of the season. I see we need to start drinking soda this winter. I make holes with an icepick after heating it over a flame. I don’t know why we still have an icepick in the house. I do have a drill though.

    • Hi Kitty – the milk jugs should work really well with your high temperatures. It is a pain installing them then digging them back out in the fall. You can also use those one gallon plastic flower pots that plants come in from the nursery if you have any of those laying around. You can also check with local nurseries to see if they have any that they might otherwise throw away. They may give you some for free.

  11. I just planted some of my tomatoe plants here in the Seattle, Wash. area. I’m keeping them under plastic cover until the weather gets a little more stable. I plan to use this soda bottle idea this year. My only additional advice is to stick a couple of round toothpicks in the holes in the lid while you get the bottle planted in the ground. This will prevent the holes from clogging with dirt. Once it is secure, remove the toothpicks by reaching inside the bottle.
    Thanks for all of your great ideas!

    • Hi Kathy – Your idea of sticking the toothpicks in the lid holes is fantastic! You are right, sometimes the holes can clog with soil. I did go back to a few of the bottles and add some rocks to the hole then replaced the bottle. The rocks helped to elevate the bottle a bit to prevent clogging.

      I like your toothpick idea much better. Thank you for sharing!

      • Hey Tee, You must remove the toothpicks after you get the bottle installed, but then I put small pea rock down next to the bottle lid, so once I removed the toothpics it would only have contact with the rock.
        This will help my plants in Florida where it gets so darned hot.
        BC

        • Hi Brad – Great point and an excellent solution! The holes in the lid can get clogged with soil if you try to push it into the hole. I have used larger rocks to hold the bottle above the soil a bit. It seems to work fine.

          Your idea of covering the hole with pea rocks is a great way to remedy the problem.

          Thanks so much for adding your ideas. I hope you find the bottles useful in your garden!

          • Tee. I think you should revise the original instructions above to INCLUDE the toothpicks and rock idea as not everyone will take the time to read all the comments down this page…

  12. Sarah W. says:

    I have 2 Topsy Turvy planters… can I use the 2 liter bottle to water the tomatoes with? And if so, how many times a day should I water them?
    I have been using a 1 gallon watering can with the holes in the spout cap.
    Last year my tomatoes developed bottom rot & didn’t get any.

    • Well, my mother had a topsy turvy which broke the arbor and fell down when it was over watered–too much weight. I felt bad because I gave it to her as a gift. But topsy turvy are great for people w/disabilities or short on garden space. Maybe u can use a smaller soda bottle like a 16 oz (pint).

      • Sarah W. says:

        Kitty,
        When using a 16 oz. pop bottle, how often should I water my tomatoes then? I have never had a problem with the planters pulling away from the eaves.

    • I would just first go by how long it takes to drain and how long until the soil becomes dry. The eaves are probably strong enough to hold the topsy turvy though. But I’d hate to see if it did pull away. Maybe just keep an eye out after a particularly heavy rain or watering session. My mothers took the arbor down but that was an arbor. Isn’t there a size that comes between 16 oz and the 2 liter? Can’t remember because I don’t buy soda very often.

      • Sarah W. says:

        Kitty,
        Thank you for your information. And yes there is a size between the 16 oz & the 2 liter, which is a 20 oz. ( 1.25 pt. ) I don’t buy pop that often either & when I do I buy in the cans.

  13. Hi Tee,
    I love your idea!!!! You are much more knowledgeable than I am so I have a few questions if you don’t mind. I am new to growing tomatoes and because I am new I have been watering my tomatoes daily from the top with a water hose and I do it late afternoon! I know now ( because I just read form 5 different sites) that this is BAD and this is probably why my leaves have holes in them and I know that this has probably caused pests and other horrible diseases. But is it to late to stop the pests and stop my bad watering cycle? I watered it from the top today again already. If you think it’s not to late to save my tomato plants – can I still use your 2 liter idea, when should I put the 2 liter bottle in the soil and when should I start to water again since I already soaked them from the top today. And do you think this will get rid of the pests biting my leaves or should I get worms to get rid of them? If so, what kind of worms? I don’t have mulch like yours but my soil is half organic compost / half potting soil, so it seems pretty well drained. And just so you know, my leaves are lighter green and my plants are about 7″ to 1 foot tall, with no flowers and I live in Austin, TX. Need lots of advice! Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Marchelle – I do recommend that you avoid watering from above if you can. Using these bottles will not necessarily stop the pests that are eating holes into the leaves. The holes could be coming from flea beetles possibly.

      First, let’s go over the watering of your tomatoes and using the bottles.

      You can install the bottles now, but you must be careful when digging out the hole for them. You do not want to damage the roots of the plant. If you are worried that you may damage the roots, simply run soaker hoses beside your plants. I recommend using the Gilmour flat soaker hoses. You can read about these soaker hoses here.

      Soaker hoses work well because they slowly soak the soil watering the plants where its need most, the roots. Plus, you can turn the soaker hoses on for 30 minutes to an hour and walk away, or do some other chore in the garden. You save a bunch of time not needing to stand over the plants with a water hose.

      I would also recommend putting a thick layer of mulch around your plants. You can use straw, dried grass clippings, bark mulch (not the dyed kind), or dried leaves. Mulch does several things – it insulates the soil, suppresses weeds, and most importantly conserves soil moisture. Mulch can be a life saver when it comes to keeping the soil moist.

      As for the pests, as long as it’s just a few holes and not a huge amount, I wouldn’t worry too much about them. If the holes starting getting worse, or bigger, then I would begin treating them somehow. Check the leaves closely, top and bottom, to see if you find any insects.

      I’m not sure about the worms you mentioned.

  14. That was a great article, thanks for the info on the 2 liter bottles.

  15. great idea. thxs 4 da info. i will let you know how my tomato plants are doing soon.

  16. Ellen Peavey says:

    Thanks for the information on the 2 liter bottles. I’m cutting them and putting them in each raised bed that I have. It is very hot here in north east Georgia ten day straight in the high 90′s.

  17. this sound good but what about the BPA problem? BPA is not safe or healthy. what add BPA to my healthy garden?

    • Hi Norman – Great question! To be honest with you I do not know if the bottles contain BPA or not. I would think that they do not since these bottles are used to store beverages, but I don’t know. I know some soda cans have BPA in the lining, but I’m not sure about the plastic bottles.

  18. I have seen this idea taken one step further, where aqua picks (floral spikes) have been used. A hole is punched in the cap of a soda bottle or any other bottle for that matter, and the floral spike is inserted in the hole. Then a small hole is drilled near the tip of the spike to drain water. This also saves the aggravation of cutting the bottle in half. Functions somewhat like aqua globes but doesn’t get clogged as much.

    Website is http://www.kahnlandscaping.com/blog.html.

  19. Brilliant idea. We tried this over the summer for our tomatoes when we had to go away for a few days every other week.

  20. You could use water or pop bottles (Whatever size you prefer) make the holes in the caps and thread a couple pieces of wool through them. Knot the end that is inside the cap so it doesn’t pull out. The wool will act as a wick and slowly let the water out. You can make the thread as long or short as you like and can also lay them right in with the roots while planting. I make a small hole in the bottom of my bottles and fill with a spout because larger bodies of water can attract mosquitoes to breed in and I react badly to their bites.

  21. Hi! thank you for this very helpful information! I have been extremely frustrated this year after spending a ton of time and money to build my first raised beds. I was so excited to get everything “up and running” with my soaker hoses and self-timer. Little did I know, most of the water has been running out of my garden and flooding my neighbors yard. This happens after my soaker hose has only been on for 2-3 minutes! We live in SC, so the dirt on the ground is clay, thus the reason why we built raised beds. My husband tried digging a big trench right at the base along our beds, so the water would fill up there, instead of going to our neighbors yard. Well, all that did was create a place for the water to stand (it is not soaking up at all and it’s been over 24 hours!). I am going to try your soda pop system and see if that helps. Any ideas on why my raised beds are doing this, after turning the soaker hose on for just a couple minutes? Why isn’t it holding water any better? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  22. Donielle says:

    Hi…do you think this would work also for plants to be watered while out of town? I am going to be gone for 4 days and have some plants that will need watered. Some are in pots, some are in the ground (Hydrangeas) and I usually water them by hand. This seems like it could work for that purpose too????

  23. Hi, just wanted to say, ur pop bottle idea is awsome. will definately try it this year. im growing tomatoes and a few other veg in a small 15 ft pollytunnel. Its now nearing june hear in UK and its cold windy and wet but my veg are thriving in the pollytunnel. thanks for the tips!

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