The holidays and summer mean travel for many people. As a homesteader, you’ve made arrangements for the chores and livestock. What about watering plants while away?
Keeping the best houseplants for clean air indoors means caring for them. I’m a gardener but like my grandmother, I don’t do well with indoor plants. So I need help with watering plants while away.
You can buy self-watering planters but it’s easier and cheaper to make your own system for watering plants while away. Most wall-mounted planters come with trays you can add water to and leave them for a while.
I do want to offer a word of caution, though. Not all plants like a steady water supply so know your plants’ watering needs. An Aloe Vera plant, for example, won’t appreciate staying moist all the time.
Another tip for you is to be sure the plant’s soil is already moist when you start your DIY system of watering plants while away. If the soil is dry, the plant will take up all the water you intended it to use for the time you’re away.
Most houseplants only need to be watered once a week or so depending on the indoor environment. You may be able to water them just as you leave and make it home before they suffer any damage. This is especially true if you’re going on a short trip. However, it’s better to plan for the unexpected traffic or airport delay or even weather which could delay your homecoming.
Simple Wick System
This system for watering plants while away will provide about a week’s worth of water for two medium-sized plants. If you have small plants, it will water four to five of them. If you have large plants, you’ll need a one-gallon jug for every two plants to have water for a week.
Place the jug between the plants. Make sure the jug isn’t in direct sunlight. Sunlight will heat the water and it will cause evaporation of the water from the jug which means less water for the plants.
You will need a piece of absorbent material like cotton fabric, cotton twine, or yarn. The idea is for it to be able to absorb water. Cut the piece of “wick” long enough to run from the bottom of the water jug and be buried at least three inches deep in the soil of the plant.
I recommend testing the system before you set it for all your plants. You want to be sure the wicking material you’re using will work well. Be sure the wick isn’t in direct sunlight because you’ll lose water that way too.
Once your wick is in place, fill the jug with water. It’s important for the mouth of the water jug to be just above the top of the planter. You may have to set it up on something but this will make it easier for the water to travel the wick to the plant soil.
Make sure that the mouth of the jug is above the base of the plant. If the jug is too low, put it on top of a book, a block, or an upturned pot to raise it up a little. This way, the water will be able to drip down the string. As the plant’s soil dries, water will move up the wick and into the thirsty soil.
Wine Bottle System
This system of watering plants while away is for individual pots. If you have small pots, you may want to use a smaller bottle like a beer bottle or soda bottle.
Add water to the bottle up to the neck. Put your thumb over the mouth of the bottle and turn it upside down. Push the bottle into the soil next to the plant, removing your thumb as you do it.
Be sure the neck of the bottle is completely in the soil. It doesn’t matter if the bottle leans a little so long as it’s stable. Watch to see if the water is draining. If it isn’t, then soil may have been pushed up into the neck of the bottle stopping it.
It should still release water as that soil gets wet, but it may not based on your potting soil composition. It’s a good idea, if it’s clogged, to take the bottle out to clean the dirt out and try again. Some people put small pieces of screen over the bottle mouth to prevent this from being an issue.
Plastic Bottle Drip System
If you have small plants, you may not have room in the pot to use this method of watering plants while away. You can use a smaller bottle if you like.
Using a nail or the tip of your utility scissors, make two small holes in the bottom of a two quart (two-liter) plastic bottle. These are your drain holes. Then make three small holes up one side of the bottle. These will be buried facing the plant so don’t space them out too far.
Dig a hole in the soil next to the plant deep enough to cover at least half of the bottle. If you have room to bury the bottle up to its neck, then do it.
Place the bottle in the hole and gently replace the soil around the bottle. Be careful not to drop dirt into the mouth of the bottle. I would suggest leaving the cap on until you’re finished replacing the soil.
Now, fill the bottle with water and replace the cap. Having the cap on the bottle slows down the water flow which is especially nice for plants which prefer to not keep their roots wet.
It’s a good idea to mark the water level of the bottle and check back in a couple of hours to see if it has gone down. If it hasn’t, try loosening the cap just a little to allow air exchange which will increase the water flow.
If it’s gone down a great deal, try tightening the cap to slow down the water flow. It may also be your holes are too big or too many.
This system of watering plants while away can be accomplished in any number of creative ways. You can buy clear plastic bags large enough to put the plant in, you can use clear plastic sheeting and make your own bag, or you can use the shower in combination with plastic sheeting. I’m sure you can come up with other ways as well.
The bags or plastic MUST be clear to allow light in. The premise is simple, you want to create an environment which traps plant respirations causing condensation. This condensation drips down and is used to water the plant. This is the best system if you plan an extended trip like a month or more.
Be sure the greenhouse isn’t in direct sunlight, this would increase the heat inside and kill the plants. It’s a good idea to leave a light on for them if you can.
Be sure to not overcrowd the bag. Place just enough plants inside so that their leaves are just touching.
One last tip, be sure the mouth of the bag is secured with a tie of some kind to keep air and moisture from escaping. You can use string, a rubber band, zip ties or twine.
If you use a bag, place a damp towel in the bottom of it. Water your plants and set them on top of the towel and tie up the bag. If you use plastic sheeting. Lay the sheeting out, place a towel in the center, water the plants and place them on the towel. Then, draw the plastic sheeting up around the plants and secure it with string, a rubber band or even a zip tie.
To use your shower for plants too large for bags, line the tub or shower with plastic sheeting and set up as directed above except you don’t have to tie the plastic around them. Close the shower curtain or door and close the bathroom door.
When you’ve set up your system for watering plants while away, you’re ready to travel and enjoy your trip without worrying about your plants dying.
Do you have another DIY idea for watering plants while away from home? Please share your experience with us in the comments below.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack