It’s a lovely thought to plant a pretty little garden around the mailbox. Of course, this is easier said than done for anyone who has a long driveway and no automatic sprinkler system covering the entire property.

Cutting bottle with utility knife

Use your utility knife to poke a line of small holes along the reservoir bottle.

Photo Credit: Clayton Landscaping, Gastonia, NC

Water reservoirs

Presenting state-of-the-art water reservoirs now ready for installation!

Photo Credit: Clayton Landscaping, Gastonia, NC

Reservoir in ground

Make sure the hole is deep enough to plant 90 percent of the bottle below the surface.

Photo Credit: Tammy Clayton

Installed water reservoir

The water reservoir is now installed and ready for action!

Photo Credit: Tammy Clayton

Such was the story with my bank manager friend. She wanted a pretty spot of color around her mailbox – about a quarter-mile away from her garden faucet. So my friend “Mary Money” purchased some plants and made her little garden, and a few weeks later I dropped by for a visit. And there was her new little planting – looking awfully parched.

Despite her valiant efforts, Mary Money’s garden suffered. Every evening she’d been dutifully hauling water down the driveway, but by the time she got to her garden, she was lucky if her buckets were half-full. So I suggested she try this little water-reservoir trick of mine, where you take old, plastic soda bottles and transform them into an underground watering system. It worked like a charm! Mary Money’s mailbox garden is very lovely and lush now, and most days the bottles aren’t even empty. If it worked for her, it can work for you, too. It’s easy, inexpensive and a great way to keep your garden looking great!

Start by looking around your house for the supplies:

  • 1- or 2-liter pop bottles with the caps (Empty laundry detergent bottles would work, too – biodegradable cleaners only, please. [The bigger sizes work especially well for larger plants like trees. The bigger the root system, the more reserved water you need to keep available.])
  • Rubber bands or ponytail holders
  • Old nylon hosiery or some weed-barrier fabric
  • A utility knife

First, start with a clean bottle – and leave the cap on. Using a sharp-tipped utility knife, poke a very small hole every inch up one side until you get close to the top. Then use the knife to cut off the bottom of the bottle as straight as you can. Next, cut both feet off a pair of old pantyhose and use them to cover the bottom of the bottle (or use a square of weed-barrier cloth). Secure this “filter” with a rubber band or ponytail holder. Your water reservoir is done!

Next, dig a hole next to the root-ball of your targeted plant. Make sure it’s deep enough to “plant” the bottle (bottom up) a little higher than the soil level. The mesh of old hosiery or weed-barrier fabric will filter out leaves, sticks and big chunks of soil that could otherwise wash into your reservoir and decrease its water-holding capacity. And when it rains or when you refill the reservoir, the bottle will easily take on its new water supply right to the brim.

When installing the bottle, make sure you aim the line of poked holes toward the roots. (If it’s difficult to see the line while planting, use a marker to trace over the line of holes so you can tell where it is.) Once your bottle’s planted and filled with water, the soil pressure will only allow the water inside to slowly drip out one hole at a time.

Most plants will require two or three reservoirs for best results. Big plants like trees may require as many as four or five. If time goes by and you think your first installation needs a little beefing up, it’s simple to add more bottles to your water-reservoir system.

Worried about how all those bottles will look sticking up out of your garden? Don’t be. It’s easy to disguise them beneath a layer of mulch. As long as the filter cover remains in place, you won’t have any problems. This handy watering system is something you can use in even the most formal and public of landscapes, and no one will ever know you have all those bottles in your garden! It’s a cheap, quick and easy way to keep even the beds farthest from your home happy and healthy, no matter what kind of weather heads your way. Even better – it’s one watering system everyone can afford! (Just ask Mary Money.)