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Listen to your Vegetables – They want Dirt Bottle Irrigation

If you only had access to water once a day and had to suck it out of the soil before it evaporated or soaked away, then you might be interested in thinking again about how gardens might be watered.

It is common for gardeners to invert bottles of water and stick them in the dirt to help keep water up to the plants. What we have done is work out how to refill these bottles automatically with a timer. “Dirt Bottle Irrigation” came out of some problems we had that are shared by many gardeners. Cracking clay, shortages of water and funding issues meant we had to develop a watering system out of “make do” components that best fitted our needs.

Here is a diagram of the latest system we have to fill in series rather than all in parallel. It does away with the need for open pots and the dirt bottles can be smaller if backed up with other storage bottles staked up in the bed.

Most tank watering systems need a pump but ours just has a timer with an old smoke detector battery, so we don’t drain the tank. The key is the pin holes and the dirt providing slow release of the water. The bottles and tubes can be covered with mulch once you are sure they are working correctly.


The earliest version of this system was recently recognised for its originality by making it into the top 4 finalists of the award shown and generating interest on

The Victorian Regional Achievement Awards are strongly supported by PRIME7, Bank of Melbourne and the Weekly Times and for our particular category of Environmental Sustainability, Parks Victoria “held out the carrot” of $2000.

The judges and organisers must have had fun and it is great idea to pool all the sponsorship for one great event celebrating the wonderful things happening in Regional Victoria. 25% of Victorians live in these areas and they are all affected by the environment and the lack of water.

“How we manage water, information, science and people is going to be critical to our local future.”

Waminda Community House’s Community Garden has decided to ‘lead the way’ and this project has proven that a bit of science and permaculture research can result in breakthroughs that open new possibilities for gardeners who are struggling with environmental, economic and social challenges.

Marylou Terry and Callum Morrison have worked together on local Environmental Health issues for many years and have enjoyed supporting the Waminda House Community Garden as a challenging project outside their day to day work. They travelled to Melbourne last week for the presentation of the awards.

Marylou Terry and Callum Morrison
Marylou Terry and Callum Morrison

We had to write a potential speech in case we won. We were ready to dedicate winning to the memory of the late Clyde Hughes who was an inspiration and added to the gardening knowledge for the project.

Marylou Terry

Despite the fact that we didn’t win outright, it was nice to get some Regional and State recognition for our work. We even got a card from Member for Indi Cathy McGowan and International feedback from as far away as Arizona.

Callum Morrison

We could not have done it without the collective motivation of many people and organisations the Waminda Community House, Permaculture and the Benalla Sustainable Future Group bring together.

Personally l can trace the origins of my inspiration back to my parents, grandparents, family, friends, work colleagues, media (particularly ABC radio and television) and numerous writers.

Callum Morrison

The good work goes on and we still have many great ideas and challenges to work through but this award finalist recognition could not have happened at a better time for all of us. Lots of new people have come on board at the Waminda House Community Garden with some great ideas.

The next project for Callum is completion of the “Chicken Rocket” that will be tested at home before launching at the Garden. This is bound to win awards.


– all this work is still very experimental and it may need further refining and adjustment and please take the appropriate safety precautions in the garden. Contact Waminda Community House at 19 Ballintine Street on (03) 5762 4528 if you would like to garden or learn more about this system.

– that in some places you need approval from authorities for chickens and building structures and some places do not allow roosters in built up areas.

– These articles contain research ideas and our local experience. Note that your circumstances, site risks, local public health issues with water quality and mosquito control issues may be very different. Check with local authorities if you are unsure and make the appropriate adjustments or take appropriate precautions to protect yourself and others from these local risks.

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