I tried 3 genius slow watering hacks in my garden – this one was the best by far

These tried-and-tested slow watering hacks will see you repurpose plastic bottles and flower pots to keep your garden thriving

A smart watering system set up in a veg plot at RHS Chelsea Flower Show
(Image credit: Heather Young/Future Publishing Ltd)

If your TikTok algorithm looks anything like mine, you will likely have been hit by a stream of slow watering hacks over the past few weeks. (Also, a myriad version of the Nicolas Cage Looking At Pedro Pascal meme – aka the Make Your Own Kind of Music meme – but that's neither here nor there).

But what is slow watering? How has it founds its way to the top of our overflowing list of garden ideas? And why are so many people taking the time to repurpose old recyclables into makeshift irrigation systems?

What are slow watering hacks?

You're going to hate me, but the clue's in the name with this easiest of easy garden ideas: the bevy of slow watering hacks appearing online aim to water your plants... slowly

tomatoes in pots in greenhouse on white shelving in greenhouse

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Why? Well, for three key reasons:

  • It's less wasteful
  • It gives plants plenty of time to take up water, as and when they need to
  • It helps a plant develop deep, vigorous roots
  • It can prevent those pesky plant diseases that spread in the splashes of water
  • It helps prevent overwatering
  • It can keep your plants happy and thriving during hot weather
  • It can keep your plant babies fed and watered, even when you've abandoned them for a holiday

An array of potted flowers and vegetables in a greenhouse at RHS Chelsea Flower Show

(Image credit: Heather Young/Future Publishing Ltd)

Basically, it's the cool way to water your plants. Go figure.

Slow watering hacks: tried and tested

Thankfully, if you don't have the funds for a smart irrigation system (like those spotted at Gardena stand at this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show above), there are plenty of ways to achieve the same effect with old bits and bobs you've got lying around the house.

To suss out the best viral slow-watering hacks, I decided to try them out for myself and see if they actually delivered the leafy verdant goods. 

1. The flowerpot method

This TikTok hack is beautifully simple: all you have to do is partially bury a flower pot next to a plant (in my case, the looming bamboo I've left sat in a pot while I figure out what to do with it), fill it with water, and voila.

A homemade slow watering device sat watering a potted plant

(Image credit: Kayleigh Dray/Future Publishing Ltd)

I tried this on a very hot day, which meant the soil was drier than usual and greedily gobbled up my water very quickly. To slow things down, I followed the advice of Christopher O'Donoghue at Gardens Revived and added a pebble barrier.

This, he says, will hopefully stop water from evaporating, as well as soak up excess droplets and release them more slowly.

Simple and effective, I'm very fond of this hack – not least of all because it gets the water down to the roots of the plant and helps to prevent the germination of weeds on the soil surface. Win win!

2. The bottle + two cotton buds method

More of a slow drip irrigation system, this TikTok hack is one of those clever garden upcycling ideas that promise to help you water your plants on autopilot.

All you have to do is poke two holes in an empty bottle: one in the lid, and one an inch from the bottom. 

Poke a cotton bud into each, fill it with water, and hey presto:

A homemade slow watering device sat watering a potted plant

(Image credit: Kayleigh Dray/Future Publishing Ltd)

This one was a lot more fiddly than the flowerpot method, and took a little more brute strength from me (who knew Robinsons' Fruit & Barley bottles were so impenetrable?). 

It was also hard to get the hole sized perfectly: it needs to be big enough to fit the cotton bud through, but not so big that water spills around the edges.

Once I got it all sussed, though, it proved the ideal solution for watering peonies in pots: these flowers need their soil kept moist throughout the summer, but not boggy. Drip-feeding them with this slow watering hack seems the best solution!

3. The bottle + stake method

If you only have one cotton bud spare, don't worry: there's a slow gardening hack for you, too.

Basically, you punch a hole in a bottle's lid, shove a cotton bud into it, fill it with water, and tighten the lid.

A homemade slow watering device sat watering a potted plant

(Image credit: Kayleigh Dray/Future Publishing Ltd)

Next, attach your bottle upside down to a stake (or a bamboo chopstick, or an obscenely purple metal straw, as I did). You can use string for this but, if you don't have any to hand, clingfilm works just as well.

Then, bury the stake into the pot and you have another clever hack to add to your list of must-try free garden ideas.

My potted mint was a huge fan of this hack, quite frankly. And I was a very big fan of the fact it stopped me from chucking more surplus plastic into my recycling bin, too.

My verdict

Of all of the slow watering hacks I tried, my favourite was by far the easy-peasy flower pot option. And it's one I'll definitely be using again and again on my fruit and veg throughout the summer, if only to work my way through the graveyard of throwaway plastic plant pots at the bottom of the garden.

Are you tempted to experiment with any of these nifty slow watering hacks for yourself? You could always decorate your plant pots and plastic bottles before using them, to add a little extra je ne sais quoi to the whole affair...

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.