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What you need:
  • Capillary matting and a tray
  • Terra-cotta spikes (Terra Wicks)and 16- or 32-oz. soda bottles
  • Slo-Drip Bottle Tap, plastic tubing, and -gal. or 1-gal. milk jug
The most common way to water plants automatically is to allow the potting mix to wick water from a reservoir. A variety of materials can be used as a wick, including nylon rope, a shoelace, and a fabric called capillary matting. Capillary matting is most effective when used with plastic pots. Place the fabric in a tray and add only enough water to saturate the fabric. Then set the plant on the fabric, making sure the potting mix in the drainage hole is in contact with the fabric.
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Another way to wick water into potting mix is a terra-cotta spike. Attach one end to a recycled plastic bottle full of water. Push the pointed end into the mix. As the potting mix dries, water is drawn from the bottle through the terra-cotta spike.
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You can also water plants automatically using drip irrigation. The simplest and least expensive approach uses plastic spigots inserted in the sides of recycled plastic milk jugs. Plastic tubing carries the water to the plant. The water is delivered by gravity, so the base of the jug must sit above the surface of the potting mix of the plant being watered. Open the spigot to a slow drip.