Watering with 5 gallon buckets

I’m thinking ahead about watering my orchard this summer. 32 (and counting) trees/bushes.

Thinking of using 5 gallon buckets placed close by, with a small (1/16”?) hole in the bottom. I have a 275gal bulk tank I could fill at the house and drive around to fill the buckets.

Last year I used a garden hose from the tank to water individual plants, but it’s probably too fast application to really soak in, and takes forever to do properly. Would the buckets work better?

I’m thinking drill the hole near the side, and placing neat the base of the tree. Maybe swap sides every other watering.

Anybody doing this? Any tips?


I do this on a smaller scale with gallon milk jugs. It seems to work a lot better than just pouring water on them.

Start small on the holes you can always make them bigger.

Drill a hole in the lid also or it will form a vacuum and not drain.


Sounds like a good plan.

Seems like a good idea, but I would have a concern that the small holes may get plugged pretty often with detritus.

I used some gallon jugs and various wicking materials in my garden last year trying to find a way to keep my container plants from drying out. The plants would pull in the water as they needed it and if it rained it would be that much longer between refilling the jug. The drawback is the wick always had to stay wet or the capillary action would stop.

I was just watching a hazelnut video course and they put the hole on the side of the bucket, rather than right on the bottom. They also did not put a lid on. They also added a rock to the bottom to keep from blowing away.

52 minutes - 2022 Hazelnut Academy Session 4, 2-9-22 - YouTube


I’ve been doing this with my trees. The side of the bucket is the way to go. They do get plugged sometimes so you need to watch them. Also, the buckets can get brittle if they sit in the sun. So don’t expect more than a year or two out of them. I’ve been wondering about those smaller 15 gal plastic barrels you can sometimes find. That might be overkill though.

You can also drill a couple smaller holes at angles and it’ll make a fan pattern to water a bigger area.

And yes they definitely work better than a hose.


There are wicking or other spouts you can get to do this, or spikes that attach to bottom of buckets, I forgot where I saw them. If you have extra bits of irrigation tubing or emitters, you can rig your own solution. Just rig up your bucket with a spigot or a hose barb, and attach hose to where you want it. Emitter may not work without pressure, but I have both 1/8 hose sections, and emitters that work at any pressure. I also have brew buckets that came from ? so I don’t want to use them with food, but they have a spigot and fit hoses. I use them essentially like this- until I have plants in place to actually install my irrigation. You can also use a standard vinyl hose with washers and wingnuts to make a trickle valve out of. [You could buy this.]


This is so cool!
[You could buy this. ]
Has anyone tried this ??? . . . or something like it - with success?

I have done this, works fine. But as mentioned make sure the holes don’t clog up…I’d do several holes.

Another option would be to use a cotton wick, such as strips cut from a old bath towel. Won’t clog, don’t need to put a hole in the bucket. Flow is dependent on size of wick.
I have not used this outside . But has saved my “ house plants “
When on extended vacations .
( this is very good to know, a plant saver )
Best to set up a test run and test before leaving home.
I have just used various sizes of fabric (cotton ) strips a gallon jug or bigger bucket. Never bought anything special.
But here is a link to a product that explains the concept.

Should work outside with a bigger wick. ( that old …towel, old shirt, etc … laying over a bucket ,? Time to repurpose those rags ?

Instead of driving around filling 32 buckets… wouldnt it be easier to drill 32 holes in garden hose and tap into the 275 gallon tank? Or soaker hose?

Yah , many easier ways to do this .
I am not advocating the bucket wick system for outdoor irrigation,
Just adding to the discussion.
( it does work good for house plants on vacation)
For new plantings ,outside ,that need water …
I fill the big water tank in the back of truck . Start a siphon .
Fill a cooler with adult beverages, turn on AC , good tunes .
Rig up a hose on a stick out the window… and take a slow drive…
Life can be hard sometimes…
This is easy…

1 Like

Depends on where your trees are, and if you have hose that doesn’t get mowed. A bucket also guarantees 5 gallons of water to one tree, slowly. My bucket watering is for places I am not bothering to put a line, but they need drip for a season or two.
I remembered the other link, TreeIV. It’s a watering spike with bucket.

I have 20 trees, and I get by with junk garden hose that I leave in place all season.

Here’s a parts list:

  • Vacuum breaker. You need this at the hydrant so that fluid in the hose doesn’t run back out the weep hole there after the hydrant is shut off. This uses hydrant threads female-male.

  • Pressure reducer. You need this at the vacuum breaker to step-down the water pressure at the hydrant to 30psi. This uses hydrant threads female-male.

  • Quick couplers male-female. I use these on either side of the hose timer, so I can temporarily plug in hose sections for filling the sprayer. Or I can disconnect the timer for filling buckets as the need arises.

  • Battery-operated hose timer. This runs water for a maximum of 2-1/2 hours and shuts off automagically.

  • Junk garden hose. I use a single run from the first tree to the next to the next to the last. There’s a plug with female hydrant threads at the end of the line, of course.

  • Drip emitters. These have small barbs in and out. The in-barb sticks into the garden hose. These are rated at 2gal/hr at 30psi, so they’re good for 5gal over 2-1/2 hours. I use 40 emitters, so the pressure reducer needs to deliver 80gal/hr.


  • Punch tool. This makes a hole in the garden hose for the emitter barb. Pressing the emitter barb into the hose mostly forms a water-tight seal against 30psi.

  • Drip line. I place two emitters at each tree — one upstream and one downstream. These don’t need to be located exactly because I attach a drip line to the output barb on the emitter and run the drip to the exact place I want. Usually I tape the open end of the drip line to a slit in the plastic mulch.

  • Bug excluders. These are strainers placed in the open ends of the drip lines.

  • Irrometers. I install a deep one and shallow one under a tree in the middle of the orchard to measure soil moisture. I read them to know how often to start irrigation.



With this setup, irrigation is a matter of starting the hose timer every couple of days or as often as necessary. After that, everything is automatic. I live on a sand dune, but I don’t carry water to my trees.

Because the hose is pressurized during use, the hose can follow small changes in the elevation of the orchard without my worrying too much about overwatering the low-lying bits.

Seasonal maintenance is a matter of unfurling the hose after winter storage, replacing hose washers and quick-coupler gaskets, replacing broken emitters, and replacing missing drip line and bug excluders.

This arrangement would not be suitable for injecting any chemical fertilizer because it’s attached to the potable water supply. The risk of contamination is considerable.

1 Like