Building A Low-Pressure Bucket Watering System - Watering Spikes

**If you are not interested in building a watering system - IFusion Technology sells Raised Garden Kits with a 1-gallon bucket, four spikes, hose, and connectors that have all the components needed.**

Happy Memorial Day! I am not an avid gardener.  I start out with enthusiasm, but end up killing my plants due to neglect and not watering them. To be fair, my measuring stick was my Grandpa Charlie who was an amazing organic gardener that had a magical garden.  Granted I was a small child, but still I have great memories sneaking strawberries from his garden. My parents are both really good gardeners and have this great terraced garden system going on these days. Not sure why this skill has not been passed on.   

I started my garden during the 2020 pandemic from seeds and built my watering system.  I would not call the garden as success by any stretch.  The watering system, however, is a keeper. I just set it up for this year.  

Here is how I build my low-pressure watering system using IFusion watering spikes.  By a low-pressure watering system, I mean that I don't use electric pumps and I am not connected by a garden hose to the house water.  I carry water over and fill the bucket as needed. What I show below is only one option using a 5-gallon bucket. You can use a rain barrel or smaller bucket depending on your needs and ambition!

The watering spikes are pushed into the soil and deliver water under the soil surface.  The roots of the plants get water directly as it needs it.  If you have never see how clay pot (olla pot) watering work - the spikes work in a similar way. I am (again) not an avid gardener and really hate weeding.  Reducing the amount of surface water = less weeds.  

I used a 5-gallon bucket available at any box hardware store. My bucket has a lid to keep leaves and bugs from clogging my hoses. If you want to capture rainwater by having the bucket open, you will need to use a screen over the bulkhead opening to keep your hoses clear. 

For this system, I used this bulkhead fitting for aquariums. This bulkhead was used for rain barrel watering systems. I purchased the 1/2" bulkhead that has a 3/4" inner diameter opening. The bulkhead had a 1 1/4" outer diameter, which I then cut into the side of the bucket.

**If I had to do this again, I would pick a different part to connect the hose to the bucket. See below for my thoughts.**

Bulkhead and tube connector

(the bulkhead is on top showing with the side that would be inside the bucket and the t-connector is on the bottom)

To connect the bucket to the hose, I used a 1/2" hose fitting with a t-adaptor; the t-adaptor size is a 3/16" inner diameter, which works for 1/4" diameter hose. You will also need a length of 1/2" hose. I used Rain Bird's 1/4" tubing. It is not easy to get the hose onto the barbs of the connectors. Warming up the hose in hot water helped. I recommend 1/4" PVC tubing (same as on the spikes) or a more flexible vinyl hose.  

Hose connectors are needed to attach your spikes to the water coming out of the bucket. A 1/4" t-connector is required (top), but you may also need a 1/4" straight connector (bottom) depending on your desired layout for your watering system. 

1/4" hose connectors

I had two arms of spikes that I wanted for my 4' x 4' raised garden, so I used eight (8) IFusion sells spikes with tubing already attached.

IFusion Spike with hose

I marked the 1 1/4" diameter opening I needed to cut into the side of the bucket. Choose a location towards the bottom of the bucket so you can make full use of the water inside the bucket. 

5-gallon bucket marked for bulkhead

You can cut through the bucket may different ways. I happen to have a drill and a 1/4" drill bit. I used the drill bit to make holes, which made cutting easier. A  hole saw the correct size would be even better. 

Drill with 1" drill bit

 (the bulkhead is shown with the side facing up that will be on the outside of the bucket)

drilled holes for bulkhead

After drilling my holes, I used a utility knife to cut out the remainder of the opening. 

Utility knife for bulkhead

(the bulkhead is shown with the side facing up that will be on the inside of the bucket. I was just not paying attention when I took pictures! Sorry!)

 **Please use caution when doing this step.  Make sure the bucket is stable (will not roll). Use proper technique when using a utility knife.**

Cut hole in bucket for bulkhead

 The bulkhead is in two parts. Unscrew the parts and place the male part outside the bucket and the female part on the inside of the bucket. Screw the parts back together. 

insert and screw on bulkhead

 

bulkhead inside

Screw the hose fitting adapter into the bulkhead. The t-part of this made screwing it in difficult. I used two wrenches (one on the hose fitting adapter and one on the bulkhead) to get the hose fitting adapter screwed in without busting off the t-part. 

Screw in hose connector into bulkhead

I made two different 'arms' of spikes coming out of the bucket with my hose and connectors.

Place your bucket above the surface of the soil. The height difference allows the water to leave the bucket and flow to the spikes without a pump or other assistance. I have the bottom of the bucket 12-18" above the soil. I established the location of the spikes before I put any plants into the raised bed.

Place bucked so that it is above the surface of the garden

 

Inserted and then plant the plants

If your hose connections are leaking (and you do not want them to leak), you can use a small piece of wire to secure the hose tighter to the connectors. 

Learnings and Modifications

I originally identified a bulkhead from what people used to connect rain barrels to watering systems. The bulkhead I originally used would be great for a garden hose, but taking it down as a connection for a 1/4" hose is not needed if you use other part that are available. 

If you look at the Raised Garden Kits, there is a smaller 1/4" bulkhead from Uniseal. That would combine the bulkhead and the connector into one piece that you just insert the 1/4" tubing. This has a smaller hole in the side of the bucket. 

Alternatively, I would use a plastic Hose Barb Fittings 1/4" Barb X 1/2" NPT Male Thread Adapter Connector Pipe Fitting. I am not sure the t-connector is needed for the bucket to function. The hose connectors are sold 10+ in one order, so you can use a hose connector to split the hose into two arms (or more) if needed. 

Please get your watering spikes here.

I have this list on Amazon for the parts I discuss above. I left out a 5-gallon bucket.  The 1/4" Uniseal bulkhead I have only been able to order from USP