Three Easy Ways To Water A Garden Without A Hose

There are several reasons you may want to water your garden without using a hose. You may not have access to an outdoor water hook-up, or maybe you’re dismayed at how much water gets wasted when you water from a hose. You could also be wondering how to make your garden more self reliant by eliminating the need for the city water supply. There are solutions! I’ve compiled a list of options based on what has worked best for me and my garden.

1. Watering From The Bottom – Container Gardening

Watering from the bottom is one of my favorite methods for watering without a hose. In order to water plants from the bottom, they need to be in some sort of container. This is so they can be placed into a tray of water and soak up it from the bottom. Container watering ensures that the soil get soaked through completely with minimal evaporative loss. Leon Sloan is a great resource for container gardening.

I have personally used his method and found that it works very well for a variety of plants. The two downside of container watering is that it does not build the existing soil and it often relies on plastic. For instance, Leon recommends using old, plastic feed buckets, PBC pipe, plastic milk jugs, and plastic landscape fabric. However, the feed buckets and milk jugs he uses are recycled and you could substitute the plastic items that he uses with a different material. That’s the beauty of Leon’s method. He makes it accessible and customizable.

There are ways you can close the loop in container gardening. Making your own fertilizer and catching rainwater (more on rainwater below) can help you become less reliant on others for your inputs. Comfrey tea is a popular choice for fertilizer. Jadam organic farming and The Korean natural farming method also have fantastic fertilizer recipes (let me know in the comments if you’d like another post dedicated to fertilizer).

2. Watering With Rainwater And Gray Water

Another way to water without a hose is to water with rainwater and/or gray water. For rainwater, this method involves catching rainwater and storing it. Many people choose to put in rainwater catchment systems that flow into a huge tank. This works very well, but you don’t need to have a fancy rainwater catchment system to catch rain water. Barrels and containers can be placed around your garden to collect water, and they can be covered to prevent evaporative loss when it’s not raining. Collecting rainwater this way also gives you the freedom to collect and store your water in containers that aren’t plastic. While there are non-plastic options for rainwater catchment tanks, these options tend to be pricey and therefore not as accessible.

When catching rainwater, you are going to have dry months where you don’t collect as much water. This is where gray water comes in. Gray water is waste water that would otherwise get pumped through your waste water plant. It’s important to note that gray water is only gray water for 24 hours. Once gray water has sat for over 24 hours, bacteria build up causes it to becomes blackwater, which is hazardous and unsafe to use. A lot of people use buckets to collect gray water from the shower, leaky faucets, and from cleaning dishes. There are other options that involve re-routing your plumbing to pour your home’s waste water into a tank to be stored. However, These options come with the same pitfalls as the rainwater catchment tank. When collecting gray water, any soap you use to bathe, wash dishes, and wash laundry need to be plant friendly.

3. Watering Cans and Drip Irrigation

Let’s start with watering cans. You might think this is obvious and isn’t worth having on this list, but a good watering can is a fabulous option. Some watering cans can be wasteful depending on the head. A rain shower head, for instance, is hard to control. You don’t want to pour water on the leaves on your plant because it can’t absorb through its leaves. Any water on the leaves will just evaporate. Watering cans with spouts are much easier to control. You can water the root and ONLY the roots which is what you want. This is not the best option for massive gardens, but for most backyard/front yard gardens and micro farms, watering with a watering can shouldn’t take more than 2-3 hours.

Drip Irrigation does often include a hose. So, why is it on this list? Hoses waste water because,

  • They often leak at connection points,
  • Attachments often spray water everywhere and are hard to control,
  • You can’t turn off hoses without attachments right away.

With drip irrigation, you can avoid these pitfalls. Drip irrigation installed underground allows you to essentially water in-ground plants from the bottom. There are above ground irrigation systems can be turned off for each plant individually. However, It is still hard to control exactly where these heads spray, so I only use above ground irrigation for my container garden. Drip irrigation can be controlled, water all plants evenly, and save time. They can also be used to pump your gray/rainwater into your garden. The drawback on drip irrigation is (you guessed it) plastic. It is very hard to use drip irrigation without using plastic.


Watering without a hose is absolutely possible! I use a watering can and above ground drip irrigation in my container garden and I find that both of those save a lot of water compared to my sprayer hose. If you are concerned about using plastic (me too) I know it can seem like our options are super limited, but I believe we are headed in the right direction. There are an increasing number of products becoming available that are that are made of materials like stainless steel and glass. In the meantime, don’t underestimate the power of DIY systems!

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