How to Set Up an Irrigation System for Container Gardening

But first…what’s drip irrigation?

Similar to a lawn sprinkler system, a drip irrigation system will quickly and easily water your plants. It can be set up to run automatically by using a timer, or you can turn the system on at a central location.

All of your plants will be watered simultaneously, which beats watering them by hand. It can also save water because it drips slowly to the roots of your plants; no more messy water trails from the spigot to your plants.

Also, your plants get only what they need, which makes them healthier and can prevent root rot. And because your plant is healthy it’s less susceptible to disease and pests.

Ready to get started? 

Assemble your supplies

Drip irrigation kit

Kits are available and are a good way to get started, but you may need to buy additional pieces, depending on the layout of your container garden.

If you’re building it yourself, you’re going to need the following:

  • ⬥ ½ inch faucet fitting for your garden hose
  • ⬥ Irrigation timer
  • ⬥ Pressure regulator
  • ⬥ ½ inch poly mainline drip irrigation hose 
  • ⬥ Tape measure
  • ⬥ Cutting tool for PVC to cut the tubing
  • ⬥ End caps
  • ⬥ Hammer
  • ⬥ ¼ inch vinyl micro tubing 
  • ⬥ A punch (to create holes in the tubing)
  • ⬥ Drip line connectors
  • ⬥ Goof plugs 
  • ⬥ Irrigation drippers (with spikes – one per pot)
  • ⬥ Backflow preventer 
  • ⬥ Hose splitter – optional (allows you to hook up a separate hose from the same spigot)


Attach connectors to your spigot in the following order:

  • ⬥ Backflow preventer
  • ⬥ Pressure regular
  • ⬥ Faucet hose fitting


Attach the ½ inch poly tubing to the fitting by pushing one end into the open end of the faucet hose fitting. Pull the collar on the hose fitting down over the tubing and tighten to secure.

Test the seal (you can do this later if you prefer) by kinking the tubing and turning on the water. If all is good, move on to the next step.


If you already have your garden beds in place simply lay out the poly tubing so you’ll see where each micro line will need to be added to the mainline poly tubing. (hint: warm tubing is easier to work with, so let it sit in the sun to improve its pliability)

Using your tape measure mark each spot on the mainline tubing where you’ll need to add each tube line and dripper.

Once you have your measurements, use your PVC cutting tool to cut your tubing to size, then add the end cap.


Measure how long each micro drip line will need to be. Add a few inches to the measurement that will allow you to move the line around the pot if needed.


Punch a hole in the mainline tubing. Next, install one end of your micro tubing into the hole you’ve just created.


Install the irrigation drippers by pushing it onto the other end of your micro tubing, then plant the stake into your container. Do this for each pot.

For best results, center the stake in each pot, taking care to avoid damaging the roots of your plants.


If you plan to bury your tubing test everything first to ensure that you have no leaks. Alternatively, secure the tubing to the top of the ground to prevent accidental damage.

Adjust the drip heads where needed by twisting the heads to control the rate of water coming out.


Finally, set the timer (if using) to irrigate automatically. However, just because you’ve set everything up to be watered automatically it’s important to check your plants – and the system – regularly to ensure that all is working as intended and that your plants are getting the right amount of water.

If you like this post, check out these:

5 Tips to Help You Make the Most of a Small Garden

The Garden Guru: Dos and Don’ts for Beginners

How to Grow a Garden in a Small Space

Herb Gardening For a Healthy You