This season, I've been test driving two types of drip/watering spike systems: cheap plastic ones from Lee Valley (I think they’re 6 for $8?) and expensive “Plant Nanny” ones from Sheridan Nurseries (maybe 4 for $16?). (I was inspired to buy the Lee Valley ones by Gayla Trail of YouGrowGirl.com)
I’m using them in tomato planters, so this is the season when things can get demanding. I have been very, VERY good about using only rain-barrel water to fill these. Quite proud of myself, actually!
The rain barrel is, in fact, ideal in so many ways for filling these. It is close to the patio, and releases a nice, gentle stream.
I have a setup now for balancing the bottles, because the bottoms get uneven from being smashed around and they used to tip over and spill all over the place. I use one Pepsi flat for the 2L bottles and one garden-centre flat for the smaller ones. No more tipping!
There are 15 bottle waterers set up out there altogether (two not shown because they are at the side door and I did them separately today).
I have far fewer of the Plant Nanny ones, mostly because of the price. I suspect they work a bit better than the plastic ones, but not enough to make it worth paying three times the price. And anyway, it’s probably a good thing, because the two-piece design of the Plant Nanny makes it slightly more of a pain to reattach and stick back in the soil. The Lee Valley ones are totally brainless: screw it on, plop it in, done.
In general, I find the waterers are only as good as the gardener, which, in this case, is… kind of bad. Definitely not as effective as sticking the tomatoes in a good-sized self-watering container in the first place (they’re doing great; I’ll post those pictures in a minute!), but I suppose these are the next-best thing.