Last Updated on March 20, 2023 by Cristina
Over the years I have had some exposure to self-watering globes for in-door plants. My general observation is that these are suited to indoor use and for outdoor use, they are a bit of a gimmick. When it comes to self-watering globes for outdoor plants, a lot can happen outdoors, which affects the efficacy of these systems. Let’s unpack this.
Watering Indoor vs Watering Outdoor Plants
Indoor plants are exposed to a weird environment. Plants are not used to living in our houses, so for any plant, this is a bit of a departure from the natural environment. There is not much wind indoors, the air is often drier, temperatures are often controlled, and so on. Indoor plants have to be pampered a bit to enable them to overcome the trouble we make for them with the world we force them to live in. Watering globes can provide a little bit of water to help an indoor plant survive periods of your absence or even periods of your absentmindedness.
From a watering perspective, we have two types of outdoor plants that we need to consider watering – captive plants in pots, and plants that are in the soil and can let their roots go wherever they want. Plants in the ground are also connected via large underground networks of fungi that move water and nutrients around over large distances.
Self-watering Globes For Outdoor Plants That Are Planted In The Soil
Outdoor plants use a lot of water. I really can see no benefit to using a little small watering thing for an outdoor plant. There are better ways to sort out outdoor plants in terms of watering. I use a timer system and micro-irrigation. If you have a small garden or do not want to fork out a lot on your setup, try a system like this first. Plants are slow-growing entities – wasting time and effort using gimmicks to water outdoor plants can just destroy your motivation when you kill a plant. If for example, you plant a lemon tree it is a five to eight-year project to get that tree to be a plant that produces a reliable supply of fruit. Risking a tree like this on a gimmick that looks good on youtube videos is not the idea.
I would never recommend using watering globes for expensive plants, and for cheap plants such as lettuce, etc, rather spend a bit more and get a controllable system that can water reliably while you are away. An irrigation controller (especially a wifi-controllable one) and a small IP camera will let you keep an eye on your plants while you are away, and water accordingly.
Have a look at this search for watering globes and you will see that if you need to look after twenty or thirty plants you will spend more on watering globes than setting up a small irrigation system that actually works. You will just end up with a box of globes discarded in your shed and some dead plants if you rely on these things for outdoor plants that are not in pots.
Self-watering Globes For Outdoor Plants That Are Planted In Pots
This is a place where using self-watering globes for outdoor plants can be useful. I find that potted plants are a lot less thirsty than ground-planted plants. The water can only diffuse into the pot – there are no big mycorhizal networks that can wick water yards away from other plants.
I find that it is very easy in a home irrigation system to have disasters with potted plants if you do not keep a close eye on them. In this regard, self-watering globes for outdoor plants are good! If you go away for a few days, these can help plants stay moist and healthy and not get overwatered.
If you are looking at a budget option, these non-flashy self-watering globes for outdoor plants will do the job just fine. You will find that with time they will get algae growing in them which causes discoloration. If this worries you, you can rinse the self-watering globes for outdoor plants using an oven cleaner such as this.
In the various industries, I consult in, we often use sodium hydroxide-containing solutions such as that found in the oven cleaner to remove biofilms in cleaning in place (CIP) protocols. Algae (and photosynthetic cyanobacteria) produce biofilms – these are sticky organic gunk matrixes that stick cells to a surface. Sodium hydroxide is excellent at dissolving and removing these. You will find that washing your globe with a bottle brush will not be as effective at removing the algal biofilm as using oven cleaner, and then a bottle brush.
If you want to go with colorful, and slightly more expensive self-watering globes for outdoor plants such as these the one major advantage is that they do not show algal growth as much. Other than this, they work pretty much the same way. I had a few of these and the big problem is that if you have a party at your house, drunk people find these things fascinating and always pull them out. Kids do the same. They just look nice!
Cheap Alternatives To Self-watering Globes For Outdoor Plants
For an alternative to self-watering globes for outdoor plants, you can try this. Because used plastic water and soda bottles are rather easy to acquire in very large quantities, this method allows you to create small micro drip irrigation for many plants for almost no cost other than time. I have used this method in my garden for growing pea plants for two reasons.
My irrigation system tended to overwater the peas – this makes them fungus prone – and we also have a dratted bird in my area called a mouse bird. I grow peas in my winter garden, and mousebirds come in and eat all the peas. Mousebirds are good bait for barbel fishing, but there is a limit to how much of an ecological footprint I am willing to have harvesting bait. They are cute birds, and the bottle dripper water system makes the peas look scary – they fly in and see their reflections in the bottles and leave rapidly.
I see that innovative folks have developed attachments for bottles such as these. I personally have not used such a system but I am placing an order to try them for my summer eggplant crop. In my area, irrigating the eggplant with the aerial system I have seems to produce plants that are disease prone. My best crops to date have been with drippers, but the irrigation line in the warmer part of my garden where I grow peppers and eggplants tends to drain the remainder of the irrigation system through it (it is at the lowest point on the system) hence the plants get overwatered. I am sure there is a solution to this problem, but I just want to try these spikes!!
I hope this article has helped you understand both the uses and disadvantages of self-watering globes for outdoor plants. Personally, I tend to lean towards just using plastic bottles. But if you have a small outdoor garden consisting of potted items, there is a space for exploring self-watering globes for outdoor plants. If you found this helpful, please share.
Do water globes work well?
In my experience the answer is there are better options. Each person has their own preferences and conditions, so try them and see if they work for you. I find this to be an expensive option where cheaper, more aesthetically pleasing and less fiddly technologies exist that work better and save you time.
How do you fill self-watering globes?
Remove the globe from the soil, fill it with a jug or tap until the water flows out of the neck. Place your finger over the hole and invert the globe. Point the neck straight down and remove your finger. It will go bloop bloop a few times and a bit of water will drip out and then it will become stable. Insert the globe in the hole in the soil and allow it to do its thing. Keep an eye on the water level. I find it goes down slowly at first and then the last bit just vanishes in a short time.
Are watering globes good for all plants?
No. There are some plants that are very heavy water users, and these globes are just not able to provide meaningful cost effective volumes of water. These globes are best suited to small plants with moderate water requirements. They will struggle to for instance water a 6 foot tall tomato plant that is in peak growth! If you imagine a tomato plant producing 40 large tomatoes, it needs huge volumes of water just to fill the fruit up! A little globe makes no difference here. The water in these globes tends to be about the same as the amount of water in one large ox heart tomato.
What plants benefit from self-watering globes?
I find that potted plants benefit from these systems. If you have small potted plants outdoors, the self-watering globes can provide a relatively controlled release of water to the plants during patches when you are away and cannot attend to the plants.
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.