Any successful garden requires adequate water supplies (unless it’s a xeriscape garden) and reliable drainage. With this aqua-focus, it’s inevitable that pipes get involved in the process.
However, it doesn’t stop with those basic tasks. You can employ PVC pipe (the same stuff used in your household plumbing) in a myriad of ways to improve and to beautify your garden. They represent a DIY enthusiast’s dream. The PVC pipes themselves are cheap and durable, and clever manipulation can put them to use in almost any context.
People use PVC products for storage, for organization, for construction projects, even for decoration. And given that they were originally developed to move water around (among other things…they get a fair amount of use in the sewers as well). It’s no wonder that PVC piping has enormous value for garden projects.
Let’s take a look at a few alternative uses for PVC piping in the garden.
PVC watering grid
The first step in maintaining any garden involves keeping your plants watered. However, the process can become an annoying chore to accomplish by hand, especially if you have a large area to deal with. Meanwhile, automatic irrigation systems get shockingly expensive, putting them out of the financial reach of most garden hobbyists.
PVC offers a low-cost, low-impact solution. It provides the ideal materials to produce a cheap, effective irrigation system.
To accomplish this, first, connect the PVC piping in a grid system. You’ll typically want either 1/2-inch or 3/4-inch PVC pipes. Cut those to the appropriate length, which will depend on your particular project. (It’s best to measure your garden and draw up a schematic to make sure you know the right dimensions before you start buying and cutting pipe.)
Next, connect the tubes with a product called a “cross connector.” These look like plus-signs, with a hole at each end to insert the tubing. This item allows you to connect four incoming pipes.
Arrange everything into a grid. Then, drill small holes in the piping at periodic intervals. Cap all the open ends, except one. You’ll use this last pipe opening to connect to your garden hose.
When you turn on the hose, the water will pass through the piping grid, spraying out the holes. This provides a quick and easy way to water your entire garden.
The PVC watering grid is good for ground-level plants that all need similar amounts of water. There’s no simple way to modify the water volume for individual plants. However, you can scale the grid up to almost any size you need, making it useful for both large and small plots.
Raised bed protective cover
The grid watering system will keep your plants lush and healthy. But they are still vulnerable to the elements. Your plants can suffer from extreme weather, or animals can ransack your garden, getting the benefit of your hard work.
PVC also provides a good solution to the protection problem. You can use the tubing as the construction material for a protective cover. The pipes form the backbone of a shelter, keeping the more vulnerable patches of your garden safe from outside dangers.
To build the project, start by cutting the tubing to the appropriate lengths to cover your garden. Again, measure and sketch everything out before getting your hacksaw involved. You have some flexibility as to the design of the shelter. In its simplest form, it can take the form of a box. Or, you can get fancier with the structure and create a series of bent archways (think: Old West covered wagon).
Once everything is the right length, attach the tubes with the appropriate connectors, such as tees, elbows, or crosses. Taking this structure as your frame, drape a cover over the piping to create the shelter.
If your main goal is to keep the plants safe from an invasion of hungry critters, you can use plastic netting or netting as your shelter material. Or, you can use a clear plastic sheet to protect them from environmental factors (like cold), creating a kind of homemade greenhouse.
Vertical tower for vegetables
Usually, we think of gardens as horizontal enterprises. They are laid out like small farms, all at ground level. Of course, this is a relatively narrow vision of what you can build. Many garden supplies add a third dimension – things like hanging baskets and trellises.
In addition to these store-bought products, you can use PVC to add some height to your garden layout. The pipe offers great material to create a vertical tower for planting herbs and certain vegetables.
In this case, you only need one pipe. Cut it to the height you want. Then, drill holes at intervals through the pipe, big enough for plants to thrive. Finally, fill the pipe with soil and plant your chosen veggies in the individual spots you created in the PVC.
Because of the nature of the system, the vertical tower works best with smaller plants. The individual planting space provided by your drilled holes won’t support species that require a significant amount of room.
That said, the project will ultimately allow you to increase your yield. The vertical nature of the tower allows you to conserve space. You can grow more varieties of herbs and vegetables, even if you don’t have a large yard. This makes it a perfect addition to an urban garden, where you may be hemmed in by tightly packed neighbours.
One key to the vertical tower: making sure it stays upright. The taller the vertical pipe, the less stable it is likely to be. For that reason, don’t get too ambitious about height. Also, you should provide some base support for the structure to keep it from tipping over.
Strawberry planter tower
The vertical planter is a general concept, good for any number of species. However, the same structure can be put to specific use for strawberries.
Strawberries make a great addition to any garden, but they can be tricky to grow. Typically, a single strawberry plant requires a square foot of area to thrive, meaning a standard backyard can’t hold many plants.
However, turning to the vertical planter concept, you can significantly increase your strawberry yield. This is a popular concept, and you can find many upright strawberry planters for sale. However, the PVC tower allows more individual plants than most store-bought versions.
The strawberry planter is a specific application for the vertical tower concept. As such, use the same techniques as before to build your tower: cut the pipe to the proper length, drill holes, and insert soil and plants into the spaces you created. Then, you are ready to fill your strawberry high rise with its new inhabitants.
Garden tool storage
DIYers love using PVC for storage. You can use the product in your house for items as diverse as posters and fishing rods. You can also take this concept outside, using PVC piping to store and to organize your gardening equipment.
Think about the current state of your gardening shed. Things thrown around, tools leaning against walls. Every time you walk in there, you’re likely to reenact one of those old-time step-on-a-rake movie gags. Or you’re likely to lose an hour searching for your garden shears, which, it turns out, got stuck under the pile of shovels in the corner.
PVC piping can solve all these problems.
Cut the pipe to the appropriate length (about as long as the handle on a typical garden tool) and cap one end. Now, mount a few of those vertically on the wall. They become cylindrical holders for your larger equipment, things like rakes and hoes. Meanwhile, smaller lengths can be used in the same way to hold hand tools, like spades.
A short length of pipe mounted facing front (the open mouth of the pipe pointing at the wall) provides a round storage nob for a coiled hose. Or, use the same setup to keep electrical cords (for weed whackers or leaf blowers) off the ground.
Wrapping it up
As you can see, PVC piping has many more uses than just carrying water into your house and pumping the waste out. It can provide the key ingredient to any number of DIY projects.
This is especially true out in the garden, where matters of irrigation and drainage make piping an ideal component. However, the uses go way beyond that narrow category.
Because the pipes are inexpensive and relatively easy to cut and connect, they become perfect building materials as well. Let your imagination run wild!
Mark Ligon is the Marketing Manager at PVCFittingsOnline.com, a leading supplier of PVC pipe, fittings, valves, plumbing supply, and more. Mark enjoys working on DIY project around his home and providing advice to individuals looking to complete DIY projects of their own.