People through history have found at least five ways to irrigate crops, livestock and themselves using 5 gallon buckets.
The Pedestrian Method
The simplest irrigation technique is the ancient water bearer method. Fill a vessel with water and use raw muscle power to move it places. It’s still the dominant method of transporting water in much of the world.
A bucket yoke improves slightly on the idea. Using a yoke is especially useful for us westerners who aren’t accustomed to using our heads for cargo.
This is brilliant inventor Herrick Kimball of Planet Whizbang with his water bucket yoke.
An exciting new water bearing technology is the 13 gallon Q drum. It’s a hollow plastic wheel designed to be pulled or pushed over long distances. For many, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to supply water.
You can imagine how just a couple of these units can improve the lives of entire villages.
Bucket Drip Irrigation
He developed Bucket Irrigation for irrigation and fertigation. Fertigation is just irrigation plus extra plant growth nutrients.
Full instructions on building your own system are available free on the Bucket Irrigation website. You just need a few pieces of hardware, which you can find at most hardware stores.
Automating Irrigation using Atmospheric Pressure
One of the more advanced bucket irrigation systems is the sub irrigated planter. Laymen like me call it a “self-watering bucket.” Hooking a bunch together with a rain barrel makes a fully automatic bucket farm. This is the cheapest and simplest automatic irrigation system you will find.
I discovered sub irrigated planters at GlobalBuckets.org. Global Buckets hold a special place in the history of this website. Another great resource that improved tremendously on the design ss LDS Prepper. Watch one of his self-watering bucket videos on our Strawberry Farm article.
The noria is an ancient bucket-based irrigation system, developed over 2000 years old and still in use today.
Sort of a “reverse water wheel,” a noria scoops water from below and brings it up to an aqueduct, where it flows to where it’s needed. Watch this quick video to see how elegantly a noria pulls water. No wonder they’ve been in use for millennia.
The Shady World of Hydroponics
Hydroponics is our final irrigation method based on buckets. It’s a highly regulated and scientific growing method usually reserved for high value crops. Hydroponics is often used indoors in conjunction with grow lighting.
You can get kits that include everything you need to get going on your own indoor hydroponics operation. My favorite plant to grow indoors is tomatoes, since they are actually perennial when kept warm enough.
Entire websites are dedicated to hydroponic growing, and tens of thousands of people are making reams of money growing illicit substances in buckets in their basement.