Hydro Wine makes it so you don’t have to sweat a drought while you’re out of town. (photos courtesy of the brand)

Last summer, I started a small pandemic garden, in containers in my backyard. This summer was different. Things got bigger, and more serious: tomatoes, of course, and cucumbers and peppers, and herbs and flowers. I’ve put so much time and energy (and a few bucks) into it all now that I want it to succeed.

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And that isn’t all that hard, with close attention and a bit of luck. But this summer is different in another way, too: This summer, I’m traveling. One bad heat wave, while I’m off for a long weekend, and there could be damage from which my veg will not recover.

The simple terra cotta look suits a garden well. (photo by David Zivan for Wine and Whiskey Globe)

Enter Hydro Wine, an uninspiring name for a really great little product. Arriving in boxes of four, they look like oversized, hollowed-out tent spikes. They are made of terra cotta and make a pleasant little bell sound when they bump each other. The packaging says “As Seen on TV,” but I’ve never seen them there.

What you do is place them in your pot, fill a used wine bottle with water, then put the bottle in the spike. The ceramic material is just porous enough to give the plant a slow steady drink, when you’re not home to do it yourself (and if you don’t want to bother your neighbors, which you shouldn’t).

As I write this, in fact, I’m tooling around the northeast, catching up with much-missed friends and family and enjoying the holiday weekend without worrying about my garden—not to mention a couple of large indoor plants that can be finicky about their water.

The Hydro Wine works great indoors as well.

One lesson I learned the hard way, and it’s worth mentioning because (rather sensibly, I might add) this product does not arrive with instructions: push the spike into the soil first, then place the bottle. I tried pushing an already loaded Hydro Wine into the pot and the Hydro cracked. They aren’t fragile, but they aren’t stainless steel either.

The things work so great with plants that prefer constant moisture that I don’t think I will remove them. Last I checked they were on sale for, like, $17 bucks. Putting in my first set of four gave me at least that much amusement. And that will continue. For me—and this is a secret I am hesitant to divulge—part of the fun is that I rotate the bottles. I often will save a special bottle (or a decent bottle from a special night) for a week or two, to re-remember and contemplate the wine and the company one last time, before recycling. This gadget gives me yet another chance (and solves a pesky problem, to boot).