Watering your garden is easily one of the most stressful aspects of gardening. There’s so much that can go wrong, like remembering to water certain plants more often than others, accidentally over or underwatering, or forgetting to water altogether. However, automating your garden watering solves most of those problems when done correctly.
Here’s how to automate your garden watering in 4 easy steps:
- Arrange your garden properly.
- Choose an irrigation system that won’t stress you out.
- Gather the correct tools to install your preferred plan.
- Properly maintain the system to increase longevity.
Automating your watering system for your garden may seem intimidating, but doing so makes the process so much more enjoyable in the long run. If you want to know more details about each of these steps and everything you’ll need to get the ball rolling, read on.
The type of garden irrigation you’ll need to use depends on how you layout your garden. A simple rectangular garden bed is going to be the most cost-efficient and sustainable setup. The idea is to use as little water and tools as possible.
If you’re spending all of your time trying to maneuver your irrigation around twists and curves, you’re not only wasting your time, but you’re using more parts and water to get the job done.
It’s also helpful to only make your garden beds as wide as you can reach. Doing this will help conserve water, use less irrigation equipment, and save you from unwelcome muscle aches.
There are a few different automated watering systems to consider before hastily deciding on one. Each method has its own unique features and benefits, just as each has its own drawbacks too. Let’s take a minute to explore each system right here:
Drip irrigation is the most common automatic watering system used by avid gardeners. On top of that, drip irrigation uses between 30-50% less water than other automated systems. There are nine main components to a drip irrigation system:
- The mainline: The mainline is the pipe that runs from your outdoor faucet to the irrigation valve.
- Valve: This component is what connects the sub-main to your mainline. The valve also controls water flow and can be set to automatic or manual modes.
- The sub-main: The sub-main is the part that runs from the valve to the drip tubing.
- Backflow preventer: This part of the system is there to make sure water used in your garden doesn’t flow back into your mainline. The backflow preventer is essential to ensure contaminated water doesn’t get back into your main water supply.
- Pressure regulator: Pressure regulators are only necessary if your water pressure is more than 40 lbs per square inch (2.8 kg per square cm). However, anyone who isn’t aware of their water pressure should use one of these just in case.
- Filter: Filters are essential for keeping any dissolved substance from clogging other parts of your automated watering system. Experts recommend getting a filter with a mesh screen of 150 or higher.
- Tubing adapter and fittings: Because the main job of these two components is to fit your irrigation tubing together, it’s important to make sure you get the right size for the tubes you have. If these don’t work correctly, you risk the irrigation system completely blowing apart.
- Drip tubing: This is where the actual irrigating happens. Drip tubing has holes throughout the entire tube, and as water flows into it, it also flows out through those holes.
- Emitters: Emitters are what actually allow the water to release through each irrigation hole.
Essentially, a drip irrigation system works exactly as it sounds. The water flows through a pipe and tubing system and is released through tiny holes throughout the tubing. The purpose of drip irrigation is to get water and moisture to the plant right at its roots. The only major downside to using drip over anything else is that it attracts garden pests during a drought.
Spray systems are the perfect option for large garden plots. It’s a popular choice among those who landscape as well as lawn watering. Because the water sprays outward, it allows for more water coverage. Unlike drip irrigation systems, a spray system comes with just three parts:
- The controller: This is what controls the entire system. You use it to turn your sprinklers on or off, and you can also set a timer and the pressure settings in most cases.
- Valves: The valves open and close to release the water through the pipes.
- Sprinklers/sprayers: And, of course, the sprinkler or sprayer (depending on which specific system you buy) is what waters your garden.
Pop-up and shrub-style are the two different types of spray systems.. The pop-up style of spray system is the one that is hardly noticeable to the eye. They’re planted right into the ground and in some cases, they retreat under the soil until you need them again. Shrub-style, on the other hand, is higher up from the ground and is typically used inside shrub bushes.
Many spray systems include automatic shut-off, soil moisture sensors, drip irrigation zones, and rain shut-off. These come in handy if you plan to use more than one automated system type. However, spray systems are only ideal for flat terrain. Installing sprinklers and sprayers on a hilly property can lead to inconvenient yard flooding.
Rotor systems are very similar to spray systems in that they both operate from the ground and distribute water to a wide area. However, the main difference between the two is that a rotor system rotates water around rather than giving off a continuous spray in one location. Rotor systems are popular in vast garden areas.
This system is excellent because it’s more efficient than spray systems and still evenly covers a wide area.
Because of the way it distributes water, rotor systems are also ideal for just about any landscape. However, this system works well only when your water pressure is good. It depends on a jet stream to properly let the water flow out, and low water pressure won’t give you the results you need.
Self-watering globes are an excellent temporary measure to use when you’re going to be away from your garden for an extended time. When full of water, these globes are blown glass and are stuck in the ground to release water to the deepest roots in your garden gradually.
These work by slowly releasing water through the stake in the ground and typically last between 7-14 days before refilling. While they’re quick and easy to set up, they’re also very fragile. If you have hard soil or you aren’t careful when staking them into the ground, you’ll likely break the bulb.
While these are nice temporary measures, they may prove unreliable and cumbersome to use as your primary automated watering source. The rate water releases from this isn’t regulated, and while some will last 7-14 days, others may empty within 48 hours.
Along with that, trying to remember to refill them every week or two defeats the whole purpose of effortless watering.
Also, before deciding which type of irrigation system you want to use, you need to bear a few things in mind:
- The size and layout of your garden: If your garden layout is only a tiny area, you may do just fine with a watering bulb. However, those with larger garden plots will suffice better with drip irrigation or a spray system.
- What your intentions are for automatic watering: Think about your reasoning behind wanting to switch to automated watering. Are you just going on vacation for a week or two? Do you need a long-term solution to help with your forgetfulness? Both of these instances require two utterly different watering systems, so it’s helpful to know before purchasing.
- The soil you have to work with: While most irrigation systems work with any soil type, some soils require a few extra steps when installing and maintaining your preferred method. For example, clay soil has a tendency to clog drip systems and watering globes.
Once you’ve chosen which automated garden watering system you want to use, you need to decide if you wish to install it yourself or hire a professional. If you’re more of a do-it-yourself type, you’ll want to pay attention to the specific installation instructions for the style you chose.
Drip irrigation seems complicated at first glance, but once you’ve actually looked at it, it’s pretty simple.
- Gather the necessary supplies and map out your system route. You’ll need all of the items I mentioned above, and then you’re ready to set it up.
- Attach your system regulators and pipes. Connect your mainline to an outdoor faucet. Connect the vacuum breaker to the pressure regulator and then attach the pressure regulator to the mesh filter.
- Connect your hose to the system parts. The hose swivel will connect to the threaded opening on the side of the filter. The barbed end will hold the tubing in place.
- Layout your tubing. Snake the tubing around your plants once you put the emitters on. Make sure you space the tubing 12 inches (30.5 cms) apart to avoid overwatering some areas.
- Place sprayers to help with ground cover. Drip irrigation sometimes comes with extra sprayers to help with ground coverage.
- Stake the tubing in and bury it with mulch. Staking the tubing will help keep it in place, and covering it with mulch helps keep moisture in for the plants.
- Close off the tubing end. You can do this by using a heavy-duty clamp.
- Make sure you pull any necessary permits. While this may not be required everywhere, it’s important to make sure before starting this project. Failing to do so may result in fines and null home warranties.
- Determine any relevant measurements. To ensure you buy the correct parts, you’ll need to know:
- Your water pressure (pounds per square inch)
- Your water meter size/well pump size (depending on your plumbing system)
- The water service line size
- Your water flow rate (gallons per minute)
- The type of backflow prevention required by your local code
- Map your sprinkler system. Keep in mind any existing landscaping or fence lines to ensure you get the water where it needs to be.
- Plan out the coverage. It’s important to make sure all parts of your garden get water. To ensure this happens, experts recommend overlapping your spray pattern.
- Buy the necessary parts. To install a spray system, you’ll need valves and valve boxes, the sprayer head, risers, fittings, a manual control system, backflow preventer, timers, a valve manifold, and the necessary pipes.
- Dig and assemble the system. Now that you have everything, you should dig out where your plan will go and then put it together. Follow these steps to finish assembling the system:
- Cut your pipe to the correct size.
- Connect the sprinkler heads and then connect the system to the service line.
- Install the backflow prevention.
- Control the system with timers and other features.
Watering globes are incredibly easy to set up. All you do for these is fill the basin up with water and then carefully stake the bulb into the ground near the plant stems. Although these are easy, some soils may make it difficult to push in, or they may clog the stake.
To prevent these issues, you can use something long and then poke a hole in the ground before placing the stake.
Like any other machine or system in life, automated watering requires maintenance. Luckily, it’s not a very cumbersome job. In most cases, this just involves you unclogging and flushing out tubes or minor part replacements.
You should check your filters and emitters regularly to make sure nothing is clogged, and you should also take apart any irrigation system during cold winter months to avoid weather damage.
Remembering to water your garden doesn’t have to be a stressful process. Using an automated system, whether that be a full drip irrigation set up or simple watering globes, makes gardening the effortless and therapeutic task it’s meant to be.
By consulting this guide and choosing the most appropriate automated garden watering system, you’ll watch your flora thrive.