Watering plants is time I could spend with my family or be working, sure some may find it relaxing but I don’t therefore 3 years ago I installed a home watering system that would allow me to effectively set it and forget about it whilst allowing us to add to it where required.
The control system
Now I did a DIY system here using old components I had lying around so you will likely find simply buying an off the shelf system is easier and less of a faff.
Off the shelf examples:
- Link Tap (or this one with water meter) – Highly recommended and is a far neater/easier system to mine, if I was starting again from scratch I’d just buy this.
- GARDENA Water Computer Multi Control duo (Semi intelligent system) – Not as smart as the one above
- GARDENA Control Master (basic system) – Nowhere near as smart as the above but good enough for many
Total price of ~£97, although several of the components I already had spare.
- 1 x RainBird valve
- 2 x brass reducing nipple (you could get away with the plastic cheaper versions)
- 2 x hozelock pro threaded connector (you could get away with the plastic cheaper versions)
- 1 x waterproof box (to store the electronics) fixed to the wall (you could likely get a smaller version but I was using the box for someone else already)
- 1 x smart plug (I had a spare wemo but any will do as long as they’re smart, have an app and connect to something like IFTTT)
- 1 x 24v AC transformer
- 1 x 1M extension cable
- A selection of WAGO connectors to wire it up
- 2 x Cable Glands or these
The drip system itself:
The outer 13mm pipework (think of this as the arteries/motorway of your system)
This is effectively a hose that delivers the water around the whole garden where you then connect smaller pipes to OR for larger trees/shrubs you directly ‘tap into’. It’s potentially useful to consider these as the arteries or motorway of your system, use a tape measure, measure app or Google Earth to calculate how much hose you need and then consider adding a further 5-15% to cover additional cornering etc.
- Flexi Hose (although technically any hose will work), important note, there are two varieties of this black hose, one that is rubber and soft (which is the one you ideally want) and one that is rigid and thin, both do the job but the rigid one is prone to pinching when turning and is harder to work with.
- T-Piece for main hose (or these cheaper versions) – ideal for splitting off the arertial hose into different areas without having to double back on yourself
- End Plug (to cap the end of the main arterial hose)
How to connector the outer edge pipework to the inner pipework (think of this as the junctions of your system)
- T-Piece 13mm > 4mm reducing (these are soooo good compared to Hozelocks equivalent products, heat them up slightly in a mug of hot water or the sun to aid easy installation) or these if the above are out of stock.
The inner 4mm pipework (think of this as the veins/A-Roads of your system)
- 4mm x 10M drip hose – we have lots of pots so have 6 packs of this
- 3 x Easy Drip 10 pack (these are the bread and butter of our system)
- T-Piece 10 pack (ideal when you have several pots near each other or large areas to cover, these split the drip hoses)
- Hose Clips for the flexi hose (ideal if you have hanging baskets or wish to get water to a second level)
- Micro Jets 90 degree &/or 180 degree + High Spike
Items I’d recommend you don’t buy:
- Universal Dripper – These are a pain if you put them in the wrong place within your arterial/motorway 13mm hose edge and then wish to move the hose, you end up trying to patch/fill the holes, far better to use the easy drips (slight exception when watering large plants where you need the extra water), if you do buy also buy some of these
- Straight Connector – These are crap, they leak and they’re not good, use these instead.
The other items you will likely want/need
- 1 x Non-Return Valve (this ensures water from your home watering system doesn’t end back in your house)
- 1 x 4 way tap or this (depending on your setup these are well worth it)
- 1 x water flow meter
- 1 x Outdoor plug (already installed by electrician in my case)
- Some off cuts of hose and hose ends
The app system (depends on the system you buy)
In the past, I ran numerous systems to check for rain etc, but I must admit that in the end, the easiest thing was to simply have them on timers when away and ‘Auto off’ timers for the rest of the time, meaning if I turn them on they automatically turn off after say 30 minutes. Then on particularly hot days I will just manually extend. The app I use currently is Wemo (as that’s the brand of the smart plugs I’m using).
How to maximise the system
- Check the pots every few days for the first couple of weeks to ensure they’re getting enough water and adjust the pressure where required.
- Every couple of years (depending on your limescale), remove the drippers from the system and clean them with vinegar etc.
- Schedule timers when away & consider early morning water + evening
- Don’t always assume the Hozelock / Gardena brands have the best products available
- Run as much of the arterial/motorway 13mm hose pipework as possible, the smaller 4mm pipework is good for short distances only.
- Consider some shut off valves for some sections or to allow you to use the hose for other tasks (e.g. cleaning the car).