Ensuring that your plants have sufficient access to water without being drowned or spoiled is something you'll need to stay on top of at all times, as the weather conditions and the needs of your garden will be shifting and changing regularly. There are a huge variety of irrigation tools available to assist with this, in this guide we'll help you to decide which ones you can use to help your garden reach its full potential.
What are you Watering?
Different plants thrive under different conditions so the best way to water a plant will vary depending on how and where it is planted; you won't want to turn a full powered hose onto young seedlings, but a small watering can isn't going to be a lot of use if you have a lawn or several large flowerbeds that need watering.
Pots, Hanging Baskets and Containers
Pot and container soil tends to dry out fairly quickly, particularly when they are kept in a sunny spot in the garden. This means they will need regular watering, so use a watering can with a long thin spout or a watering wand attached to the hosepipe to reach in and water the roots without damaging the foliage.
Beds and Borders
A hosepipe is a valuable tool for watering over a larger area, saving you the hassle of constantly going back and forth with a watering can. Choose a hose that is long enough to reach around the whole of your garden, connecting two or more together if necessary. When choosing a nozzle or sprayer for your hose think about what you will be watering, for smaller bedding plants a light mist will suffice, but larger, more established plants or shrubs will need a faster flow directed at their roots to stay healthy.
Fruit & Vegetables
Growing a decent sized crop of fruit or vegetables is going to require a lot of watering, so an irrigation system could be a worthwhile investment to save time and ensure the quality of your crop. A greenhouse or raised bed is the ideal location for an irrigation system, which are best used in combination with an electric or mechanical timer to switch the water supply on and off for you.
Grass and Lawns
Most lawn grasses are pretty resilient and able to survive without regular watering. Every once in a while though it can be good for their health and colour to have a good soaking. This is particularly true for lawns that have only recently been laid, or those which have not seen any rain for an extended period. The best way to spread water evenly over a large area such as this is with a lawn sprinkler, which will connect to your hosepipe and can be controlled using a timer.
A good hosepipe is the starting point for all garden watering jobs, allowing you to easily move a water supply to the desired area in the garden. There are three main factors you'll want to consider when choosing a hosepipe for your garden:
- Length: Choose the right length hosepipe so that it is long enough to reach every corner of your garden without having to stretch, but not too long so you don't have 30 extra meters piled up next to the tap.
- Material: Vinyl hoses are usually the cheapest; this material is perfectly fine for light watering duties and general garden use. Reinforced hoses built from multiple layers of rubber or with protective mesh around the outside are available for more heavy duty use where there is higher risk of snags and punctures.
- Storage: A hose with a reel will be easier to put away after use and looks much tidier than a big coil piled under the tap. This is particularly worth considering if you already have limited space in your garden.
Sprayers, nozzles and lances
A sprayer or nozzle fitting for your hosepipe allows you to control the water flow from the user end of the hose, rather than the tap. Many have multiple settings that turn your hose into a versatile garden tool that's able to handle all of your watering tasks, from spraying a fine mist over small flowering plants to providing a steady water flow for shrubs, bushes and trees. A lance is a long, thin attachment for your hosepipe, perfect for getting into the middle of a flower bed or for reaching up to a hanging basket.
Connectors and other accessories
Connectors have a variety of uses and therefore come in many different varieties. Some of the common uses for connectors are:
- Attaching the hose to a tap or the nozzle/gun
- Running two or more lines from a single tap e.g. to use a hosepipe and an irrigation system
- Joining two hoses for use in particularly large gardens
- Repairing split hoses
Irrigation systems are the perfect tool for gardeners who are exceptionally busy, working on a very large area, or both. A well thought out irrigation system can save a lot of time and effort and, though they work best in greenhouses or raised beds, can be installed in just about any garden. Most irrigation systems consist of three separate things: hoses, drippers/sprinklers and a timer.
Hoses for irrigation systems are usually narrower than a standard hose and dark coloured to blend in with the soil. Multiple hoses can be used with removable connectors to extend your system or split it into different sections. The hose forms the bare bones of your irrigation system, once you're happy with its positioning you can begin to stake and clip it into place and add drippers or sprinklers.
Drippers, Sprayers and Sprinklers
Most irrigation systems deliver water to the soil using a dripper, sprayer or sprinkler. Drippers work by gradually saturating a particular area of soil, while sprinklers push water out over a larger area. Sprayers push out a focussed micro jet aimed at a particular plant or area. All of these products can be connected in line or at the end of an irrigation hose, depending on the connection type; some have twisting nozzles, allowing you to change the direction of the water without moving the whole system around.
A timer switch is the final touch in fully automating your irrigation system; perfect if you are going on holiday or just don't have the time to water your garden regularly. Both mechanical and battery powered electronic timers are available.
The level of sophistication varies greatly with timers, from digital interfaces with water consumption statistics to basic "turn the dial and go" models. Most of these differences come down to personal preference, but you will want to consider how many times a day you want the water to come on and switch off. Also, if your system is left unattended for a long time an integrated rain sensor can avoid over watering.
Water butts collect and store rainwater as it falls, giving you an extra resource to water your garden with that can be saved until periods of dry weather and hosepipe bans threaten the health of your garden.
Installing a water butt in your garden is a simple measure that can make watering your garden a lot easier, as well as saving you a bit of money on water bills and helping to reduce your impact on the environment.
Installing a Water Butt
There are a range of different types of water butt available, slim line designs for gardens where space is limited and a whole range of decorative water butts to suit any garden they'll be on display in. You may prefer to hide your water butt behind screening or plants; a great option as long as it is still accessible. Always choose a model with a tight fitting lid, which will keep out any leaves and debris, and prevent any overly curious animals from getting stuck.
It's also a good idea to consider getting a stand for your water butt; these are available to buy or you could build your own. This will make it a lot easier to fill up buckets and watering cans from the tap at the bottom.
For a step-by-step guide to fitting your water butt see our 'How to install a water butt' guide.
Water Butt Pumps
A water butt by itself is perfect for filling buckets and watering cans with, but the pressure is unlikely to be high enough to connect a hose. Using an electric pump you can increase the water pressure enough to connect a hose, just as you would with a tap, and water the whole of your garden or even wash the car.