Irrigation can be as simple as a using watering can or as complex as an integrated landscape system complete with timers and sensors. Fact is, most home gardeners will find a suitable option somewhere in between.
This decorative hose hanger provides a convenient location to stow the hose when it’s not in use.
Photo Credit: Megan Bame
The hand crank on a hose reel makes light work of pulling in the hose.
Photo Credit: Megan Bame
A garden hose is probably a logical starting place for the sake of familiarity. While one end attaches to the outdoor spigot, the other end can be fitted with numerous nozzle attachments. The purpose of the nozzle is to break the water into a “softer” stream and water a larger area. A shut-off valve is also an important feature. Some nozzles are designed with trigger mechanisms that require you to hold the trigger the entire time you water. While this might be a fun feature for kids and washing the car, it can lead to hand cramps for the gardener. A brass shut-off valve will cost more up front, but it’ll last longer and be more reliable than plastic valves, which are prone to leaking.
When the hose isn’t in use, consider storing it on a reel. This protects it from being run over by a car or lawn mower, and it avoids kinking. Cheap hoses are lightweight to pull around the yard, but these thin hoses kink more often and are more likely to spring a leak. Commercial hoses are available at most garden centers, and though heavier and pricier, they’ll last longer and are virtually kink-free.
Soaker hoses are a popular choice for vegetable gardens, but they could just as easily be used in a flower bed. The soaker hose is a small-diameter, rubber hose that has tiny holes throughout. The water seeps through the holes and drips directly under the hose. A soaker hose should be placed right beside the plant stem so the water is delivered specifically to the root zone. It’s an environmentally friendly choice for water-wise gardening.
Sprinklers are essentially the opposite of soaker hoses. While useful for establishing lawns, sprinklers may be a water-wasteful choice for planting beds. Plus, water from a sprinkler that lands on plant foliage may be evaporated by the sun before the plant even gets any benefit (especially in the heat of summer). Also, because a sprinkler covers a large area with large droplets of water, it takes a long time for water to accumulate and penetrate the soil to reach plant roots – particularly if the plants are well-established with foliage and mulch covering the soil.
A common gardening mistake is to turn the water on, and then forget to turn it off. Not only is this wasteful, it could be harmful to your plants (depending on how long it takes you to remember to turn the water off).
I used to carry around a kitchen timer to help me remember to turn off the water. This was usually helpful. But if I was in another part of the yard (and away from the spigot) when the timer went off, I would sometimes turn the timer off and continue my task, still forgetting to turn the water off. It was time to invest in an automatic timer that fit directly on the spigot.
There are numerous timer models with varying degrees of sophistication, but the basic on/off model may suit your needs just fine. It may seem like a good idea to set the timer to automatically water daily. Just remember that as with all technology, there are occasional glitches, so it’s worthwhile to regularly check that your automatic timer is working properly.
While established trees, shrubs and lawns can typically depend on Mother Nature’s natural irrigation, most annuals and perennials need water in addition to rainfall. And sure, watering can be a chore. But in fact, some folks find is relaxing to simply stand and sprinkle their thirsty plants. For those who feel too rushed for that pleasure, there are tools and equipment that make watering easy and efficient – then all you have to do is enjoy the fruits and flowers!