I love gardening. I carefully make my plans, prepare the soil, plant the seeds or plants, provide them with mulch and support and the right amount of light.
That’s usually when my forgetfulness kicks in and I forget to water, turning my once-lush dream into crispy stalks of brown.
I decided last summer that there had to be a way to make watering easier. It turns out there is.
Sprinklers are the devices that send water through the air onto your garden beds. They can cover large areas at a time, but with the wrong timing or direction, can waste water by evaporation or by watering non-garden items. Recent innovations in sprinklers have made it easier to cut down on the improper direction problem.
Oscillating sprinklers send a vertical arc of water back and forth over an area. These can be adjusted, though, to send a partial arc, eliminating wasted water. These sprinklers are excellent for covering regularly shaped (rectangular) areas.
Pulsating sprinklers cover a horizontal arc. They can be adjusted to run any part of the arc up to a complete revolution. These sprinklers are best for areas that can be covered by a “wedge” of water.
“Noodle” sprinklers are covered with “noodles” that can be aimed in different directions to cover odd-shaped areas. These are great for covering irregularly shaped beds or different areas with a non-watered area in between.
Pattern sprinklers can be set to different watering patterns. They send water into the air like an oscillating sprinkler, but don’t have the back-and-forth motion. The watering pattern is pre-set into the sprinkler so it will not need adjustment like the noodles, and makes watering different-shaped beds very quick to set up.
Soaker and Mist Hoses
Soaker hoses provide dripping water to the roots of the plant in a steady drip. The hose can be flexed around the plants themselves, allowing you to cut down on wasted water. The soaker hose can also be left on longer than necessary without turning your garden into a swamp. The down side to these hoses is that they only water the area right underneath them, and are not very good at getting large beds wet. The upside is that there is very little evaporation, and they are excellent for watering specific plants.
Misting Hoses have small holes throughout to provide a misting spray all along the length of the hose. This allows more area coverage than a soaker hose, while still allowing for flexibility in where the water goes. The mist from these hoses is very prone to evaporation on hot days.
Plant Water Spikes
These plastic spikes attach to 2-liter bottles and slowly deliver water to the root of the plant. While not the most attractive item in the world, these devices have saved my front porch plants from frying in the southern sun. These spikes can even be made at home: attach a plugged stiff tube with small holes drilled in it to a 2-liter bottle and push it into the soil.
There are glass equivalents of these devices made for inside plants, and while they are much prettier, I have found that they do not weather well. Not to mention picking broken glass out of the soil is extremely difficult.
Most pots come with drainage holes and bases; these holes are strictly for drainage, though, and will not absorb excess water back into the pot without some sort of wicking. Self watering pots use a tube to pour water into a reservoir, which is then brought up into the soil through a wicking grid. There are commercial versions of these pots available, and many instructions on how to make them on the web. I use these pots for my blueberry bushes on my deck, and the plants are always lush during even the hottest days.
Even with all of the options to help me water above, I still had a problem remembering to turn the water OFF. Host timers are the solution. Sitting between the faucet and the hose, they allow water for a given amount of time and then shut it off. I turn them on before my morning walk, and I forget about them until the next day. I no longer have to dread my neighbor coming over to let me know that the garden and yard were under water.
There are both digital and analog versions of these timers. The analog versions work very much like kitchen timers that you turn past the time to “wind up” and then set the time. The digital versions are much more precise, but require batteries for power.
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