Irrigating the Garden

When you have a garden as large as mine, ensuring it is all properly irrigated can be a little overwhelming.  To be fair, over the years I did my best with what I could to set up systems and deliver water to my garden.   I came up with many systems that were dodgy, bodgy and completely jerry-rigged, and my garden was watered.   It probably wasn’t the most efficient or even the best way but my plants managed to survive the season without expiring from thirst.

Irrigation plan
Any great project needs to start with a plan

But knowledge is power and you only know what you know, and the good people at Gardena and Neta took one look at my ‘interesting’ system and thought ‘we’d better help this girl out.’  And so, over the summer I have been on a wonderful learning curve to find out how to irrigate the garden properly and I’d really like to share what I have learnt so we can all give our gardens the blessing of water without standing on the end of a hose forever or not watering enough or even worst watering too much – especially if you have to pay for your water!

Water flow from the tap
Understanding your water flow is the key to successful irrigation

The first thing that happened was quite unsurprising when you think about it.  We needed a plan.   All great gardens should start with a plan and while deciding where to grow your plants is important so is decided where to put the irrigation.   You need to know the size of the garden so you can work out how best to irrigate it.

Irrigation supplies
Once you have a plan, gather together your supplies

One of the easy things to get wrong is to not understand your water flow rate.  In my previous attempts to set up systems I just charged ahead and put how many devices in the garden that I wanted.  I turned on the tap only to find that my water pressure wasn’t good enough to run them all at the same time, but also the sprinklers I was trying to use weren’t the right ones for the job.  Just because you can buy a connector for the tap with four hose attachments doesn’t necessarily mean you can use them all at the same time.

Marking out the garden
Transfer your plan to the garden and start the fun process of installation

The bucket  test is a great way to gauge your water flow rate at the tap.  All you need to do is time how long it takes to fill a 9 litre bucket and then using the conversion chart on the Neta Irrigation Planner >HERE<  you can find out what your flow rate is in Litres per Minute.  We used the Neta Irrigation range of products because they are really easy to use and as I mentioned in a previous post, our climate is extremely harsh and so to have something that has been UV stabilised is important so it won’t perish in a season under the sun.

Kitten digging
This whole system is so easy, anyone can do it!

The irrigation planner takes away the difficult part of deciding which sprinkler to use.  The number of times I have stood there in the garden centre with a vast array of sprinklers and connectors before me but without a clue as to which one I need to do the best job in my garden.  I went through a lot of trial and error of bringing just one home – just to see what it did.  But had I known there was a way to plan this out first it would have saved a lot of hassle and I would have discovered I had it all wrong.

Setting up irrigation hoses
Setting up the system that will get the water into the garden

In a vegetable garden the best kind of water delivery is by dripper.  There are so many plants that don’t like to get their leaves wet or they become susceptible to fungal disease.  While some plants don’t mind so much it is best to choose one system as they all have different flow rate requirements.  I do have to confess to having one bed set up with a soaker hose, drippers and sprayers all on one line and now I realise why it never really worked very well.   So, it is best to have a majority rules situation for the whole veggie patch.

Saddle clamp
It is important not to skimp on the accessories if you want the system to be effective and long lasting

To decide exactly what you need, the irrigation planner has a handy guide that helps you to figure out the number of lines, drippers, sprinklers or pop ups you can have in your garden before you run out of pressure.  You may find that you don’t actually need as many to keep your garden hydrated as with a dripper you are only watering where you need it.  We crunched the numbers and my flow rate meant I could have as many of 44 drippers in my tomato bed, but as I only grow 20 plants in there it makes sense to only have 20 and the bed would be well watered.   The drippers we used are adjustable so the water can be delivered over a large area or reduced to focus directly on a single plant, or even turned off.  This will be handy when I rotate the crops so the different needs of the different crops will be met without having to change the system.

Heating the hose
Heating the hose in hot water can help ease the connectors onto the hose

Once you have worked out what kind of sprinkler you need, then the planner helps you to figure out what you need to deliver the water, what kind of hose, any attachments like elbows, ends and a handy connector to attach to your hose.  But then there are other items that you don’t even realise you need, like clamps to hold the hose where you need it, be it in the ground or on the inside of the bed and the extremely important clips to stop the connectors blowing the whole system apart under the pressure of the water.  Seriously you don’t want to skimp on these.  This lesson has been learnt the hard way in my garden over the years!

Punch spanner
The punch spanner is the handiest tool

Once you have made your plan, and now is a good time – if your garden has come to an autumnal end or you are at a spring start and your beds are pretty much empty, then all you need to do is head off to the garden centre with a list and confidently buy what you need.   For my kiwi friends Mitre 10 has the best range of Neta products.  Installing the irrigation couldn’t be easier and is actually a lot of fun.  Having said that I find digging and weeding fun, but there is a satisfaction in the way it comes together without frustration or difficulty.

Spray pattern
To be honest I was a bit sceptical that the garden would be well watered with this spray pattern, but checking below the surface gave me confidence the water was being delivered across the garden and into the root zone

The planner even guides you to when and how much to water your garden so it is efficient for your plants and your supply and takes into consideration the kind of soil you have.  You may not have a garden as big as mine, but even a small garden can benefit from having a proper irrigation system.   One of the keys to a healthy garden is having the soil consistently moist all season, not boomeranging from dry to wet all season.    And the key to this is knowledge.   Knowledge is power.

You can check out how we went about irrigating my garden in my latest video and you can see for yourself how simple it all is.

I’d really like to thank the good people at Gardena for coming to my rescue to help me irrigate my garden properly for once and for all.  That is one less thing I need to worry about in order to have a healthy garden and a bountiful harvest.

Come again soon – there are bulbs and things that need to find their place in my garden

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

9 thoughts on “Irrigating the Garden

  1. I am just curious, what diameter hose did you use, what is the longest length of it, and why did you choose sprinklers over all of them being drip? Thanks for the planning document, I will have to look into that soon because I am expanding this year.

    1. Hi there. We used 13mm hose to deliver the water to the bed and then 4mm hose to connect the drippers. They may look like a sprinkler but we didn’t use any sprinklers, we used “adjustable flow drippers” to ensure the plants don’t get their leaves wet but the roots are watered precisely. These drippers suit the needs of my garden perfectly. All the best with your irrigation project this year. : o)

  2. Sarah I have a collection of irrigation supplies I need to put on eBay to sell. When I had my greenhouse business I would plant up to 2,000 fall mums. Watering each by hand was not practical as I had a full time job. So I got some irrigation tools and supplies from Netafim and had at it. Now that I am 10 years past that adventure there is a fair amount of supplies that are still worth selling. I don’t think you will regret all the time you have invested.

    1. Thanks Joe. The annoying thing is we have had so much rain since it was finished I haven’t had the opportunity to fully operate it. However, knowing it is there, ready and waiting is such a confidence. In the short period between raining sessions the plants responded so well. I am really looking forward to next season as the plants will have no choice but to grow well! : o)

  3. Was that a robotic lawnmower I saw behind you in your video? I have often wondered how well they work – would love a post about yours!

    1. Thanks so much for your question. At this point I’m not sure as the system is still quite new. Having said that, thanks to all the rain, it hasn’t been used all that much yet, and so with our crazy climate at the moment the actual usage would be hard to predict. I also have the benefit of my wonderful rich swamp soil that holds the water really well, meaning I wouldn’t need to irrigate as often as I would if I was on a sandy soil. : o)

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