Our summer garden is FINALLY completely finished and ready to grow some delicious, chemical free produce! Woo hoo! Over 3 Months ago, we started by planning out our garden, ordering seeds, and starting little flats of pepper and tomato seedlings indoors. Then, earlier this month, we set up our raised beds, and built a greenhouse cover for the main bed to protect delicate baby plants. Finally, this week, we finished by setting up an automatic watering system! This will be crucial for us because we are out of town quite a bit during the summer and don’t want our precious veggies to die of dehydration.
After quite a bit of reading and talking to local gardeners about what works/doesn’t work in our area, we decided to go with a soaker hose system, and so far, we couldn’t be happier!
What You’ll Need
- One regular garden hose- Long enough to reach from your faucet to the closest raised bed. We have an older version of this one, which has held up very well.
- A Soaker Hose per Garden box– We used this Gilmour one, and bought 3 of them because we have 3 beds.
- A short leader hose- One to go between each bed you’re wanting to connect. For example, if you only have one bed, you won’t need any of these. If you have two beds that you want to connect to your watering system, you’ll need one leader hose. We have 3 beds, so we bought two of these 6 foot long leader hoses.
- An automatic water timer
- If you’ll need to use your outdoor faucet for things other than watering your garden, you’ll want something like THIS so you have an open faucet. We have an automatic dog watering bowl so our pup always has fresh water as well as an extra water hose, and will possibly add a sprinkler for Little Man this summer so we went with the 5-way valve; however, they can be found in two-way valve splits all the way up to seven.
- Power drill with 1″ or 1.5″ spade drill bit. We used the 1.5″ because that’s what we had. Just make sure your hole is big enough for your hose to fit through 🙂
- Mulch- Just enough for a very thin layer over each of your beds.
Let’s Do This!
First, we planted everything. We use the Square Foot Gardening method, and also use Mel’s Mix for the soil so its basically impossible to over-water. That’s usually my issue with gardening…I unintentionally drown my poor plants 😉
Next, we laid out our soaker hoses in each garden box so that each plant would get a fairly equal amount of water coverage. This step also helps you figure out how to fit your soaker hose into the bed. You don’t want any of the soaker hose outside of your garden bed or it will just waste a ton of water. For our smallest bed we could have gotten away with a much shorter soaker hose, but we made it work!
Once you know where the hoses will be laid out, drill a hole in the side of your garden box where the end of the soaker hose comes out. Drilling and placing the hose through the side of the bed instead of up and over the top makes sure your water pressure isn’t working agains gravity as much. If your garden boxes are somewhat sporadically placed and/or unevenly shaped (Like ours are) then you may have a little bit of re-working to do in order to get this part right. Make sure everything is exactly where you want it to be before you drill!
Next, connect the short leader hoses to your soaker hoses in between the boxes, and attach your regular garden hose to the first garden box’s soaker hose so everything is connected. Please note: We have 3 boxes, and the water pressure in the 3rd box is still plenty to water our plants sufficiently; however, I would be careful about adding too many in a row. I would guess that 4 boxes total would be the maximum for a system like this. If you have more than 4 boxes, you may need more than one system so there’s plenty of water to go around.
Afix the water timer to your outdoor faucet, and screw on the garden hose. Ours was super easy to set. I didn’t even have to read the directions! It only took about a minute to get it where I wanted, and it was also easy to change once I set it. I LOVE that.
How often to set the timer and for how long are going to be the biggest issue of an automatic system. Talk to other gardeners in your area and see what has worked for them, but basically you’ll want to see how long it takes to soak through about 4-6 inches of soil (at least) so that your roots are getting plenty of deep water, not just from the surface. You can use a stick or dowel rod to test this. (Just stick the dowel rod into the soil, water, then pull it out and measure the length of the dowel rod that is wet.) Do this every other week or so and adjust accordingly. For cooler, spring type weather, once per day or every other day watering usually does the trick, but once summer temps arrive for good, you may have to increase it to twice daily. Right now, mine waters every morning at 7:30am for 4 minutes. When we start having 100+ days on a regular basis, I’ll likely water at 7:30am and at 7:30pm daily. This timer is also great because you can easily turn it off if it has rained, or choose the “manual” setting to add a few extra minutes of watering per day depending on temperature and soil conditions.
Do a test run to make sure everything is working properly, that you don’t have water going where you don’t want it to go, that your water pressure is high enough, etc.
Then, cover all of your soaker hoses with a LIGHT layer of mulch. The mulch helps distribute water evenly through the bed,ensuring that all of your plants are watered sufficiently.
Now sit back and enjoy watching your garden grow! 🙂 4 days after planting, we already had cantaloupe and summer squash popping up! After a week we have those plus watermelon, butternut squash, corn, radishes, and onions showing their face! Our pepper and tomato transplants are doing GREAT with some authentic sunshine, and the Greenhouse cover is fantastic for keeping them protected in the wind.
What Do You Think?
Do you have an automatic watering system for your garden, or do you water manually? If you have an automatic system, what has worked for you in the past? What hasn’t worked?
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