The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Adapting your watering system

runner beans and sweet peas in August.jpgMy Bee Mentor, Mike, is a dinger. When I mentioned the automatic watering system that we have here, he finally agreed to come for lunch.

Mike and his wife, Brenda, examined my system and asked hundreds of questions. They rang me a week later. They had not ordered the components online. They had actually driven to the Garden Systems store, talked to the people there and bought the perfect system for their garden.

I now know that if you want to water your garden efficiently and well, you need to think about your garden’s needs and also talk to the experts. My system was ordered and installed by me and I was proud of it until Mike visited us on Bank Holiday Monday. My system works very well but it could work far better and even more efficiently.

Mike had telephoned to enquire about the bees. We side tracked all bee chat to range over our watering systems. He is an engineer and likes to test and measure things. He has an electronic device that controls the amount of water supplied (that he bought from Netto). Mike can now go away on holiday for weeks on end and know that his garden will be well watered. His tank is large but half the size of one of our Jaffa 1,500 litre tanks. I was amazed.

It turns out that Mike has developed a watering system that amalgamates water butts and mains watering. He uses the brown water butt drip pipe for all watering. This gives you the best possible return for every drop of water as the steady drip penetrates the soil deeply. You do need a pressure regulator to reduce the pressure from mains water to the water butt pipe (available from Garden Systems for ?9.50).

His lime hating plants, rhododendron, azalea, camellia etc are watered from his rainwater tank. Having measured the rate of flow by dropping the water butt pipe into a bucket for an hour he knows that he has X hundreds of hours from his tank.

The rest of the garden is watered from the mains (this has a lot of lime). He has also measured the mains water flow through the drip feed piping and set up his electronic timer to water for the appropriate length of time.

Mike only waters his garden every three or four days in dry spells. This encourages strong, deep, healthy root systems. A lot of people reject the idea of water butt pipe as they do not want to water everything in a border.

To conserve his precious rainwater he laid out the mains water drip feed pipe to his lime hating plants and then blocked up the other holes in the pipe with gaffer tape.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Joanna,
    It is easy. Once installed (an afternoon), it’s fun to tweak and it works so well. We invested massively in water butts a couple of years ago when the local council were flogging them half price (it’s worth checking if your council is running a scheme if you need more butts). Four years ago, I’d be watering in the evenings for a couple of hours. Now I can work late if I want to or come back and work in the garden whilst the automatic watering takes care of the plants.

  2. Joanna

    Inspirational … I keep thinking I should do this, but never get round to it … now I see that it’s a no-brainer, one big task gets rid of the never-ending task of summer, AND does away with the horrors of finding someone to water the garden while we’re away … THANK YOU


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