The Cottage Smallholder

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Setting up the drip feed water watering system for the summer

broad beans drip feed wateringI’ve spent the afternoon playing with water. There’s nothing more relaxing. Especially if you know that your system will save time, energy and water throughout the summer.

There are loads of watering systems available for your garden. The ones that run from butts appealed to me as they are environmentally friendly by reducing mains water usage. We now have six small (250-300 litre) butts and a large 1500 litre one. We have another large butt waiting in the wings to be linked up. We have four sheds that potentially could feed another 4 – 5 butts, if we put up guttering. Once we get our act together we could be collecting over 6000 litres of free water for our garden, when it rains hard for a few hours.

Of course the butts quite often run dry. But if they do, and you have to fill them with mains water, you know that you are making the best possible use of the water. A drip system is efficient and effective. A little water goes a long way. There is far less evaporation than using a mains hose or a sprinkler.

When you have a system up and running you welcome rainy days. I often stand out in the rain to hear the jingle (small tanks) and echoing jangle (large tank) as they refill. Meanwhile the rain is watering your garden so you can save your stores.

We started using a drip watering system because we are on a water meter. Mains water is pricey. Within a few months I realised that our system gave us far more than the water bill saving. The quality of rainwater is better and our system makes far more efficient use of every litre.

I am a strong believer in low maintenance. Herbaceous garden (low). Kitchen garden (moderate). Danny (low to moderate). Min Pins (high – thank God they don’t need to be watered much). When I get home from work I just have to turn on a few taps and then relax as the garden waters itself.

We use the drip feed watering system for our fruit and vegetables. The herbaceous borders have just have a small butt. This is handy for watering the pots along the back of the cottage but the second giant butt could automatically water both the pots and the herbaceous borders if we hooked it up to the guttering at the back of the cottage.

Everyone says that it’s going to be a hot summer. Drip feed watering systems use water so much more efficiently than a hose or a watering can. As the water is distributed slowly capillary action takes place. The water seeps into the soil to a depth of six inches in a radius of eighteen inches from the drip point.

When you operate the system in your garden it looks weedy until you dig down. It does what it says on the box. Deep watering with minimal water.

We pack away the drip feed water pipes in the winter. Despite this, they still attract the occasional earwig. I have devised a masterly way of clearing the pipes using a small party balloon pump.

However carefully I have stashed the components, I always find that I’ve lost a few vital parts so I go online to my supplier who are friendly and efficient. The bits and pieces usually arrive within a few days.

I started off my venture into drip feed watering systems with a kit from Garden Systems so as to play about with a small system and modify it. Now I have a more extensive system and this evening sent off for more water butt pipe and a few hose to water butt pipe adaptors (these are essenial for diverted water) so order a few extra if you order a kit.

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  1. Hello Fiona

    I am now in the process of getting my watering butt system set up for next year. I have fitted three 210litre water butts. I have ordered the irrigation system and hope to install that in Mar-Apr after all the ground frost has gone. How many hours a day would you recommened the drip feeding kit be active to give all the vegetation adequate water ie.. 1 hour morn, 1 hour evening.. As this is all a learning curve for me. Any help appreciated

  2. I have an allotment and I have 2 x 45 gal drums., I’ve fitted a water butt tap and they are about 1 ft off the floor. I connected a long 20 mtres hose…..and nothing there dosnt seem to be enough pressure to push the water to the end of the pipe. is it different with the drip feed systems. I don’t want to spend all that money and find it does not work.

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Eva

      Look at the land. Is there any sort of slope? If so the water butt needs to be at the top of the slope ideally. If the butt is at the base of a slope it will struggle to drain lower than the height of the slope.

      The ‘hose’ that drips the water is much smaller in diameter to a garden hose which makes it more efficient. I use garden hose to carry the water down to/between the borders and use more drip hose on the beds furthest from the butts. It works well for me – just needs a bit of fiddling around. Definitely worth the investment!

    • Drip feed is the best at about 2 drips/second. – you can run 100 drippers on a line … feed the water to a line connection via a short large diameter hose and arrange your drip feed line of a smaller diameter hose to run in a circle ,,, dig a well about 7 metres deep using an adapted post boring tool ….pump water to a storage tank in the garage roof using a simple mains timer.

  3. Marianne

    Thanks so much. I contacted garden systems and they they were so, so helpful. I’m going to order a 10m kit i think and a couple 16 taps and then add to this in the Autumn. Can’t believe i’ve been looking for this type of company for months. Thanksyou so much will be aregular visiter to your site. Also chicken mad myself.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Marianne

    This system doesn’t need power.

    Ideally your water but is set above the level of the ground that you are watering, although ground can be watered from a butt set on a lower level. It will water, but much more slowly. Once the height of the water level matches the ground it™s snail™s pace. Putting the butt on concrete blocks can solve the problem but it™s best to find a higher place for the butt and run the water down using a simple garden hose pipe. Only use drip pipe in the areas that you want to water. If you need to water more in a particular place “ the end of the tunnel or plants that need more water, curl the pipe twice (or more) around these areas.

  5. Marianne

    I have a 20ft polytunnel at my allotment and really need something like this. Am right in thinking it doesn’t need power?? Do the plants at the end of system get enough water??
    Really pleased I found this.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Richard

    Yes solar or battery operated timers work well. We have friends who use them. Drip feeding water means that you don’t have to water as much as you nrmally would as the water penetrates the soil deeply.

  7. can i put this on a ,say, solar timer for longer periods for holiday periods?

  8. Fiona Nevile

    I used to water for an hour a day and really resented the time.

    I leave the system on for an hour or so each day when it is dry and I am around. If I’m away for a few days I put it on for a couple of hours before I go and on my return. The earth seems to retain the moisture well.

    The system works particularly well on clay soil, apparently.

    I’ve put a link to the kit on the Garden Systems site in my post so you can read more about it.

    I also use a slightly different system for watering the greenhouse from a small butt.

  9. This looks really interesting. At my allotment we have a pump that pumps water from the canal. We also have very heavy clay soil that cracks beautifully when it dries out.

    How long do you leave the drip system on? I am usually at the allotment for about 2 hours a day when it’s dry and I spend about an hour of that watering.

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