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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Irrigating the Patio

As the summer turns to Autumn I am thinking ahead to next year. We finished the patio makeover and used lots of pots and baskets which can take an age to water and look after. When you get home from work sometimes its better to sit in the garden with a nice cold glass of something rather than rush round with a watering can. With this in mind year one project we want to undertake on our patio is to set up an irrigation system to take care of all of the pots, tubs and hanging baskets so that next year the work is reduced!
You can buy what you need in a kit

With plans for a bigger and more vibrant display next year I want to make sure I get the best out of what we grow, this means looking at all of the options. Better compost and feed ensures the plants will grow strong, but without regular and consistent watering they will only do well until the warm weather arrives. This last summer the pots dried out so fast - although with the current rainy weather this is not a problem.

With all of these factors in mind the obvious solution is to fit an irrigation system. There are plenty of kits and systems available, but I really fancy having an automatic system to ensure I don't forget to turn it on.
Hozelock Automatic timer from Easy Watering
There are lots of manufacturers of drip equipment, and a wide variety of prices. I dont want to fall into the trap of buying cheap and poorer quality just to save in the short term, but also dont want to spend too much. As such Hozelock are one of the market leaders when it comes to irrigation and are pretty reasonably priced for good quality kit. Like many gardeners I have a number of Hozelock products already, hosepipes, and spray guns for example. There are also plenty of timers available, but this computer controlled water timer has really caught my eye (Hozelock Aqua Control Pro 2701). It includes a rain sensor so you can save water when you don't need to water your plants. It is also very simple to use, with various pre-set watering settings and also the option to be fully programmable to your own needs. I wouldn't want mine to be watering in the middle of the day or even in the early evening - although a good time to water I would rather not get dripped on under the baskets when it comes on! :)

You can buy what you need in ready made kits that include hose, pipes, drippers etc or buy the items separately if you fancy designing your own options.

There are a wide range of other manufacturers who make computer controlled water timers available, and whilst you can spend well over £100 on some timers,  Hozelock has the features I want and is reasonably priced at about £54.

As well as the timer you will also need to fit a supply hose to supply the water to the pots. It is a good idea to plan this before placing your pots as it will be a lot harder to retro fit the pipe when all your pots and plants are in place. This is why I indent to do this over the autumn period as the weather is still ok (i hope) but the pots can be removed. Doing it this way will allow me to hide the pipe as I don't really want to be able to see the black pipe at all, so will run it round the edge of the patio and hide it completely by the pots. In a couple of places where it will have to run along a wall I will probably paint it to match the white wall behind so it doesnt stand out too much.

The trick with the supply pipe is to have a bowl of warm water to hand when you fit it. If you have a tight bend to get round then place the pipe in the hot water to help soften it, you can then bend it into position without causing it to kink. Kinks would constrict the water flow/pressure and may mean that any pots near the end of the pipe run don't get enough water. For very tight bends you can buy rigid plastic angles connectors to get round the bend where it would be impossible not to kink the pipe.

Into the supply pipe you need to connect the micro pipe, which feeds the drippers and sprinklers. As I am watering pots and baskets I will just user drippers but if you were watering garden beds then sprinklers may be more suitable.

When it comes to the drippers there are a wide range available, see the huge selection listed on the Easy Watering website. I havent yet decided which to use, but will probably stick to the same type for the patio, perhaps adjusting the variety for the baskets.

With any luck I can enjoy the garden in the evenings after work next summer without having to spend any time watering. Although knowing me I will find something else to do.

DG

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