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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)