Spring has sprung in Canada, and Canadians across the country are busy planning their gardens. Whether you like to grow flowers, vegetables and fruit, or if you just want to keep your plants and hedges green during a dry hot summer, an automated watering system can save time and money. In fact, when using a micro-irrigation system (that’s what they call drip irrigation), you can save up to 70% of the water that is lost due to over-watering and evaporation.
After struggling to find time to water our garden daily (or – if we’re honest – every other day) last summer, I started hunting for an automated watering solution. Much to my surprise, a water hose timer and drip irrigation system can be found for under $100 CAD, delivered right to your door.
What supplies you’ll need
Retailers like Home Depot, Canadian Tire, and any other garden center carry supplies from the most popular brands. After comparing prices for the no-name online brands and the well-known RainBird versions, I opted to pay a couple dollars more and get the real deal. Rainbird has a long history of drip irrigation products and since I’m a beginner, if I ran into troubles I wanted to know it was my fault and not the drip irrigation supplies I bought.
The first step in determining the parts you’ll need is to take stock of what you’re trying to water. For me, I have a hose outlet on the side of the house, and I have multiple planter beds along the front of the house with flowers and vegetables that need regular watering. They’re full-sun location with well draining soil which makes for great growing, but it also means they dry out fast in mid-summer.
I looked at individual prices for the 1/4 supply hose, the hose bib connector, and the different drip spigots, and came across a bucket from RainBird that has all the supplies I would need for multiple tomato plants, our herb and spice bed, as well as possibly some squash plants in our sprawling mulched area. The bucket was $56 for all the supplies.
I also set out searching for an automatic water timer for my hose so that it would water daily throughout the summer. In store, the cheapest options I could find were around the $75-$80 price range. While these were branded products, they didn’t look like they were necessarily better made than the ‘no name’ brands so I went to Amazon and found one with good reviews for $30.
Installing the drip irrigation system
This drip irrigation kit was really easy to set up. The most difficult was that when I wanted to use a long length of tubing, after pulling out of the bucket it wanted to stay coiled up. If the weather was warmer, I’m sure the irrigation supply tubing would be more flexible and easier to work with.
The same problem was obvious when trying to point the drippers directly at the base of the plants. I ended up using one stake per plant, which helped keep the dripper exactly where I wanted. Again, if it was warmer (rather than early spring cold), the tubing would be easier to work with.
These little fittings are fairly easy to fit into the tubing, but make sure you think twice before you stick the tee-fittings or drippers into the tubing. I was unable to pull one out after I inserted the wrong piece – I had to cut the tubing off. Of course, with 250 feet provided in the RainBird kit, losing a few inches wasn’t a problem.
Using the included faucet connecter, we were able to insert the 1/4 inch supply tubing into the fitting, and twist it directly onto the output of our automatic water timer.
Automatic Water Timer, Sprinkler Timer, Irrigation System ControllerAmazon.ca
This is the no name brand automatic watering timer I decided to give a try. It's only $30 and has some decent reviews. It has all the features I need, and the drip irrigation tubing will connect right up to it.
Programming the water timer
For only $30, this programmable garden timer looks sturdily built, even down to the high quality rubber rain seal on the battery compartment cover. It even comes with a spare rubber hose gasket. I didn’t need it, as the RainBird faucet connector came with one as well.
Programming the water timer was a cinch. I’ve looked at some before and confused myself into a circle when trying to figure out how to program it. In fact, I just wanted to turn the hose on at a friend’s house and I managed to delete their programmed water schedule!
One of the reasons we decided to see if this was the best hose timer was because of the intuitive buttons. Simply press the gear/ok button, and the display blanks out all sections except one, and it blinks. For instance, the first time the gear button is pushed on the automatic hose timer, the only section that displays is the ‘hour’ display under the ‘now’ section. By using the +/- buttons, you can change the value, and then click ‘ok’. Next, the minutes section blinks. Continue until everything is set as desired.
To lock out children, press and hold the + and – buttons for 3 seconds, and the lock icon will appear. To unlock the best garden timer, do the same.
To manually turn on the water, simply push the ‘tap’ icon.