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Best garden watering system 2020: irrigation without irritation

The best garden watering systems, including automatic timers, irrigation systems and handy planters

The best watering system may be less useful this summer, as you probably won’t be venturing too far on holiday. However, that doesn’t mean they are of no use. It’s all very well spending ages walking around your garden with a hose or watering can but if you really want to keep your lawn and flowerbeds looking lush and bountiful with as little effort as possible, the best watering systems will take the guesswork out of it. They will refresh your lawn while you get on with enjoying a barbecue or pizza oven.

• One of the first things you’ll need is a decent hosepipe which, as luck would have it, we have written about in our best hose roundup.

Right, now you’re back with us, the next thing you’ll need is an automatic water-scheduling controller or even a full-blown irrigation system with a confluence of water pipes to feed the borders and seedlings.

Potted plants are usually the first things to wilt on a hot summer’s day so fitting a drip irrigation system is also a damn good idea. Or perhaps invest in a self-watering or water regulating planter.

There are loads of different types of automatic watering systems and self-watering planters on the market but, to save you the head-scratching, we’ve scoured the web for the best automated systems for those you can’t be bothered to unravel a hose.

  • Best lawn sprinklers 2020
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  • Best cordless lawn mowers 2020

Watering systems running dry in shops?

Some of our favourite gardening products not surprisingly keep selling out at the moment as everyone plans for the summer ahead. If you find a product we’ve recommended isn’t available via the provided retail link, try these retailers who usually stock some very good alternatives.

In the UK:

In the US:

1. OMORC Automatic Water Timer

Best automatic timer for price and function
Reasons to buy

If you’re looking for something more sophisticated than a simple twist timer like the Gardena reviewed below, then consider this cracking fully-auto battery-powered entry from Amazon player OMORC. For the price (under £25), it offers loads of handy automation like daily timers (every day to odd days), length of watering, plus a rain delay button which you need to manually tap if precipitation is on the horizon. It also has a child lock so youngsters can’t screw things up.

The big LCD screen is a major plus here because it’s so thoughtfully laid out and easy to understand without so much as a glance at the manual. The battery remaining icon is a big bonus too and, speaking of batteries, you’ll need to buy a couple of AAs because it doesn’t come with any. Like most water timers, the OMORC comes with two sizes of outdoor tap connector plus a selection of different rubber washers.

This is an ideal system to use when going away for a period of time. Just make sure it’s all connected to your sprinkler or irrigation system and rest in the knowledge that you won’t come home to an arid landscape. An excellent value timer that isn’t an Amazon top seller for nothing.

2. Gardena Water Timer

Save water with this simple but effective manual water timer from Gardena
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

One of the worst things about a sprinkler system is that it’s all too easy to forget to turn the damn thing off. You set it off at 6pm and carry on with life as usual, only noticing at bedtime that the sprinkler’s still running. This is not only a gross waste of precious water but if you have a water meter fitted, you’ll likely receive a whopping bill from the water supplier for your absent-mindedness. Your flowers won’t be too happy either.

What you need is a dead simple spring-loaded timer like this brilliant model from Gardena. Simply screw it onto the outdoor tap (it comes with two sizes of tap connector), push and clip the hose to the unit’s outlet and turn the dial (rather like an old fashioned cooking timer) to anywhere between five and 120 minutes. Boom, the sprinkler springs to life and stops roughly at the time you set. If using a hose gun for an undefined period of time, simply turn the dial to continuous and water will flow for as long as you have your finger on the trigger.

No batteries involved with this little baby, just a simple twist is all that’s required. In fact, it’s so easy my cat uses it to scare away the neighbourhood toms.

3. Bosch GardenPump 18

An excellent water butt alternative to using the tap
Reasons to buy

This new ecological irrigation pump from Bosch is a brilliant watering solution for those with a water butt on their land. Instead of having to faff about with watering cans, the GardenPump 18 uses cordless technology to pump water from the butt through your hosepipe to a water gun or sprinkler.

Simply mount the battery control unit to a wall or wooden post next to the butt, feed in the supplied suction hose with pump attached and loop the hose guide over the lip of the butt. Now grab a pre-charged Bosch 18v 2.5aH battery from your tool shed – or purchase one online – and clip it into the control unit. The whole shebang is now ready to plug in a hose and get watering without increasing your already extortionate water bill.

Against all odds, this cordless pump pushes out about 10 litres of water a minute and produces a spray with a very decent reach; not a dribble as you might expect. The Bosch GardenPump 18 works efficiently with hoses up to 25m in length.

For outright eco-friendly convenience this efficient garden gadget takes some beating. It’s not too pricey either.

4. HOZELOCK SENSOR CONTROLLER PLUS

A top easy-to-use timer with light sensor
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

If you take your gardening duties seriously enough to stick to a strict twice-a-day watering regime, you’ll save a lot of time and effort by fitting an automated water scheduling system like this model from Hozelock. It will also assuage the pain of returning from holiday only to find that your lush Garden of Eden has turned into a desertscape of Karoo proportions.

To use, simply bung in a couple of AA batteries, attach the unit to your tap and plug the hose into the other side. The controller is fitted with a daylight sensor that automatically opens the taps at dawn and dusk, keeping your lawn, flowerbeds or greenhouse plants in tip-top condition. You can easily set the number of days required and even how long you want the watering session to last, from two to 60 minutes. And if you ever need to use the hose outside of the scheduled periods, just tap the grey Water Now button and squirt.

This convenient garden nanny works well with any standard hosepipe/sprinkler combo. Nevertheless, despite the fact it has a light sensor fitted, it’s not quite up the mark set by the excellent OMORC reviewed above.

5. Gardena AquaBloom solar-powered irrigation

Efficient solar-powered pot watering system
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

Rainfall alone is rarely enough to sate the appetite of the average pot plant which can dry out in a matter of hours if left unattended in the midsummer sun. The trouble is, few of us ever remember to grab the watering can, only realising this mistake when the geraniums start taking on the appearance of a pressed flower from grandma’s Dickens collection.

Well here comes Gardena to the rescue with a competent but slightly eccentric contraption comprised of a bucket of water, a solar-powered pump, some irrigation tubes and a pile of pressure-compensation drippers. You can pretty much guess how it works. Simply fill the bucket with water (preferably with a lid on top to slow evaporation), feed the provided tube to up to 20 pots at a time and attach the drippers. Now connect it all to the solar pump and choose one of 14 pre-defined watering programs.

Voila, water is automatically drawn from the bucket and drip fed to every pot on the patio without you so much as lifting a finger.

6. Lechuza Cottage Balconera

Handy self-watering planter for the absent minded
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

This writer was sent this 79cm long plastic rattan-patterned outdoor planter last August and I promptly planted five pansies in it. I also planted another ten pansies in some standard pots. Three or four weeks later, the flowers in the Lechuza Balconera had exploded to five times their initial size, almost obscuring the planter in a festoon of pretty petals. By contrast, the same flowers in the other pots looked much smaller and far less happy, despite having been watered on a regular basis. More surprisingly, come December, the Lechuza flowers were still in full bloom while all the others had wilted away. So how does the Lechuza do it?

In a nutshell, it uses sub-irrigation (basically a reservoir of water beneath a suspended soil basket) to keep plants permanently moist, seemingly for weeks at a time. It also comes with a visible gauge that tells you when to put more water into the base using the handy built-in funnel. A pair of brackets is included for mounting it on a balcony railing.

Lechuza produces a massive range of both outdoor and indoor planters in numerous sizes and styles. Given that potted plants (especially indoor ones) are so often forgotten about, a system like this really does make a big difference. Highly recommended.

7. Kärcher SensoTimer ST6 Duo Ecologic

Comprehensive soil sensing water timer
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

If you’re a horticultural connoisseur and are a bit tech savvy, consider installing this effective water management system from Kärcher.

The SensoTimer package is comprised of two spiked 9v battery-powered sensors that measure soil moisture and a 9v battery-powered control box that screws onto any outdoor tap. Unlike the majority of self-timers, this one comes with two hose outlets that can water two different sections of the garden at different times. All you need to do is install an irrigation system or sprinkler (any brand will do), and the system will take care of all your watering needs.

Crucially, Kärcher has elected to avoid wi-fi communication between the sensor and the base unit because, well, we all know how unreliable wi-fi is. Instead, the system uses rock-steady radio waves to send signals every 30 minutes from the soil sensor to the base. If the sensor detects a drop in soil moisture, it sends a command to the base station which in turn opens either one outlet or both depending on how you programmed it. Although it’s admittedly complex to program – there are lots of different parameters to choose from – at least the front of the base station can be removed for easier access.

If you’re on the hunt for a comprehensive irrigation controller that will keep your garden in tip-top condition while you sit back and relax, then put this one high on your list of contenders. A single water outlet version is also available.

8. Vegepod Raised Garden Bed

A top planter for homegrown fruit and veg
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid

If you fancy the idea of growing your own fruit and veg but don’t have the space or the patience to maintain the plot and keep the plants protected against the elements, then this clever self-watering micro greenhouse from Australia could just be what you’re looking for. The whole package arrives in a large box and requires assembly which is quite time intensive and even a little tricky (thankfully, there are quite a few online instruction videos which we highly recommend watching).

The Vegepod is available in three sizes: small, medium and large. We received the small version which turned out to be bigger (39 x 20 inches) and taller (40 inches) – and a bit uglier – than we expected but still a perfect size for a small patio or balcony. It’s certainly big enough for a clutch of carrot plants and some lettuces, and tall enough to accommodate small tomato plants.

The Vegepod is comprised of a deep plastic trough with a growing depth of around 10 inches, a drainage section below, an integrated sprinkler that attaches to your garden hose, and a taught nylon net cover that lets just the right amount sunlight through while at the same time protecting the plants from pests. The optional stand is definitely worth getting if you can stretch the budget by another £49.

For best results, the manufacturer recommends filling the Vegepod with four 25-litre bags of good quality potting mix and one bag of cow manure. For even better results, replace one bag of potting mix with a bag of perlite which lightens the soil while retaining plenty of moisture.

The Vegepod isn’t some magical self-sustainability solution – it’s far too small for that – but it’s still a brilliantly novel way to grow a few of your own organic vegetables on your patio or balcony and then be able to boast about it.

Incidentally, if the standard Vegepod is too big for your needs, consider the patio-friendly VegeBag (available direct from Vegepod), a simple circular net container that opens like a pop-up tent. Simply fill the bottom area with soil, plant your crops and zip up the top to keep pests at bay. Available in two sizes (small 45x65cm and large 60x76cm), these protective mini grow pods are perfect for tomatoes, herbs and root vegetables. However, you have to attach an irrigation system or water the plants yourself.

The best garden watering systems, including automatic timers, irrigation systems and handy planters

Home Depot: Patio Garden Kit w/ Automatic Watering System ONLY $19.98 & More

Hip2Save may earn a small commission via affiliate links in this post. Read our full disclosure policy here.

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Turn your patio into a personal garden!

Head over to HomeDepot.com where you can score this City Pickers Patio Garden Kit in Terra Cotta for just $19.98 (regularly $30.77) with free in-store pick up if available near you.

This garden box measures 24.5″ x 20.5″ and has a self-contained watering system that automatically waters your plants and has drainage holes to help prevent over watering. The mulch cover helps prevent weed growth, and the aeration screen helps provide a sufficient amount of air to the plant roots.

In addition, you can score this Napa 12″ Tan Wash Round Rim Fiber-Clay Planter for only $9.90 (regularly $24.74). Choose free in-store pick up if available near you; otherwise, shipping is free on orders over $45.

Home Depot: Patio Garden Kit w/ Automatic Watering System ONLY $19.98 & More Hip2Save may earn a small commission via affiliate links in this post. Read our full disclosure policy here.