Setting up an irrigation system

The Big Issue

One issue we have, is too much garden and not enough enthusiasm. But to allow the gardens to die out is not much of an option, so I decided to put in an irrigation system. That was an easy decision but getting the right system then programming it wasn’t quite so easy.

Start with the right parts

The first step for any irrigation system is to put in the hoses and sprinklers. You can buy the required parts at your local hardware store. You need the 12mm hose unless you are going a very long distance or supplying more than 3 pop-up sprinklers. In that case you should choose 15mm pipes at least. Did I mention you probably have to dig a trench between the tap area and the garden. In my case that meant digging a trench all along the side of the house until I came up with the idea of hiding the hose behind some plants along the fence. I still have a few metres of trench to did but only about a ¼ as much. Of course nobody thinks about laying conduit under paths or driveways so I’ve had to employ some alternative thinking to get to the right places. On one run I went up and into the gutter then around the house to another support pole where I was able to come down from the gutter to the garden. In another place I had to buy another irrigation controller rather than trying to cross the front driveway.

Choose the right Sprinklers

Having laid the main pipes in the ground, you then need some sprinklers and feeder hose. The sprinklers came in many varying types so choose the correct ones that will reach the area you need and not waste too much water on areas you down want to sprinkle. I have used mostly half circle sprinklers in two varieties – plastic and brass. Both will block up with dirt or ants over time and so you need to make sure they are cleaned out and working. I also put in 6 popup sprinklers in the front lawn to sprinkle the front gardens. There are great but I have to replace a few over time because I hit them with the lawn mower. Of course my first lot were the cheapest ones and they only rise up 50mm so over time, the grass around them grows and then they don’t rise up enough. So my advice is but ones that rise up 75mm at the start. Then when the grass grows, they will still be able to sprinkle freely. And don’t buy the cheapest ones you can find. They often leak as they rise and sometimes that means they won’t rise up completely.

A Single Tap or Multi Outlet System

Now I used to used a tap single control systems for years. That requires you to turn the knob and set it for a period of time to water. But when I’m away, or if I forget, they don’t work at all. They need someone to turn the dial to start them running. So I figured an automatic system would be great. So I purchased an automatic, 4 outlet irrigation controller a few years ago. At least this one works and doesn’t forget. Of course if we ever return to the rainy summers we used to have, I’ll need to remember to manually tell it to not sprinkle on wet days. It is possible to buy a rain sensor which tells the system it has rained but they need to be a specific type – the type that remembers tomorrow what happened today. You can get them but they seem to be about $100 each so Ive never bothered.

The Programming Problem

Whilst it works and doesn’t forget to water the garden – unless it internal battery goes flat, it is a bit tricky to set up. Mine uses a single dial to set the functions and requires an understanding of what you are trying to do. Setting the date and time is easy enough, but after that you have the option of two or three different cycles to set up. So you have to set the day of the week the sprinkler should start, and the start time and run time for each sprinkler station. So for example, you could set station 1 to run on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on cycle one and station 2 to run on Tuesdays and Thursdays on cycle 2. Each cycle can be different in start time and run time from the others but cycle one runs all stations set to run on that program. If this sounds complicated, it is a bit and what makes it worse is when the internal battery goes flat it forgets the cycles and stations and you have to reprogram the whole thing again.

For simplicity I only ever use a single cycle. That way station 1 runs first then station 2 runs. In my case station 1 does one garden and feeds three sprinklers and station 2 does another garden about the same size but with 4 sprinklers so this works out OK for me.

The Future?

You can buy bluetooth and wifi controllers these days that seem to offer an easier set up on your phone. I haven’t tried them but the reviews online are not always positive. Maybe the problem is the setup is just difficult!

So it is possible in your retirement years to still have gardens that look green when they should even in dry weather. However, I haven’t found way yet to water only the plants I want and not the weeds.

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