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Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.


Programmable Timers Take the Work Out of Watering

One of the big challenges in gardening is keeping all the plants watered, especially if you are trying to fit in this chore around things like a job, family demands, and all the other time-consuming complexities of modern life. The solution for me has been a computerized watering system, a product typically used for watering lawns.

You begin by setting the time and the day of the week on the timer’s internal clock. The next step is to program the watering schedule. The unit I purchased has 4 outputs. Each output or hose is controlled individually, so I can water up to 4 different parts of my garden. Each can be set up with its own variables, such as when to begin watering and the duration or amount of time I want to water a specific crop.

Ideally plants in the garden will receive 1-2 inches of rain per week. That's about 1-2 hours of watering. On some rows I used soaker hoses so that I only water the plants and not the weeds between rows. For my bean and corn crops, I often use rotating sprinklers which allow me to cover a wider area.

I usually instruct the system to only water at night. Watering at night is also more efficient and better for the plants, allowing the water to soak into the ground instead of evaporating in the hot sun.

Another benefit: I avoid over-watering. How often have you tuned on water to a soaker hose or sprinkler and then become distracted and returned hours later to a small flood? It happens! But not any more for me, thanks to the programmed automatic shut off. It’s all about working smarter, not harder.

You can purchase programmable watering timers anywhere lawn landscaping products are sold. Prices range from $15 for a single output to $75 for the 4-way.

Photo by Douglas Stevenson