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Water Your Garden with Water Timers

This water gardening tip will save you time and money.

By Frank Hyman, Urban Farm contributor


Install an inexpensive water timer to do your watering chores.

Occasionally, I see gardeners struggling to water their gardens by hand. Most hoses put out about 10 gallons per minute. For an urban farmer in an older part of town, corrosion in the pipes may cut that rate in half.

To grow well in summer, a vegetable garden needs roughly a gallon of water per square foot per week, if there’s no rain. That means, to water about 600 square feet (or a 20-by-30-foot plot) of garden would take one to two hours — every single week. And there’s still the rest of the garden to tend to. But there’s an alternative: An inexpensive timer mounted on the spigot allows the right amount of water to run through a soaker hose or sprinkler and then shuts off the water for you.

I know timers work because I set up all my garden clients with them. Since 99 percent of my clients aren’t gardeners, the timers let me set up a simple push-button irrigation system that allows nongardeners to keep new plants alive. In 20 years of installing gardens for nongardeners, I haven’t had any callbacks to replace plants.

These timers work the same way as an egg timer for the kitchen. Turn the dial to a set amount of time, and — tick, tick, tick — it works its way through a countdown and turns off the water on schedule. They cost $10 to $15 and are available at most garden-supply centers.

It’s this easy:

  1. Screw the timer onto the spigot.
  2. Screw the garden hose onto the bottom of the timer.
  3. Connect the garden hose to a soaker hose or sprinkler in the garden.
  4. Remove them in winter so ice won’t crack them open.

You can do as I suggest to my clients: Turn on the timer when you walk out of the house on your way to work. You can be confident that the watering will stop while you’re away. You might still leave the house with the nagging feeling you’ve left the oven on; I can’t help you there. At least you won’t come home to find that your yard has become a swamp.

When you come home, move the garden hose to water another bed and set the timer again before you go in to make dinner. No standing around required.

Give us your opinion on Water Your Garden with Water Timers.
Submit Comment »
Would it work with our rain barrel? I'm not sure there's enough pressure coming out of it.
Andrew, Columbus, OH
Posted: 1/1/2014 6:19:53 AM
I use the black soaker hoses. You have to unroll them to keep from having a tangled mess. They do well for me for the first year. But that's long enough to get well chosen perennials established. After the first year, some of the pores get plugged up and they deliver water about half a fast. But I still use those in the vegetable garden. Who cares if it takes twice as long to water a bed if the timers doing the monitoring while you're having cocktails.
Frank, Green Thumb Columnist, Durham, NC
Posted: 9/5/2013 7:43:05 AM
Seems to be the best method...soaker hose & mulch.
Dante, Hyde Park, MA
Posted: 8/10/2013 7:18:03 PM
Best way to keep the plants watered!!
Dante, Hyde Park, MA
Posted: 7/30/2013 2:46:29 PM

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