It’s easy to get overwhelmed by irrigation systems, so we’ve put together this guide on irrigation kits, and irrigation tools for gardens that should hopefully demystify the idea of automatic watering.
We’ll be talking about the different types of irrigation, the benefits of irrigation systems, and when and where you need irrigation systems, as well as ways to save money and water with garden irrigation kits.
Best Garden Irrigation Systems for 2022
Guide to Garden Irrigation Systems
For most of Australia, dry spells are inevitable at some point in the year, and they can be devastating for your crops, lawns, and borders.
Keeping our soil watered usually means walking up and down the garden with watering cans, or pulling hoses around every corner, and for bigger gardens you might be out there every day trying to stop your veggies from drying out.
The benefit of irrigation kits is that they take the work out of watering, and most modern kits are automatic and work on timers of moisture sensors, which make it even easier than traditional irrigation.
In this guide I’ll be looking at tried and tested systems, kits and traditional methods (which can be a great way to make the most of rainwater without spending a penny), but first I want to talk about how they actually work.
How Does Irrigation work?
Irrigation, in the most basic way, redirects water from one place to another. Traditional systems used reservoirs and canals to lift water from below the water table.
In Australia, this differs in-land from coastal areas, where soil saturation tends to follow rivers and lakes rather than usual sea level. If there are any natural springs in your area they give a great indication on the water table level.
The reason irrigation is important is because in gardens, you’re creating a miniature ecosystem, where the soil saturation depends on soil type and whether you have raised beds.
You can dig wicks into the ground which will carry water to raised beds from deeper in the soil, but this won’t stop them drying out on the hottest days. Water systems for gardens use tap water, or water butts to move water around the garden to where they are needed.
Some simple systems like soaker hoses for irrigation can be incredibly efficient, especially when buried and set up from a low-pressure water butt, but can over saturate soil with high pressure.
The most efficient way is to set a timer when you connect an outdoor tap to irrigation kits. This way you’ll reduce the risk of overwatering, and can set the time based on how much water you need, whether you’re making an irrigation kit for veggies, or for garden beds.
Buyer’s Guide to Irrigation Systems for Gardens
Why do I need an Irrigation system?
Well firstly, it means you can do away with using your hose. Sure, watering can be somewhat therapeutic and good for the mind, but it also takes a long time, can be very inefficient, and puts all the responsibility on you to remember to do it.
Different Types of Garden Irrigation Systems
1. Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation typically involves a precise, controlled release of water, at or around the plant’s root system. The benefit of drip irrigation is that you are targeting water where it is needed, rather than wetting the entire bed.
This way you can cut down on water use, and any water the plant doesn’t use will simply ebb out into the rest of the bed, enough so it doesn’t dry out, but not enough that you are wasting water.
Installing PVC pipes with pressure gauges and flow control valves is at the core of many drip irrigation systems. In a standard drip irrigation set up, pipes with holes drilled into them are either buried or run near the base of plants in well-defined rows.
This approach helps to more efficiently direct where the water is going and prevents a significant amount of the water evaporation problems associated with flood irrigation methods.
Employing the use of drip tape to safely distribute a steady supply of water to a large number of plants, all at the same time, helps to demonstrate why drip irrigation is an efficient, cost effective way to save water while transporting critical moisture to the plants of a garden.
2. Spray Irrigation
The early approach to spray irrigation arose as people used garden hoses with spray nozzles to distribute water over lawns and gardens.
As spray irrigation became more advanced, the idea of poking holes in the side of hoses and walking about in a circle, to evenly distribute the water, became a popular way to irrigate large areas of property while saving time.
Today, machines, metal frames and long tubes are used in center pivot style spray irrigation systems to cover even larger areas of crops. An alternative method of spray irrigation is to use hanging pipes adapted with holes to spray water over large areas.
If a row of plants is confined to a small area, such as near the perimeter of one side of a house, then it is possible to install rotating sprinklers to spray water on the desired area for efficient water exposure.
3. Basic Irrigation
The transportation of water from one place to another is a central theme in most irrigation systems. Since the invention of the bucket, people have spent countless hours carrying water to the crops in their fields.
To give basic irrigation its proper title, furrow irrigation, is a method of irrigating using the power of water itself, requiring no pressure, and no manual watering.
The modern alternative to furrow irrigation is soaker hoses, which work particularly well in greenhouses, and will work equally well from a water butt filled with rain water or grey water, to save using tap water.
Grey water irrigation refers to irrigation by water that is generally reused from residential or commercial sources which is free of faecal matter – so used bath water (if soaps are non-toxic), or rain water run-off, which can harvest from drain pipes directly into barrels or water butts.
Garden Irrigation Reviews
Hozelock is the most trusted irrigation brand in the world. Their Universal irrigation kit can be adjusted for high pressure spraying at water point, and connects to the garden tap with no fuss at all.
It might not come with an automatic timer, but sometimes that’s ok, as it gives the gardener more control of their veggies, and means you can respond to the weather each day.
Another purpose made irrigation system from Hozelock, which far exceeds a lot of their competitors.
I prefer drip irrigation to spray irrigation as it targets water where it is most needed without waste. This is particularly important on leafy plants and squashes, where watering leaves during the day can leave sunburn and mildew.
Not only is this garden drip irrigation kit from Hozelock easy to set up, every drip nozzle has an adjustable flow, so for plants that require less moisture, you can control the watering for every pot.
This in ground irrigation system for gardens is the most comprehensive kit you can buy. The sprinkler system works just like the regular orbit system. It’s buried pipes and high-pressure sprinklers work from an outdoor tap, but this model comes with a smart irrigation kit included.
One of the fastest things to try out in your garden is hanging baskets, typically needing water 2-3 times per week to prevent them becoming completely bone dry.
Hanging basket irrigation kits are a great way to make the most of your rainwater as they can be permanently attached to a tap on a water butt. This garden irrigation kit from Raindrip has a battery powered automatic water time, which opens its valve to let exactly the right amount of water out each day. It can be set up from a tap, but the pressure from your water butt will push water through easily.
Many people just wish there was a simple, DIY option for some of their irrigation needs. Well, the good news is, there is! I was recently afforded the opportunity by the trusty people at Pope to check out one of their new products, a Raised Garden Bed Irrigation Kit and I was very impressed.
Pope Irrigation does a great range of irrigation kits, but you can build your own bespoke kits from parts, really quite easily. Their drip irrigation kits are easy to clean, resistant to blockages, and easy to set up.
Pope Irrigation kits are perfect for raised beds, and can be customised to include spray irrigation on the same line as drip irrigation, making one hose work for the entire garden.
From an ease of use perspective, Gardena produces one of the most durable irrigation kits that includes a water computer. The fully customisable watering timer, allows full control of hour by hour watering so you can easily look after your garden when you’re away from home.
The system will work ok from a water butt but is best connected to an outdoor tap for the added pressure.
I admit that mist irrigation might seem unnecessary in most gardens, but of all the irrigation kits in this article, this is the one I would buy.
We have two greenhouses in our backyard, one for veggies, and one for tropical plants that need as much control as possible, including humidity. Usually, just a shallow tray of water will humidify the greenhouse enough, but this kit is incredibly easy to set up, and comes with 10 fogger nozzles for mist irrigation of tropical plants.
It’s also great to use on the patio to cool down the area on a really warm day.
This neat little kit from UCIN is for indoor use only, so it’s great for houseplants in the greenhouse, but not useful in the garden.
It isn’t as well built as other brands so needs to be set up carefully and out of reach of children and pets. But it’s a great way to water an indoor garden with no effort at all.
It can be charged by USB, or used when it's plugged in, so never needs recharging.
I really like the simplicity of this garden irrigation kit, and the fact that it all buries underground to keep the garden tidy.
Garden irrigation systems can often mean metres of hose running through garden beds or along paths, which never looks great, so this whole system can be left in place all year round.
It comes with two zone or one zone options, but can be added to, along with a free pipe cutter, and pressure gauge to ensure you’re not wasting water.
Sometimes the easiest way is the best way. This simple soaker hose from Cuckoo requires no set up, and be customised with a timer switch from Pope Irrigation Systems to make it even lower maintenance.
Essentially, this hose fills up with water, and its porous rubber sheathing releases just the right amount of water. The hose comes with an optional regulator too, which can be added to help reduce water flow into the hose, for slow regular release of water.
Best Garden Irrigation Systems Australia
Best Value Garden Irrigation
There are two things I love about the Hozelock Easy Drip Micro Watering Kit for Pots and Containers; one, it’s Hozelock, so I have no reservations in recommending it; and two, it’s price.
Hozelock can be a really expensive brand to buy as the world leader in irrigation products, but this neat drip irrigation system is perfect for irrigating pots and hanging baskets, and can be used alongside Pope garden irrigation systems to automate the system.
Premium Choice Garden Irrigation
The Orbit In-Ground Sprinkler Irrigation System with B-hyve Wi-Fi Watering Timer and Hub are definitely the most expensive, and require more installation than drip installation, but the result is a permanent watering system for your garden and lawn with pipes safely tucked under the soil away from lawn mower blades, or accidental cuts with a spade.
The Orbit spray irrigation kit comes with loads of optional extras too, so will water your garden even when you’re away on holiday.
Types of Professional Irrigation Systems
If you’re after professional irrigation systems, many of the products above will be sufficient for watering greenhouses, or crops, but when it comes to agriculture, size matters.
The basic parts included in the products by Hozelock, Pope Irrigation and Orbit would easily provide the tools for watering, but if you need to cover a large crop, durable, in ground pipe is needed, and for greenhouses, overhead sprinkler systems are the most efficient methods of irrigating large spaces.
Let’s take a quick look at different types of professional irrigation systems, and where to use each one:
Professional Spray Irrigation System
The big difference between professional irrigation systems and domestic spray irrigation systems is the tubing. Most agricultural sites will have irrigation pipes set up in grids, suspended at least 1m over crops.
By raising the spray irrigation over the ground, you increase their coverage, and reduce the risks of wildlife chewing through pipes, or machinery damaging any irrigation tubing.
Professional Drip Irrigation System
Professional drip irrigation is really only suitable for greenhouse growers using professional staging. Otherwise the nozzles tend to get in the way.
Drip irrigation in commercial greenhouses can be incredibly effective, without any need to manually water any crops when a water source is available.
Drip is the most efficient professional irrigation system too, using less water and targeting the roots of crops, which will give you huge reductions on any water bills.
Professional Mist Irrigation System
Poly-tunnels are great spaces for growing all sorts of veggies, whether you’re a professional grower or an enthusiastic amateur. They also have an accessible framework to fit mist irrigation to in every tunnel.
It’s the easiest irrigation system to install for most agriculturalists too, as you can quickly run lengths of cheap pipe along the overhead bars, and tie them in with cable ties.
Attaching misting heads at regular intervals makes an easy professional irrigation system.
Wrapping Up Our Garden Irrigation Systems Guide
Choosing irrigation systems for gardens has to be defined by what you’re growing. However big, however small, there is an irrigation system for your garden. If you’ve got an allotment garden, and are exclusively growing veggies, then a drip irrigation kit is perfect because it reduces water use, and targets watering directly.
If it’s large colourful beds and borders, then you need a soaker hose. The even distribution of water gets every drop into the soil. For lawns, invest in a good spray irrigation kit, which will evenly water your lawn.
For those of you with more specialist collections, maybe try a mist irrigation kit to help raise humidity in enclosed spaces. Whatever you decide, I hope this guide to garden irrigation systems has been useful.