Written by Nathan Unclebach
Staff Horticulturalist & Nursery Manager
Last summer I spent most of my August away from home. East Coast, then Mexico, then the Pacific Northwest. I set up an inexpensive automatic watering system for my plants in containers hoping I’d return and maybe half my collection would still be alive when I returned. And to my surprise, all my plants lived! Not only were they still alive, they had grown, and were 100% healthy!
So naturally, I wanted to share my success with you! Even if you’re not headed out of town. This setup can save you time watering any potted plants you may have outdoors!
Disclaimer: this setup is not intended for indoor use!
We currently don’t offer this DIY gear at the shop. I purchased mine from Lowes in Leander. I’m not sure what the Home Depot has but they’ll most likely have similar products.
#1 An Automatic Timer. There are usually around $30 for a single hose system as pictured. If you have way more pots than I do (more than 15) you may want to spring for the muti-hose $$$ timer.
You’ll need to set the current time, what time you want the timer to begin watering, how long you need the timer to run, and finally, how often. I set mine to run for 8 minutes once a day.
#2 Buy this DIY micro-emitter kit! (Above) If you can manage Legos, you got this! Simply run the hoses just like they have pictured on the back of the box. It takes some time so don’t rush. Grab a drink and your headphones and have fun. If you find you need more hose or parts, Lowes has ’em. And like any good DIY project, you may have to make a second trip! Usually, for me, I need more micro-hose.
#3 Time to test! You’ll want to play with this setup for a couple of days to dial in your timer settings and the adjustable flow spray stakes. The top of the emitters are able to be turned counterclockwise for a dribble, or spray a strong star pattern stream when turned clockwise. Let the system run for a few days and check in daily. I had to play with my settings for maybe three days to get the irrigation where I thought it should be.
If you’re going to miss your flight, open / unscrew the emitters halfway and get to the airport!
If you’re using this system to save some time and you are around, consider picking up one of our Moisture Meters to help gauge how the system is working for you and your plants. These meters can take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. Ideally, for most potted plants, you want to get a “wet” reading 15-30 minutes after the system runs and an almost “dry” reading right before the system runs again.
I have tried this system in the landscape but I wasn't nearly as happy with the results. Even for my tiny veggie gardens needed more water than I think this kit could provide. But I love it for my potted outdoor plants!