How we water the Gardens

  Water wastage is a big problem and  at the Beverley B & B we use a very simple method to ensure enough water reaches every plant without wasting any. It is a method that someone suggested to us many years ago that we have improved on and it has the advantage of being cheap and almost 'set and forget'. We used it to great advantage when living in the Northwest of WA where it overcame the arid conditions and allowed us to have an excellent garden.

The watering system is based three easily obtainable reticulation parts, the common 13 mm black plastic hose, 4 mm black plastic feeder hose often sold for use with micro sprays and the barbed connectors for use with the 4 mm hose. The hoses are obtainable in rolls whereas the barbed connectors can be bought singly or in bulk packs.

The 13 mm hose is buried in a grid in the area to be watered. We have used Tee connectors and 4 way connectors to ensure that the water pressure is even across the grid but we have not always done this and it doesn't really make that much difference if you have good water pressure.  It pays to line up the arms of the grid with some landscape feature in the garden such as a fence post or tree so you can find the hose later. The idea is to provide a 'trunk line' within one and half metres of any plant from which you can run the 4 mm feeder hose, so being able to find the hose later could be important!

From the buried hose we connect the 4 mm hose using one barb connector and this small feeder hose is then run to the plant. It is recommend that the length of the feeder hose be at least 40 cm otherwise the water pressure could be too great at the end.  At the end of the feeder hose we use a small length of 13 mm hose pipe between 20 cm and 30 cm long, the length is not critical and we recycle old bits of cut off 13 mm hose where we can. Usually we cut one end at an angle to allow it to be pushed easily into the ground but again this is not critical.  In this short length of hose we use a pair of secateurs to cut a few slots on an angle and half way through the pipe. This is to allow the water to escape from the pipe although it often comes out either end anyway. The second barbed connector is used to connect the 4 mm hose to this short hose at least 2 centimeters below the top and this hose is buried upright along side the plant. If the barb is less than 2 centimeters from the top, the water jet may spray out of the top of the short pipe, possibly wasting water as it doesn't go down to the roots. It pays to get the short hose as close to the roots as possible even if you have to press it through the root ball, hence the angled cut and the closer the better.

We then bury all the pipes in the ground at least 5 cm deep to prevent sun damage, leaving about half a centimeter of the short pipe sticking up from the ground. This is only to check that it is initially working by peering down the short pipe with the water running as often the short pipe gets completely buried over time but the system still works.


The basic components of the system, the 'trunk line' 13 mm hose, the 4 mm feeder hose, the barbed connectors and the short hose. The short length of the 4 mm pipe shown here is for illustrative purposes, we recommend that it be at least 40 cm long in practice.




Close up of the short hose showing the cuts half way through the pipe to let the water out. You only need 2-3 cuts on either side of the pipe. Don't cut all the way through!




The barbed connector fitted just below the top of the short hose




The whole system installed to water some watermelon seedlings. We haven't buried this one so you can see all the pipes including part of the grid of 'trunk line' pipes. This one connection will water all the seedlings. The large pipe in the centre is just a marker so we don't forget where we planted the seedlings when they get large.



  The advantage of this method, as you can see, is that water is delivered directly to the roots. This reduces weed growth by not watering the surrounding soil. As we are using 4 mm hose fittings, the holes are much larger than the 'Dripper' type fitting and are under pressure. This means that there is much less likelihood of blockage that plagues the dripper type. The short hose also ensures that the water jet from the barbed connector is defused and that the water only creates a wet area around the plant that goes down quite deeply. The system is essentially a 'set and forget' method of watering. However, in the unlikely event of a blockage, the first indication is a plant that looks a bit dry so it pays to have a walk through the garden every week. Clearing the blockage is simply a matter of finding the short hose and then removing the cause. We have had plant roots grow into the 4 mm hose via the short hose but only three times in twenty years over several hundred connections! The more common cause is the barbed connectors being physically broken by careless digging around them. Even then, the 4 mm hose still delivers water to the vicinity of the plant.

The watering system at the B & B is driven from the mains water via electric valves and several timers. The timer is set to water any one sector for no more than 5 minutes. This time is based on the number and type of plants watered by that 'trunk line' and on some sections it can be as low as 2 minutes. As the water is passed directly to the roots, overwatering is not required, but the time is increased when more plants are added to the sector as the pressure is decreased slightly each time. We have found that it is better to have multiple sectors (we currently have 11 sectors) and shorter watering times than too many plants on one sector. Our large and prolific Lemon Tree has two connections, one each side, to provide enough water to the roots.

This system has also been used on a gravity feed from a water tank in our vegetable patch. There we have a 200 litre blue plastic drum which was filled from a larger rainwater tank. When full we turn off the feed from the larger tank and open a hand valve near the bottom of the drum to feed the 13 mm hose and this slowly waters every vegetable that has a connection, in spite of the low hydraulic head, until the 200 litres has been expended. This works this way when we have rainwater but we have to fill the drum with a mains water hose when the large rainwater tank is empty. However, if more rainwater or a bore were available, this is a method we would employ in the whole garden. It has the advantage that fertiliser can be added to the small tank to deploy to each plant. However, see the other page on this site as to how we fertilise the gardens.



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