Choosing a watering system for your garden

June 23, 2015

Using a well-designed watering system in your garden will save you time and irrigate your plants more effectively than hand-watering with a hose. Here are some tips for how to choose the right system for your needs.

Choosing a watering system for your garden

Planning an irrigation system

A do-it-yourself irrigation system will save you money and allow you to develop a system that suits your garden layout, soil and plants. Depending on your requirements, you may need to combine several different methods.

  • Draw a diagram of your garden and take it to an irrigation specialist for advice. Over-the-counter advice is usually free and you won't waste money buying the wrong fittings.
  • Install a double-tap fitting at taps so you can operate a fixed watering system and still have a tap available for filling a bucket or attaching a hose.
  • Make sure you have some "goof plugs" – devices that block unwanted holes if you make a mistake when installing your irrigation system.

The pros and cons of watering methods

Watering cans

  • Pro: Useful for watering individual plants (especially hanging basket, balcony and indoor plants), applying liquid fertilizer or tonics, and watering new plantings.
  • Con: When full of water, large metal watering cans are very heavy to lift. If you have a lot of ground to cover, a plastic can may be a better choice.

Hand-held hoses

  • Pro: Ideal for watering potted and individual plants. Can be adjusted to a hard squirt setting for washing off aphids or to a gentle shower for watering newly planted seedlings.
  • Con: In times of water shortages, their use is restricted. Also, most of us don't have enough time or patience to water a garden thoroughly with a hand-held hose.


  • Pro: One of the best ways of thoroughly watering lawns or large garden areas. Cheap and easy to install, sprinklers mimic natural rainfall and distribute water evenly.
  • Con: They can waste water.


  • Pro: An efficient irrigation method. The small spray heads give a good range of coverage, from 90 to 360 degrees, and can be tailored to the needs of individual areas.
  • Con: Spray heads can become blocked with dirt or insect nests. Also, if you don't remember where the concealed supply hose is, it's easy to put a garden tool through it.

Drip systems

  • Pro: Water isn't wasted because it can be directed to the roots of individual plants and there is little loss through evaporation. Effective where water pressure is low.
  • Con: Difficult to fit into established gardens with many different types of plants. Can be expensive and labour-intensive to install. May need to run for many hours.

In addition to choosing the right watering system, it is also important to water at the right time of day – typically early morning or evening – as evaporation can lead to needless waste of water and money.

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