Some people don’t really have an issue with getting up daily or every other day during the growing season and watering their plants before the sun hits them. But some people have gardens large enough and schedules wild enough that a watering system is definitely needed.
There are 3 basic kinds of watering systems that work in raised bed gardens: soaker hoses, sprinklers, and drip lines. Drip lines are best, in my opinion, but I’ll list the advantages and disadvantages of each one as well as cover any nuances that might be important to a backyard gardener.
As you read on, you’ll find that the delivery systems are very different. What you should purchase and install comes down to budget, convenience, location, climate, and type of crop.
Should I Buy a Timer for My Garden Watering System?
Any automatic watering system you choose should be on a timer and have control so that you can modulate the amount of water that gets to your plants. I feel like, if you’re going to go to the expense of setting up a watering system, investing in a timer is a reasonable expense.
Timers allow you to program specific times that you want to deliver water to your plants, and you can set multiple cycles per day if you need. This can be especially helpful for soaker hose systems, and I’ll explain why below. But it’s also practical for people who have busy lives, ADHD, or travel often while trying to keep a garden.
A great option for a watering timer is the RAINPOINT Sprinkler and Water Timer.
How Do Soaker Hoses Work in Raised Garden Beds?
Soaker hoses are long hoses, usually made of vinyl or rubber, that have holes in them, that slowly leak water on the ground where you place them. This makes it great for when you don’t have your plants spaced perfectly, but want root watering to happen.
When you use soaker hoses, you may want to consider using a timer to program a pulse-watering technique. That way, instead of running this for one long cycle that may waste your water, the water is released in several smaller cycles during the day. By emulating rain, it allows time for water to soak into the ground better.
Because it’s more economic and easier to set up and you can run hoses between the lengths of tubing to keep from wasting water, I think this may be the method for my raised garden beds. I can purchase hoses made of recycled materials, which is a bonus for me.
Our recommendation for a soaker hose would be the Rocky Mountain Goods Soaker Hose.
Advantages: Water delivered this way gets to the soil and the roots. It keeps foliage dry. This method used around 80% less water than overhead watering. This method is easier to set up for beginners.
Disadvantages: The hoses often get clogged. Depending upon the material, the hoses can crack easily and have to be replaced every few years. Can only be used on level ground. Any uneven ground can cause inconsistent watering.
How Does a Sprinkler Work in Raised Garden Beds?
A sprinkler system is a watering method in which water is delivered either over or around the foliage of the plant. Sprinklers don’t have to be the large traditional sprinklers. Micro-sprinklers or bubblers can be staked throughout the bed, a small hose running between them to deliver the water in a spray over and around the plants.
This is a great method of watering for desert and low humidity climates. It also works for plants that are not prone to diseases that can be found in water. Unfortunately, if you plan on watering plants that can be affected by a waterborne illness (tomatoes, cucumbers, melons, peppers, beans, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower for example), this method may also deliver the pathogens to your plants.
If you have decided to go with a sprinkler then our recommendation would be the Aqua Joe Oscillating Sprinkler.
Advantages: This is obviously going to be your cheapest method of watering. It keeps the entire soil wet when trying to germinate or grow seedlings. You can easily aerate, hoe, and weed around the crops. Sprinklers are easy to set up and move.
Disadvantages: The leaves are left wet, encouraging rot and disease. The spray allows much of the water to be evaporated before it gets to the soil. In a raised bed garden, a sprinkler will water everything including your paths, allowing run-off and promoting weed growth. Because it hits the top of the plant with the water, it may never get enough water to the root system.
Are Drip Lines the Best Way to Water the Plants in My Raised Garden Beds?
Probably. I’ve never had the pleasure of using them, but I plan on trying them in part of our new backyard set-up. This system allows controlled delivery of your water through-holes placed at specific intervals of hose or piping.
We have decided on an automatic watering kit called the Raindrip R560DP Automatic Watering Kit.
Advantages: They provide water at an even rate. Water delivered this way gets to the soil and roots. It keeps foliage dry. There is very little chance that the water will evaporate before reaching the root. That means it uses around 85% less water than overhead watering.
Disadvantages: if you are growing root crops or your soil tends to be dry, this method may not deliver enough water to your plants. It’s more difficult to set up and can be expensive.
Plants need consistent moisture to continue to produce during the growing seasons of the year. So choosing the proper watering system is very important to the well-being and return on investment for your raised garden beds.
You can find easy-to-install systems for each method of watering, you just need to balance the convenience with the expense. Also, there are grid systems versus hose systems for both soaking and drip methods. You have to choose which system is best for your growing purposes.
This choice can be affected by your budget, your climate, the type of crops you plant, and your location. Once you implement a system for watering your plants, let me know how it went and what you experienced!