The best garden water systems 2020: from auto timers to self-watering planters and irrigation systems

Keep your lawn, flowerbeds and potted plants looking lush and bountiful with a time-saving watering system

best garden water systems

It’s all very well spending ages walking around your garden with a hose or watering can but if you really want to keep your lawn and flowerbeds looking lush and bountiful with as little effort as possible, get yourself a watering system. They will refresh your lawn while you're out enjoying yourself.

• One of the first things you’ll need is a decent hosepipe which, as luck would have it, we have written about in our best hose roundup.

Right, now you’re back with us, the next thing you’ll need is an automatic water-scheduling controller or even a full-blown irrigation system with a confluence of water pipes to feed the borders and seedlings.

Potted plants are usually the first things to wilt on a hot summer’s day so fitting a drip irrigation system is also a damn good idea. Or perhaps invest in a self-watering planter.

There are loads of different types of automatic watering systems on the market but, to save you the head-scratching, we’ve scoured the web for the best automated watering systems for those you can’t be bothered to unravel a hose.

best garden water systems: HOZELOCK SENSOR CONTROLLER PLUS


A top easy-to-use timer with light sensor

Reasons to buy
+Automatic watering+Saves time and effort+Comes with a light sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Requires batteries

If you take your gardening duties seriously enough to stick to a strict twice-a-day watering regime, you’ll save a lot of time and effort by fitting an automated water scheduling system like this model from Hozelock. It will also assuage the pain of returning from holiday only to find that your lush Garden of Eden has turned into a desertscape of Karoo proportions.

To use, simply bung in a couple of AA batteries, attach the unit to your tap and plug the hose into the other side. The controller is fitted with a daylight sensor that automatically opens the taps at dawn and dusk, keeping your lawn, flowerbeds or greenhouse plants in tip-top condition. You can easily set the number of days required and even how long you want the watering session to last, from two to 60 minutes. And if you ever need to use the hose outside of the scheduled periods, just tap the grey Water Now button and squirt.

This convenient garden nanny works well with any standard hosepipe/sprinkler combo and is the perfect companion for drip irrigation systems.

best garden water systems: Lechuza Balconera Cottage 80

2. Lechuza Balconera Cottage 80

Handy self-watering planter for the absent minded

Reasons to buy
+Water and forget+Brings flowers to life+Includes a visible water gauge
Reasons to avoid
-It's made of plastic

• Shop Lechuza products at Amazon from £39

I was sent this 79cm long plastic rattan-patterned outdoor planter last August and promptly planted five pansies in it. I also planted another ten pansies in some standard pots. Three or four weeks later, the flowers in the Lechuza Balconera had exploded to five times their initial size, almost obscuring the planter in a festoon of pretty petals. By contrast, the same flowers in the other pots looked much smaller and far less happy, despite having been watered on a regular basis. More surprisingly, come December, the Lechuza flowers were still in full bloom while all the others had wilted away. So how does the Lechuza do it?

In a nutshell, it uses sub-irrigation (basically a reservoir of water beneath a suspended soil basket) to keep plants permanently moist, seemingly for weeks at a time. It also comes with a visible gauge that tells you when to put more water into the base using the handy built-in funnel. A pair of brackets is included for mounting it on a balcony railing.

Lechuza produces a massive range of both outdoor and indoor planters in numerous sizes and styles. Given that potted plants (especially indoor ones) are so often forgotten about, a system like this really does make a big difference. Highly recommended.

best garden water systems: Hozelock 15 Pot Watering Kit

3. Hozelock 15 Pot Watering Kit

Best watering system for potted plants

Reasons to buy
+It drip feeds at regular intervals+Includes a mechanical timer
Reasons to avoid
-A little fiddly to set up-Can look unsightly

• Buy Hozelock Pot system at Amazon from £26

If you want to take your pot watering to a new level, consider installing a drip irrigation system like this dandy 15 pot kit from Hozelock. Potted plants need regular watering because the small amount of moisture in the pots evaporates extremely quickly on hot days. It’s also all too easy to overlook them when doing general watering duties, especially if some pots are located in a separate area of the property.

This watering kit is comprised of a mechanical timer that you attach to the nearest outdoor tap, a pressure reducer, 15 metres of 4mm micro tubing, 14 T-shaped connectors and 15 drippers with stakes. It’s pretty painless to set up though it does require puncturing the tubing and fitting the connectors so that the water can be equally divided between all the pots. It’s also best to have your pots group fairly closely together or the tubing will look unsightly and possibly be a tripping hazard.

Once you’ve set the timer, you can sit back and relax in the knowledge that everything will be drip-fed with regular amounts of water. Your plants will thank you for it, and so will your neighbour who completely forgot to water the pots last time you put him in charge while you were away.

best garden water systems: Orbit B-Hyve Smart Hose Tap Timer

(Image credit: method communications)

4. Orbit B-Hyve Smart Hose Tap Timer

A full-monty system for autonomous watering

Reasons to buy
+Wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity+Numerous watering schedules+Monitors the weather
Reasons to avoid
-Too comprehensive for casual gardeners

This comprehensive wi-fi and Bluetooth hose tap timer from the US of A features a wide variety of automatic watering schedules and is just the ticket for committed gardeners hellbent on keeping their grounds permanently irrigated. It’s basically a bells-and-whistles version of the Hozelock Sensor Controller model above and not too similar in function to the much more expensive Gardena Smart System below.

The Orbit B-Hyve package is comprised of a battery-powered UK-specific tap controller and a plug-in wi-fi hub that doesn’t need to be attached by a cable to your router. Simply plug the hub into a power outlet within wi-fi range of the tap controller and the router, launch the extremely comprehensive accompanying app (iOS and Android) and follow the setup instructions. It can also be controlled via Bluetooth when your wi-fi is offline.

The B-Hyve app features a plethora of timed watering schedules and also includes live local weather updates through the Smart WeatherSense service. Hence, if you have the sprinkler timed to switch on at a certain time of day and rain is on the horizon, it will delay that particular schedule so the garden isn’t given a double dose. You can also use the tap manually by pressing the button on the controller for a few elongated seconds.

The B-Hyve is ultimately geared towards reducing water consumption without impacting on the health of the garden. In that respect it works extremely well indeed. However, unless you’re a passionate gardenista who is familiar with soil and plant types and other complex horticultural stats, we’d advise opting for the more simplified Hozelock model above, which is easier to operate on a day to day basis and better suited to the casual gardener.

•Buy the B-Hyve Smart Hose Tap Timer from Water Irrigation

best garden water systems: Gardena Smart System

5. Gardena Smart System

Water management controlled by an app

Reasons to buy
+App-controlled watering+Soil moisture sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Must be sited near Wi-Fi router

• Shop the Gardena Smart System at Amazon

If you’re a horticultural connoisseur and are a bit tech savvy, consider installing this pricy but effective Wi-Fi-enabled water management system from the house of Gardena. 

The package includes a Wi-Fi transmitter – best placed near a window to the garden – a single three-in-one sensor on a spike that measures air temperature, light intensity and soil moisture, and a battery-powered hose pipe unit for the tap.

The system is app-controlled so you could feasibly check the status of your garden and command a watering session from the comfort of a Caribbean deckchair. 

The app’s adaptable scheduling feature enables you to set the system so it only waters if the moisture in the soil falls below a pre-set value. Or you can set a regular schedule so the system fires up either first thing in the morning, at dusk or both. You can also pre-set the length of each watering session. 

And if you’re home and want to pull out your hose for a quick wazz, simply hit the big centre button on the tap unit and spray away.

This is a top, time-saving hands-free apparatus that’s perfect for irrigation systems, greenhouses and garden sprinklers. But boy, it ain’t cheap given that it’s just a router, a tap controller and a sensor spike. 

If you’re extra flush, you might wish to take advantage of Gardena’s Smart System Set, which even includes the company’s excellent Smart Sileno robot mower.