With spring most definitely in the air, now is a good time to think about buying an irrigation system. Instead of spending time walking around your garden with the Best Garden Hose, let technology do all the hard graft by installing an irrigation system, a simple tap timer or even a self-watering planter.
All of these solutions would give you more time to get on with annihilating the remnants of your pruning with the Best Garden Shredder, mowing the lawn with the Best Cordless Lawn Mower, and spending more time in the Best Hot Tub while your al fresco feast is grilling on the Best Barbecue.
There are lots of different types of tap timers, automatic watering systems and self-watering planters on the market but, to save you the hassle, we’ve sourced the best products so you don’t have to.
The best garden watering systems to buy today in 2022
One of the worst things about a sprinkler system is that it’s all too easy to forget to turn the damn thing off. You set it off at 6pm and carry on with life as usual, only noticing at bedtime – or worse, in the morning – that the sprinkler’s still running. This is not only a gross waste of precious water but if you have a water meter fitted, you’ll likely receive a whopping bill from the water supplier for your absent-mindedness. Your flowers won’t be too happy either.
What you need is a simple spring-loaded timer like this brilliant model from Gardena. Simply screw it onto the outdoor tap (it comes with two sizes of tap connector), push and clip the hose to the unit’s outlet and turn the dial (rather like an old fashioned cooking timer) to anywhere between five and 120 minutes. Boom, the sprinkler springs to life and stops roughly at the time you set. If using a hose gun for an undefined period of time, simply turn the dial to continuous and water will flow for as long as you have your finger on the trigger.
There are no batteries involved with this little baby, just a simple twist is all that’s required. In fact, it’s so easy my cat uses it to scare away the neighbourhood toms.
If you’re looking for something more sophisticated than a simple twist timer like the Gardena reviewed above, then consider this fully-auto battery-powered entry from Amazon player Johgee. For the price (under £30), it offers loads of handy automation like daily timers (every day to odd days), length of watering, plus a rain delay button which you need to manually tap if precipitation is on the horizon. It also has a child lock so youngsters can’t mess things up.
The big LCD screen is a major plus here because it’s so thoughtfully laid out and easy to understand without so much as a glance at the manual. The battery remaining icon is a bonus too and, speaking of batteries, you’ll need to buy a couple of AAs because it doesn’t come with any. Like most water timers, the Johgee comes with two sizes of outdoor tap connector plus a selection of different rubber washers.
This is an ideal system to use when going away for a period of time. Just make sure it’s all connected to your sprinkler or irrigation system and the tap is in the open position, and rest in the knowledge that you won’t come home to an arid landscape.
You can compare an identical watering system to this one with the Gardena model below in T3's OMORC Water Timer vs Gardena Water Timer comparison feature.
Here’s another cracking water timer for automatic irrigation of lawns and flower beds. 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 tap 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. Nevertheless, despite the fact it has a light sensor fitted, it's not quite up to the mark set by the excellent Johgee and Gardena reviewed above.
This irrigation pump from Bosch is a brilliant watering solution for those with a water butt on their land. Instead of having to faff about with watering cans, the GardenPump 18 uses cordless technology to pump water from the butt through your hosepipe to a water gun or sprinkler.
Simply mount the battery control unit to a wall or wooden post next to the butt, feed in the supplied suction hose with pump attached and loop the hose guide over the lip of the butt. Now grab a pre-charged Bosch 18v 2.5aH battery from your tool shed – or purchase one online – and clip it into the control unit. The whole shebang is now ready to plug in a hose and get watering without increasing your already extortionate water bill.
This cordless pump pushes out about 10 litres of water a minute and produces a spray with a very decent reach; not a dribble as you might expect. The Bosch GardenPump 18 works efficiently with hoses up to 25m in length.
For outright eco-friendly convenience this efficient garden gadget takes some beating. It’s not too pricey either.
To see how this Bosch system fares against our top choice of garden watering system, then be sure to take a look at T3's OMORC Water Timer vs Bosch GardenPump 18 comparison feature.
Rainfall alone is rarely enough to sate the appetite of the average pot plant which can dry out in a matter of hours if left unattended in the midsummer sun. The trouble is, few of us ever remember to grab the watering can, only realising this mistake when the geraniums start taking on the appearance of a pressed flower from grandma’s Dickens collection.
Well here comes Gardena to the rescue with a competent but slightly eccentric contraption comprised of a bucket of water, a solar-powered pump, some irrigation tubes and a pile of pressure-compensation drippers.
Simply fill the bucket with water (preferably with a lid on top to slow evaporation), feed the provided tube to up to 20 pots at a time and attach the drippers. Now connect it all to the solar pump and choose one of 14 pre-defined watering programs. Voila, water is automatically drawn from the bucket and drip fed to every pot on the patio. Simple, effective.
The Lechuza Balconera uses sub-irrigation (basically a reservoir of water beneath a suspended soil basket) to keep plants permanently moist 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 to 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.
The Kärcher SensoTimer package is comprised of two spiked 9v battery-powered sensors that measure soil moisture and a 9v battery-powered control box that screws onto any outdoor tap. Unlike the majority of self-timers, this one comes with two hose outlets that can water two different sections of the garden at different times. All you need to do is install an irrigation system or sprinkler (any brand will do), and the system will take care of all your watering needs.
Crucially, Kärcher has elected to avoid wi-fi communication between the sensor and the base unit because, well, we all know how unreliable wi-fi can be. Instead, the system uses rock-steady radio waves to send signals every 30 minutes from the soil sensor to the base. If the sensor detects a drop in soil moisture, it sends a command to the base station which in turn opens either one outlet or both depending on how you programmed it.
If you’re on the hunt for a comprehensive irrigation controller that will keep your garden in tip-top condition while you sit back and relax, then put this one high on your list of contenders.
If you fancy the idea of growing your own fruit and veg but don’t have the space or the patience to maintain the plot and keep the plants protected against the elements, then this clever self-watering micro greenhouse from Australia could just be what you’re looking for.
The Vegepod is available in three sizes: small, medium and large. We received the small version which turned out to be bigger (39 x 20 inches) and taller (40 inches) – and a bit uglier – than we expected but still a perfect size for a small patio or balcony. It’s certainly big enough for a clutch of carrot plants and some lettuces, and tall enough to accommodate small tomato plants.
The Vegepod is comprised of a deep plastic trough with a growing depth of around 10 inches, a drainage section below, an integrated sprinkler that attaches to your garden hose, and a taught nylon net cover that lets just the right amount sunlight through while at the same time protecting the plants from pests. The optional stand is definitely worth getting if you can stretch the budget by another £49.
The Vegepod isn’t some magical self-sustainability solution – it’s far too small for that – but it’s still a brilliantly novel way to grow a few of your own organic vegetables on your patio or balcony and then be able to boast about it.
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.
This comprehensive wi-fi and Bluetooth hose tap timer from America features a wide variety of automatic watering schedules and is just the ticket for committed tech-savvy gardeners hellbent on keeping their grounds permanently irrigated. It’s basically a bells-and-whistles version of the Hozelock Sensor Controller model above.
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 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.
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 Gardena model above, which is easier to operate on a day to day basis and better suited to the casual gardener.
How we test garden watering systems
Here at T3 we think there are two things above all others that make a good garden watering system. The first is autonomous functions and the second is intuitiveness and ease of use. The very best garden watering systems deliver both.
The whole point of gardening watering systems is that they're supposed to work without your direct input, autonomously, so we're looking for products that can be left to do their own thing when we’re not around. Does the product have different watering modes in terms of frequency? Is there a precise timer for how long watering stays on and when it starts? Is there a sensor that detects the amount of water being used, and can the amount of water used per watering session be specified? These are the sorts of things we're looking to ascertain when testing.
Once we've ascertained what a garden watering system can do, we want to find out just how easy it is to enable that. So, is there a control panel and is it easy to understand? Are knobs and dials intuitive to use? Is the manual clear enough? Are there any irregularities with operation?
Of course, with these two critical scoring areas covered, we then also rate a system based on its build quality and value for money.