How does an irrigation system work

Automatic irrigation systems

In the summer season, watering is the top priority for garden maintenance. Automatic irrigation systems, which only release water in a targeted manner and make carrying watering cans superfluous, keep water consumption within limits. Not only the lawn, but also the greenhouse, potted plants and individual beds can be supplied with water by partially or fully automatic systems. This is particularly useful for plants that have a high demand for water or are sensitive to drought, such as tomatoes and blueberries. An automatic irrigation system can help here. With an automatic drip irrigation, the bed soil is evenly moistened and every pupil is supplied with pinpoint accuracy. Another advantage: With drip irrigation, the evaporation losses are low when water is required. With subterranean irrigation they even go to zero. There are various ingenious systems in which the amount of drip on the individual irrigation nozzles can even be individually adjusted according to the needs of the plant. An external water connection is usually required.

This is how automatic irrigation systems work

The basic principle: A pressure reducer with a filter is connected to the tap - or a cistern with a pump. Small hoses (distribution pipes) with sprayers or drippers then lead from a main hose (installation pipe) directly to the plants. Connecting pieces enable branching and thus individual solutions. Depending on the design, the same amount of water emerges from all openings or they can be individually regulated. An underground installation with special drip pipes is also possible. Once everything is installed, all you have to do is turn the tap on and off. And even this work can be done for you: A solar-powered or battery-powered irrigation computer (for example from Regenmeister) installed between the tap and the supply line controls when and how long the water flows. The basic device reduces the pressure in the line and filters the water. A sensor measures the soil moisture and controls the watering time via a watering clock. This ensures that the water only flows when it is really needed by the plants. Liquid fertilizer can be added to the irrigation water using an admixing device (e.g. from Gardena).

Automatic irrigation: types

A pop-up sprinkler irrigates a garden area between 10 and 140 square meters, depending on the setting of pressure and spray angle. It is ideal for lawns because the sward needs a constant amount of water over the entire area. Overhead irrigation is also possible in the perennial bed or kitchen garden, but here you should prefer automatic irrigation systems that do not wet the leaves.

Drip irrigation (for example the Kärcher Rain System) is ideal for the economical watering of individual plants. The dropper can be set to a flow rate of 0 to 20 liters per hour. Spray nozzles distribute the water particularly finely and have a range of a few meters. Among other things, they are suitable for watering young plants. Small area nozzles are ideal for perennials and shrubs. The nozzles can be set for irrigation areas with a diameter of 10 to 40 centimeters.

From holiday helper to smart garden

A completely independent system is particularly useful during the holiday season: the plants stay green without the neighbors having to water. Entry-level sets without a computer are available for less than 100 euros (for example Gardena or Regenmeister). Even raised beds are now offered with integrated automatic irrigation systems. If you want to automatically supply the entire garden, you should contact a gardening and landscaping specialist for planning and execution. For such large projects, the leading irrigation specialists have different Smart Garden systems in their product range, for example the Gardena Smart System.

In the Smart Garden, all electronic components are coordinated with one another. Not only is watering controlled automatically, but the robotic lawnmower and outdoor lighting can also be controlled via a smartphone app. Oase offers an app-controlled garden socket which can regulate pond pumps, lamps and much more. Due to the high acquisition costs, the use of a permanently installed irrigation system with automated control makes sense, especially for larger gardens. Attention: Be sure to get professional advice when choosing a comprehensive irrigation system or Smart Garden program! Because you can expand the individual systems bit by bit, but you should stick to the product brand that has been installed, as the systems are usually not compatible with each other.

Automatic irrigation systems for window boxes

With an automatic balcony irrigation, thirsty balcony flowers are always supplied with the vital water. There are systems that are connected to a barrel or other water container, in which a pump with a dirt filter is placed, or with a direct connection to the water pipe. Advantage: The droplet quantities can be adjusted to the needs of the plants. If you also connect a humidity sensor to the system, you can go on vacation in a relaxed manner. Disadvantage: The lines mostly run above ground - this is not necessarily to everyone's taste.

Up to ten pots and more can be supplied with pot irrigation sets (e.g. from Kärcher or Hozelock). The drippers are adjustable and only give off limited amounts of water. The system can often be expanded with an irrigation computer that regulates the inflow. A simpler, but equally effective principle for the supply of potted plants are clay cones, which draw in fresh water from a storage container when it is dry and release it into the ground (Blumat, each approx. 3.50 euros). Advantages: The plants are only watered when needed - i.e. dry soil. And the system doesn't need to be connected to the tap. Intelligent planters with integrated moisture sensors and watering systems such as the "Parrot Pot" can even be monitored via a mobile phone app.

Practical video: Build your own Ollas

Ollas are clay pots filled with water that serve as an irrigation aid in the garden. You can find out how you can build an Olla yourself in our video.

Tired of carrying one watering can after the other to your plants in hot summers? Then water them with Ollas! In this video, MEIN SCHÖNER GARTEN editor Dieke van Dieken shows you what that is and how you can easily build the irrigation system yourself from two clay pots.
Credit: MSG / Camera + Editing: Marc Wilhelm / Sound: Annika Gnädig