What kind of watering system do you use?

BungalowMonkeys(6-VA)August 30, 2014

The last couple weeks i've cleared all the english and poision ivy out of the beds against the house. Just the stuff in the bottom bed alone made a 3.5ft wide roll by about 20ft long. It had to be cut up and dragged uphill to a trailer and then hauled to the dump. Once the nasty ivy was gone, amended the soil and planted some hostas, of course. I'd like to do a watering system this month and get everything ready for next year. Also should be easier with the beds fairly empty. There are so many different kinds available. For those of you using one, what kind is it? Did you run a seperate line to each hosta, or water the entire area? If you use a computerized system, which brand? Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)


I use a Hunter controller and have my gardens on a drip system. Depending on the size and shape of the bed I am using everything from 1/2" pipe that has a drip emitter every 12" to misters, individual drip emitters, 'shrubbers' to sprayers. I prefer to run individual lines to each plant so I am not watering weeds or areas with no plants. Also cuts down on water use. While some people think it is a PIA to add emitters for every plant I love the flexibility without watering weeds, as well they are accurate so you can set it to water how much you need. It only takes a minute to add each plant to the system.

Now you don't have to use a controller to use the drip system. I started of with just a garden hose attachment that I would have to manually turn on, then upgraded to a cheap timer, then the controller. I don't have my shade gardens on a specified timer as I find I over water that way. I just turn it on when needed, so in reality you wouldn't need the controller...nice part is it has a timer so I turn in on and walk away and don't have to remember to turn it off.

Everyone has their own system they prefer. I like this system as it is almost the same money as a good soaker hose but much more flexible.

Can you provide a picture of the bed as well as dimensions?


    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 1:38PM
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I did my first Hosta bed 2 weeks ago and used 2 systems from Mister Landscaper (starter and add-on kit). As usual, with anything I do, probably overkilled, but for $80 or so dollars didn't hesitate. I used a combo of 14 each 360, 180, and 90 degree micro-sprinklers. They show all the different spray patterns that are available on the website. Mine hits the whole bed.

It was so simple to set-up and quite frankly I think it works great. It's set to go off every morning when I'm going to work just so I can see it functioning. Here is a pick of the set-up I did.


    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 1:51PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

TNJDM, Your system looks great!

I am not in your zone at all but even when we have weeks of 90F+ weather my shade gardens might need water every week. We had 6 weeks of 90F+ weather and I turned mine on 3 times. Why I don't have it on a timer anymore.

I can't imagine even a full sun garden that is nicely mulched like yours needing water everyday..

Looks great and I am looking forward to seeing pics as it grows up.

Sorry if my words seem harsh I don't mean it that way at all. Just trying to point it out (I made the same mistake and my plants grew better when not totally 'wet' all the time)


    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 2:38PM
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This is the side of the house before the ivy was removed. It starts on the right and goes all the way around to the patio. This side bed is 50ft long and 7ft wide at the inside of the curves, most is about 10 ft out. Now it is an empty slate with amended soil. Going to build an AC box that matches the fence that we just built, then try to plant something around it to hide it.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 7:11PM
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Haven't posted any pics because the beds are so unfinished. Ignore the chipping paint on the old railing. That is going to be replaced in the spring with sturdy up to code railing. This bed is 25ft long and 10ft out on the skinny side then goes as far out as 15-17ft on the wide side.

This post was edited by bungalowmonkeys on Sat, Aug 30, 14 at 20:49

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 7:15PM
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The view looking down. Built it up about a foot above the grass. Getting an order of rock in and building a nice raised bed around the border. That rock path is not staying like that. Those are so my kids know where to walk. But a plan for a path and sitting area will be similar, just havent picked the pavers out yet. Figure digging for the water system needs to be handled first. It is so bare and needs companion plants badly, but again this next spring. So those are the two beds in need of a watering system.

This post was edited by bungalowmonkeys on Sat, Aug 30, 14 at 21:28

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 7:21PM
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mac48025 ( SE michigan)

Bungalow, I'd love to give my two cents worth but I just can't get past that chipped paint! Seriously though you have a beautiful home and property. A cleared out bed is full of possibilities and so much fun to fill. Looks like you have some great hosta's and I look forward to seeing your garden progress.

As far as watering systems go I prefer the good ole oscillating sprinkler with a timer. It's cheap, easy and you can water only when needed instead of whenever it's programmed. I would prefer using drip hose on a timer but I dig around in my beds so much I was constantly cutting them.

What material are you going to use for your paths?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 8:33PM
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It's funny, Southcountryguy, your system is similar to what I had in mind and TNJDM system is what my husband has in mind.

Mac would love your two cents. I have no idea what I'm doing, or how to achieve what I envision the end result to be. Literally had never planted a thing in my life until two months ago.

The bike trail around the property is a layer of tamped crushed stone (pretty sure that is the name). It is the same material they use for the bike trails here. Dries quick and creates a solid surface. Once those two beds are finished, the plan is to continue the path down the side and around to the stairs off the deck. For that little walking path that would connect to the trail, was thinking paver. Not sure what kind, but would want it to match the patio that will hopefully be finished soon. What do you recommend?

This post was edited by bungalowmonkeys on Sat, Aug 30, 14 at 22:15

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 9:24PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

Bungalowmonkeys, I started with something like TNJDM had but learned that when plants grow, and some grow big, spray doesn't work, so I modified as I went.

I love drip and use it anywhere i can. I Would use it by the bike path for certain. In the end I just makes sense, water where you need it, none where you don't...and if you want to amend your soil..lift the lines.I even run it to annuals in the beds, plug the lines if not used... easy, and simple... with your picture you could do like TNJDM and spray or water each plant and this will be your call. Like TNJDM my beds are heavily mulched and watering is infrequent. It is amazing how much moisture (and slugs LOL) mulch holds. Using a drip line always gives you the advantage of adding misters or spray....it is flexible to what you need.

Great looking beds and hopefully we can see pics as it grows up!!


    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 4:41AM
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Thanks for that SGC. As I say, I'm an "extreme" Hosta rookie. My thought was keeping the area really moist that first couple of weeks and back-off now. I actually turned the timer off yesterday (well, really because it was going to rain).

Sounds like it's time to back off an monitor watering as needed.

By the way, I never take anything as being harsh, but input from a bunch of great experience from experts. I am also highly trained in abuse after being married for 36+ years :)


    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 6:12AM
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mac48025 ( SE michigan)

Just two months bungalow? A gardening virgin. You seem to be very passionate about gardening and that will take you far in creating your dream garden. Here's my initial advice. Think of a garden as a room. If you create ceiling, walls, floors and doorways you'll create a pleasing outdoor room. Your house creates a wall on one side and some small trees to create a ceiling would help to soften that tall wall. The Rising Sun redbud or Appalacian Red redbud would be nice and something different. Paperbark maple, kousa dogwood or white fringe tree would work too. I'd recommend placing them so you could walk between say a group of three of them. To do so might require making the bed wider. Now that your hubby is cursing me for making more work for him I'll save suggestions for shrubs and ground covers for later. :)

Btw. I love gravel paths. Good choice there.

Here's The Rising Sun Redbud

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 7:22AM
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mac48025 ( SE michigan)

Edited double post

This post was edited by mac48025 on Sun, Aug 31, 14 at 7:43

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 7:24AM
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Yep garden virgin. Always made more sense to rent, so never bothered with the yards.

May have those redbuds out front. Do they have bean pod type things? promised my husband two things when we moved into this house. One was, not to plant anything that would obstruct the view out the two 10ft windows. You can see the one on the side view of the house, the other is right above that garden bed. Second was, I can take on any project, as long as I don't need his muscle. Which is fine, takes longer to dig a hole, but it is great exercise. Totally agree on the trees, but only have 12 ft before the bottom of the window.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 9:17AM
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bernd ny zone5

I used soaker hoses in 1/4 of my property. After a few years they cracked, and I was constantly fixing them. I read that drip emitters will plug up. Nowadays my system consists of me with four 75 ft hoses and overhead oscillating sprinklers. When I need to water, I roll out 2 hoses together in front and 2 hoses together in back with a sprinkler for each, move them into 4 different locations each, reposition them when 1 hour times are up.

I can see what they water, see immediately any problem. I do not water lawns.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 9:43AM
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Jon 6a SE MA

I think drip emitters will plug if you have hard water. I have had them about 4 years with no plugging. I flush the line each spring as directed and have no plugging with some minimum sized emitters 1/2 GPH @ I'm pretty sure. I have no hard water problems.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 11:33AM
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Bunga, I like your plans. However, a question.....

How do you deal with rain on the high side of your property, where the downspout dumps its water at the corner of the house?

I'd recommend that the stones you lay channel it away from the foundation and the basement. Is that a full basement up to that corner of the house? I see the window at the low end where they ivy is growing up the stone.

Move those rocks not parallel to the house but sor of at an angle to channel the water AWAY and cocked a bit downhill. The rocks can be elevated somewhat, to sort of terrace (raised bed) and slow the water as it exits in the event of a hard rain. Coming out to the seven or ten foot part of the bed would be fine. No interference with cutting the lawn with a riding mower. I consider that will make the bed rather a bird wing formation.

Such a shape would be very easy to have one main line of hose or piping intersected at each row of stone terracing.
It would make a bed viewable like "bleachers" from the low side of the yard, and also create interest when viewed from the high corner as well. Once the plants mature, the place would be gorgeous anyway.

If you do not terrace, I see the possibility of run off scouring away all your mulch and nutrients. My grandpa farmed on the side of a hill, and I remember how he terraced his plowing to stop erosion and to protect his seed and assure the water stayed long enough to soak into the soil.

My city lot is flat, no great variation in the land profile. However, water flows toward the low spots, and you must work with it or create multiple problems for yourself. Your garden is beautiful. The work you are doing is paying off. Now is the time to enhance the natural beauty and take advantage of gravity instead of fighting it.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 12:33PM
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SouthCountryGuy Zone 4b-5 SE BC(Zone 4b-5 SE BC Canada)

I have extremely hard water and have had 2 emitters plug in 3 years. It only takes 20 minutes to check all 600 or so a couple times of year. All larger plants and shrubs get 2 emitters, one on each side of the drip line (those not along the emitter pipe). I, too, use 1/2 GPH emitters except on large bushes or trees that get 1 or 1.5 GPH.

I don't like, where I can, overhead watering because it helps facilitate powdery mildew, rust and black spot. Since switching almost all onto drip I have noticed less problems. Plus on hot days you can lose up to 50% of water to evaporation. Being on a well it doesn't matter to me other than wearing my pump out.

TNJDM no worries I am an extreme rookie as well. While I have always done lots of container plants and veggies in both containers and the ground I have only been at flower gardens for a few short seasons. I bought a moisture meter and it really taught me when to water. I can say I water about 25% of what I used to and still probably do it too much.

Bungalowmonkeys What ever you decide putting it in now will be much easier. There are merits for every system and it will be the one that works best for YOU! :-)

Drip to win! LOL!


    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 12:47PM
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The rain was an issue when we bought the house. Came back from a Florida vacation and had 3" of water waiting on us in the basement. Of course my two tween's bedrooms are down there and everything they owned was on the floor. Both of the sumps stopped working when a huge storm hit. Everyone said it was the most rain they had ever seen here. Also found out that we needed to reroute water that pours in the front yard from neighborhood runoff. The gutters on both sides of the house now run into a french drainage style system. That last gutter on the corner is the only one left to do. For that i'm waiting to use the husbands muscle.

Thought about doing different levels of terrace. I love stacked stone beds and built one in back and the patio is stacked stone, if I can ever finish it. Wasn't sure how it would look and how many levels to do. But I like the idea and you are right would make watering much easier.

Didn't think about well water clogging the nozzels. We get water from a neighborhood well and it is pretty hard. 600 emitters that sounds like a big garden.

This post was edited by bungalowmonkeys on Sun, Aug 31, 14 at 19:22

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 2:33PM
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mac48025 ( SE michigan)

Welcome to this crazy hobby bungalow.

Yes, Redbuds do have those "bean pod things". Lol. The rising sun redbud has colorful foliage and supposedly only gets 10' tall so it might work for you. I wish you fun with your new gardening workout!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 2:54PM
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hosta_freak(z6 NC)

I have the cheapest system ever devised. It's called God,and he provides all I need from rain! Thanks fro asking. Phil

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 5:15PM
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mac48025 ( SE michigan)

You're lucky Phil! I wish every climate was so blessed but between unreliable rainfall and tree root completion I must rely on supplemental watering. I like your watering system better than mine though!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 6:51PM
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Many good points have been made in this discussion including pointing to
- adequacy of natural rainfall
- hardness of water and need for maintenance
- placement of sprinklers or emiters
- benefits of conservation of water
- evils of overwatering
- use of mulch

A couple more considerations not mentioned so far relate to soil and to shade. Where soil is extremely sandy, water can drain through easily meaning it is almost impossible to overwater. The corollary of course is that heavy soils loaded with clay can easily become waterlogged.

Shade can also interfere mightily with natural rainfall. A heavy tree canopy can produce desert like conditions beneath even when there may be regular and reliable rainfall.

Mulching has been shown to help retain the water in the soil (as well as prevent weed growth) but as one early post mentioned, mulch has the nasty habit of harbouring slugs.

Taken altogether and applied to my situation ...

I have a ready source of lightly fertilized (from farm field runoff) water in a river that flows through the property so it costs nothing more than electricity to move it. The soil is extremely sandy and well drained - any excess water applied simply runs through the sand and percolates through nature's filter into the water table. The hosta gardens are under heavy shade mostly from eastern white pines and require water or nothing would grow in that desert.

Fighting slugs or fighting weeds is a subject for debate. I use mulch in gardens in full sun but with the hostas, I made a conscious choice to try to avoid slugs ... ergo no mulch. That combined with the falling needles has done a great job minimizing slug damage. But, it means generally a greater requirement for water and an ongoing (but generally very easy) task to keep any weeds removed. Most plants grow slowly or not at all in heavy shade so it is not much of a problem.

I installed sprinkler heads that deliver significant amounts of river water universally across the whole garden even on the flagstone walks from early June through mid september. Initially I tried setting it for 1 inch per week delivered all at once. This was an abject failure as the water ran down through the sand and everything was bone dry within hours. After a series of experiments that I won't bore you with, I settled on 1/2 inch every second day. This seemed to work well enough though the results were not spectacular. It should be noted that hostas are pretty tough and can tolerate most conditions even semi drought though clearly they grow faster and look more verdant under ideal conditions.

This year, using the adage that hostas can be drowned, I increased the watering to 1/2 inch daily. Now the results came in - all hostas showed tremendous growth, moss grew much better on all the granite rock and the garden has remained very attractive and healthy even this late (beginning of September) in the season.

The first frost is just around the corner (probably by mid September) so I will shut down and drain the sprinkler system in two weeks.

I don't think that any one approach will suit every garden. Each of us has to consider all the factors and make a choice which inevitably involves some compromises. About the only constant is that where nature does not provide sufficient rainfall, then the gardener must supplement it.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 7:40AM
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zkathy(7a NC)

I have a similar situation as Doug. Very sandy soil and a drip irrigation system. I'm coming to the same conclusion he has and have been watering small amounts daily. Some hostas are still on manual (hand held hose).

This is a picture of my latest improvement to the drip system. Micro tubing with 1/2 GPH (gallon per hour) emitters every 6 inches is fashioned into a ring that goes around each hosta. I find it more efficient than multiple individual emitters. I use Drip Depot.com. The pic is one of the rings around Ripple Effect.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 12:09PM
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Another consideration since you have hard water is the spots that will be left on the leaves. I have hard water (unlimited amounts of it fortunately). I also have a watering system for all the different areas which include complete shade to hot sun. I've changed and added to it over the years and tried to compensate for my mistakes. Here are some observations.

Overhead watering reaches the most plants but leaves the most water spots.

Dripper systems (which I have in the hottest area on the west side) work well until the dippers get plugged. Everything WILL get plugged with hard water at some point. For now I am still using the drip system on the 3 narrow, long beds but I have to check every dripper, every year. This system leaves virtually no spots. The picture of Elegans below was taken in late July. If it was in another part of the garden it would be very spotted.

When I was first adding watering to a wooded gardens I used drip hose. This has holes every so many inches. You cut the section as long as you want and can wind it all over the place. It seemed less work than and individual drippers for each plant and more easily accommodated moving plants around which I do every year. This worked for a while but they are now completely blocked. With the individual drippers you are able to check and see if anything is actually coming out. In most areas I have gradually taken out the dripping hose and the drippers and added small sprayers that can be placed close to the ground and hopefully spray underneath the plant and not so much on the leaves. For the most part this works but they too get clogged eventually. At least you can walk around with them on and see if they are working.

Another advantage of these small sprayers is that when you have root competition the water being everywhere in the garden rather than just at the base of the plant keeps the invasive roots from heading right for your hostas.

Some plants show the water spots much more than others. In general the blues and greens show it the most. I have drippers in some locations within gardens where I have collections of blues or special plants that I don't want to see spotted.

Below are a few pictures that show a plant with water spots between plants that don't show spots so much. The last one is King of Spades which I will probably be moving.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 12:49PM
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Thank you everyone for the great advice. Hit on some points I hadn't thought about while trying to pick a system. With all the information given I deff have a better idea of what to do.

That Seducer is a beauty, always love seeing your pics. The water spots would drive me nuts. Still have spots on some of the hostas purchased locally and my ocd wants to clean each leaf everytime I walk by.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 1:08PM
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Thinking about watering again. It gets so dry around here, even when I water at least the western hosta daily. I noticed some on the east were dry as a bone. Poor babies. Rain predicted but a no-show.

    Bookmark   September 6, 2014 at 10:37PM
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Had a good soaker today which pleases me because I moved several hosta yesterday, Otherwise my watering system is to drag 75 ft of hose down to the garden to water it. Pretty fancy, huh.


    Bookmark   September 6, 2014 at 11:05PM
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Mocc don't know how you do it. Your garden always looks beautiful. When I built the fence had to keep a hosta in a pot for two weeks before It could go in the ground. Dang near killed the little thing. How you keep over 500 going strong is unbelievable.

Donna, sounds like we have fancy matching systems. This week was supposed to be when I could retire that fancy system. Unfortunately an unexpected bathroom remodel is taking priority. Water system will have to wait for spring now. Gotta love old houses.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2014 at 6:00AM
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Around here the red bud trees with the seed pods are invasive.
I take care of a property for an elderly couple and am constantly digging up new starts from their neighbors huge red bud tree. I've dug up over fifty so far this summer. Needless to say the elderly couple don't like red bud trees.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2014 at 6:27AM
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Haven't had that problem yet with the red buds. It's two in a bed that has some sort of ground cover. The ground cover is a pain, but pretty. Feel like every two weeks i'm having to trim it back from the lawn.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2014 at 8:10AM
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Great thread. It keeps hanging in there because people need to get a good system to fit with their lifestyle. Not everyone can hand water daily. Hoses make a mess, and they are a trip hazard for older folks. Plus they look awful in photos. I hate it when a hose is in my garden photos. But right now, I don't have time to deal with an orderly system.

One day, maybe next spring, I'll have the watering set up, a rockery and a fountain as well...every good Chinese style garden has to have mountains and the sound of water. Preferably a pond, and a fountain. But, I'm having problems finding a mountain. :)

    Bookmark   September 10, 2014 at 9:41PM
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