Hey gardeners, if you spend your days dragging around hoses to make sure every beloved plant gets watered, then this PSA tidbit is for you.
That was me, for 7 years – moving hoses like a mule. We moved into our house in Steamboat II in 2013, promptly put in a new perennial bed along our front walk with the cardboard-lasagna method, and began taking divided plants from friends and the You Dig It program to fill it in.
It’s a long bed, the length of our 40-50’ walkway, and about 5’ wide, so yes, that meant I was dragging around hoses to water it because the water pressure in our older home isn't strong enough to push water through more than one 3/4" hose. Mondays it was the front of the bed, Tuesdays it was the back of the bed, and so on.
We even put in 2 berms at the edge of the yard, to reduce our grass acreage, but because of our lack of a watering system, those fill-dirt piles sat there for 4 years without water or plants, an eyesore to the neighbors, I'm sure.
Over the next 5 years, our new perennial bed struggled. In truth, I wasn’t really into the moving hoses chore. The lasagna method didn't work great over our persistent grass, so every year we'd weed out the grass, water intermittently, and tell the plants to hang in there. We chose natives, so we hoped they wouldn’t need much water, but they’re plants. They struggled. The lawn went brown. The weeds took over.
We spent more of our time and focus on our veggie gardens in the back yard, every year getting a little more efficient with the way we water (timer system, drip hoses, reducing to ¼ piping, etc), and twice improving our bed system so that now we have four raised box beds to grow in. That system works like a charm now.
All the while, I watched, with much adoration, what my garden guru friend was doing in her yard downtown. On just ¼ acre, her gardens have more bulbs and plants than the local Botanical Gardens. Every year she'd plant more. Every year, she’d perfect her systems for watering. Finally, this year, she helped us make a plan to replicate, on a much smaller level, what she has done.
This involved a B-Hyve wifi timer programming system, an Orbit 3-valve manifold, reducers from that 1” pipe to ½” irrigation piping, 3 boxes of screw-clamps, a dozen elbow- and tee-shaped connectors, and five RainBird 360-degree sprayer heads.
The best part? It only took me a day to put it in, but only after we had about 4-5 sessions of planning, shopping (HomeDepot, Lowes, Sprinkler Warehouse, Ace Hardware), and figuring out how all the pieces would fit together.
All-in, we spent about $500 on the system, most of which was on the manifold and timer system. And even though this is still new, I estimate we’re using about 25% of the water we were previously using. In a drought year (decade), water conservation is a priority we should all be thinking about.
My favorite features of our new system:
The berms are filled with plants now, and look amazing. When there's rain, I can rain-delay the system from anywhere we may be traveling from (which I actually got to do within the first week of it being set up, while traveling in Florida, Steamboat was getting massive, daily rain!). The system is mobile - we plan to remove the manifold, computer, and spray heads in the winter, and bury the piping under the top layer of grass. On the same line, it's adaptable, we can add another duo valve system if we want to extend the system to our back yard for the veggie gardens.
But mostly, I'm thrilled to not be moving hoses, and to be saving water.
So if you don’t have the budget for a professional job, and you’d rather spend your mornings sipping coffee and watching the hummingbirds instead of dragging hoses, consider DIY-ing your own irrigation system.
Andy has been a Master Gardener since 2015, and has been an avid gardener since an internship in Urban Farming and Sustainability in 1996 in Dexter, Oregon. She’s been a resident of the Yampa Valley since 1998, and relishes in research, new ideas, and DIY projects.
Huge thank you to our anonymous friend who continues to inspire me to be better in every way.