How to set up an automatic watering system in your garden

Last updated on November 24th, 2020

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If you are tired of heading outside every day to check on your plants and water them or simply are not around to do it at times, one solution is an automatic watering system in your garden. You can use multiple methods to install a simple system that either drips water regularly or uses a spray system to water a large area such as a lawn or a large flower bed. You can purchase individual components based on what type of irrigation system you want from soaking hoses that spiral around the base of plants in a flower bed to watering drippers which can be placed into hanging baskets and planters. 

What is an automatic watering system?

An automatic watering system is a series of supply pipes that connect to an outside tap and irrigate your garden. When you use the supply pipes with a water timer you can automatically water your flower beds, hanging baskets, plant containers, even greenhouses on a regular basis at certain times of the day for set periods of time, some cloud versions can even be controlled from your phone from anywhere in the world. 

Benefits of automatic watering systems


The use of automatic watering systems brings about the first benefit of time and effort saved. You can keep your plants healthy all year round using your water most efficiently without having to go out to your garden every day to water it. This is particularly beneficial if you work long or irregular hours or if you plan to go on holiday. No matter what comes up you don’t have to worry about finding a friend or family member to stop by your house and water your plants.

What do you do when you go on holiday to keep your plants watered? In this guide, we look at how to keep plants watered while on holiday from drip stems & more.

Moreover, using systems like a drip emitters helps you achieve optimum water savings upwards of 90% compared to a regular hose pipe and spray gun. Using a regular hose you get water dripping here and there as you turn it on, water that sprays out of the pots or containers splashes every which way or simply doesn’t water inefficient amounts throughout the day. With a timer, you can make sure you get water to your plants at the right time of day and in the right amounts by watering more slowly but for longer to avoid wasting water by it running over the sides of pots etc. 

What you will need to get started

One of the first things you should consider is a water timer. An automatic water timer can be programmed to water when and how you with preset programs for a weekly basis in some designs or a single dial knob that turns to daily watering preset programs. Programmable timers are typically screwed onto your outside tap and function with a battery that is designed to last an entire season. If you need to water out of turn you can find designs that have a manual override so that you aren’t limited to the preset programs. 

Recommended water timer

Hozelock HOZ2700 Automatic Water Computer Timer Plus - Yellow and Grey
  • BSP tap adaptors
  • AC plus water computer
  • Threaded outlet and quick connector
  • Connect to tap
  • Turn dial, set using buttons and set dial to auto

See our top recommended water timers to automate watering

You will need a set of supply pipes to carry water. This is where you get some leeway to be creative based on your space. The number of pipes and the thickness you will need is contingent upon the design you have for your water highway. You want to start with a 13mm thick supply pipe that connects directly to your source and from there you can use things like wall clips to secure it in place, joiners, elbows, or t-pieces to connect it to smaller 4mm thick pipes that deliver the water directly to your plants. Don’t forget the end plugs to seal off the end of your water highway much like a dead end, and a flow control valve that you can adjust or shut off completely to control the amount of water in your tubes.

In some cases, you may just need the 13mm main pipe and then connect a soaker hose which is spiralled around the flower bed or insert sprayers directly to the 12mm pipe.

Some setups also just use micro piping and not the 13mm piping so there is plenty of choices and this is usually a good setup for using for hanging baskets so you don’t have 13mm pipe going up your walls near your hanging baskets.

The final touches include the drippers, mini sprinklers, or micro Jets, the component that delivers the water in the final stage. Drippers are often reserved for the base of plants and you can adjust them to cover several plants if you have them group together. These release water much more slowly so they give you more precision and they are more efficient compared to other emitters. Micro jets spray a fine Mist over a larger area and they are very cost-effective and fast to install. If you have hanging baskets and containers then you will probably need to use the 4mm micro pipe with drips attached on a spike to insert them into the hanging baskets and pots.

Our top recommended starter kits to get you up and running

Hozelock Easy Drip Universal Watering Kit for Beds and Borders, Black, 40 x 25 x 15 cm
  • Complete watering kit providing a great solution to watering borders, hedges and vegetable gardens for an area up to 10m²
  • Easy to Install in just 15 minutes, due to ‘Push Fit’ design
  • Combine with any water controller for Automatic Watering
  • Modular in design so kits can be easily connected together to make a larger system
  • Delivers more controlled watering directly to the roots reducing water wastage through evaporation or inaccurate watering
Hozelock 7024 0000 Easy Drip Micro Watering Kit for Pots and Containers, Black, 40x25x15 cm
  • Complete watering kit providing a great solution to watering your pots, containers and hanging baskets (each kit can water up to 15 containers)
  • Easy to Install in just 15 minutes, due to ‘Push Fit’ design
  • Combine with any water controller for Automatic Watering
  • Modular in design so kits can be easily connected together to make a larger system
  • Delivers more controlled watering directly to the roots reducing water wastage through evaporation or inaccurate watering

No products found.

How to make an automatic water system step by step

When designing an automatic watering system there are three simple things you need to do.

1. Find a connection to a water source

Outside gardening tap
Editorial credit: Matthew Ashmore /

Find a connection to a water source, usually an outdoor tap. From your water source, you can also put in a water timer to automatically regulate the watering. You should invest in a pressure reducer if you have very high water pressure in your tap because high water pressure gets inconsistently released and can cause the different parts of your system to become loose. The good news is that most automatic watering sets come with a pressure reducer. Again, if you are using a water timer it should be connected directly to your source. 

See our recommended smart watering timers

See our recommended standard water timers

2. Create your supply pipelines


Once you have installed the initial part of the system you need to build a network of your supply pipes like a pipeline. You should plan out the route of your supply pipes before you go purchase anything. You can choose from pipes that are 4mm micro piping or 13 mm in thickness or use a combination of both.

3. Putting the final pieces together

The final step after you have your network or highway of supply pipes is to fit it with emitters. Emitters come in many forms including drippers, mini sprinklers, or micro Jets. You can use a combination of these or if you have a personal preference stick with that one. Drippers and sprinklers should be put close to the roots and in the shade so that your plants absorb more water with a lower level of evaporation. The number of drippers or sprinklers you need is again based on your design in the size of your garden.

The whole kit and caboodle

If putting together all of these measurements seems a bit too much for you and your garden is relatively standard and its shape or size you can always invest in an automatic watering kit that has everything you need to set up your own irrigation system and automatically water your garden. We showed some of our recommended starter kits earlier in this guide.

Design Your Plan

As mentioned you want to design your water highway before you head out to start buying pieces. You can sketch the general area where you plan to build your system and take note of the dimensions and measurements. Measure and Mark in meters and centimetres things like:

  • You fixed elements, your house and your outside tap
  • The distance from your outside tap to where you want your system to start
  • The length of the flower beds, fences, or walls against which your supply tubes will run
  • The planting areas and containers where the watering needs to take place
  • Any obstacles like a walking path, bench, or tree 

Draw your pipework as you want it including where you have angles and will need joints to connect your supply tubes. If you have a supply tube that is going to be longer than 50 meters you will need two timers and flow control valves so you can water one area at once as the water pressure may be to low to work efficiently.

Calculating flow rate

You can do some quick math to determine the capacity of your system by turning your tap on as high as it will go, filling a bucket, and timing the number of seconds it takes to fill your bucket. Multiply the number of litres contained in your bucket by 3600, then divide by the seconds it took to fill. The figure you get as a result is called your maximum flow rate per hour.

Want to know more – learn how to set up an automatic drip system in this guide

Last update on 2021-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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