An irrigation timer is a must-have for my garden so I can set it and forget about watering the plants myself. The timer gives them just the right amount of water, just when they need it.
I was going to include adding an irrigation timer in my post on irrigation valves, then in my post on installing a sprinkler system, and then in my post on laying sod and on making a drip system. But each time, I felt like the post was already really long, and a timer would just be too much (and probably forgotten) information. So, the timer gets its own post, there’s just not a lot of pictures to go with it (how many ways can you photograph a timer box?), so I’ll use photos from the other irrigation posts.
As I mentioned with the drip system, I’m a very inconsistent gardener. Okay, I’m just really inconsistent with life in general. Some days my family gets homemade focaccia with citrus-herb turkey cutlets and creme brûlée for dessert. Some days they get mac n cheese. An hour late. If they’re lucky. And, as you can imagine, watering plants is much lower on my priorities than feeding my children. Poor plants.
I have to admit, our timer is really fancy. It has a rain sensor, 6 zones (or stations), and it will even automatically adjust the amount of water depending on what month of the year is it. Nice, huh? But a simple, cheaper timer works just as well to automatically keep your plants watered. We just got a good rebate from our water company for buying this one.
The timer needs to go somewhere more protected, so we put our in the garage where we can access it easily. There’s some trial and error when your first figuring out how much water your plants need, so you don’t want it too out of the way.
The timer needs electricity to run, so we added a new outlet to power it. You can watch the video on how we added that outlet here, if you haven’t seen it already.
Then, a wire connects the timer to the irrigation valves. It a really, really long wire. It goes out our garage door then around the house to the backyard and into the valve box. You can see it in the picture below, it the black wire coming out the left side of the valve box.
Inside the wire are six smaller wires. Each connects to a valve with a water-proof connector. That way, we can water 6 different zones. Right now, we have three zones for our three valves: the sprinkler system for the lawn, the drip system for the vegetable garden, and the drip system for shrubs, trees, and perennials. Each of those needs a different schedule for watering. The lawn gets water 2-3 times a week, and the shrubs and trees get water once every week or so for a long time.
One day we’ll have more zones in the front yard. One day we’ll get to that. One day.
Back to the timer. With the wiring all connected, all that’s left is to set the timer. I won’t go into detail on how because each timer is different and has it’s own instructions. Basically, you set it by zone. For example, our sprinkler system needs to run for 10 minutes twice a week right now, so we set Zone 1 to run from 8:00 to 8:10 on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Our vegetable garden needs to be watered more often, so Zone 2 runs from 9:00 to 9:20 on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Then I can hand water on Saturdays if it needs it (and I remember). Like I said, it takes a little trial and error to start because I am still figuring out how much water our garden needs.
That’s our timer, and the only reason we have plants that are still alive.
Two important tips: Different stations shouldn’t be watering at the same time. The sprinklers need all the pressure they can get, and trying to water the vegetable garden at the same time would take away some of that water pressure. Also, always water in the morning. It’s just better.