To Drip or Not to Drip – Gain Time and Beauty in your Desert Potted Garden!

Red Canna in pots by a desert pool

Homeowners do have the best intentions. We create beautiful container gardens and promise ourselves we will water our pride and joy faithfully. Living here in the desert can mean watering daily. And in the severe heat, we have much of the year, when we miss a day; it is likely that our beautiful flowers are toast. Needing consistent watering is where adding a drip irrigation line for your potted garden would be beneficial.

90% of Plant Failure in Hot and Dry Climates is Due to Inappropriate Watering

If this sounds like you and you continually have your potted gardens dying, the most reliable way to keep your pots healthy is to water them automatically with a dedicated irrigation valve and timer.   When I first added a drip irrigation system to my home pots, I began saving an hour a day not having to hand water!

Two Methods to Add Irrigation to your Pots

Method 1: Dedicated Line for Pots on your existing system

Preferred: You have two options for automatically watering your pots. The preferred method is through an existing irrigation system. If your  timer can accommodate a new valve and run times, you can use it.  Pots typically are watered five to ten minutes a day during the hot periods of the year. You do need to put in a dedicated valve for your pots.

Not Recommended: If you are tempted to hook your pots up to your landscape line, they will be getting one to two hours twice a week or so. A run-time of an hour or more is excessive water, and you risk losing your plants and the pots from the abundant water and “erratic” watering schedule. This may mean you have to have another valve put in at the expense of $500 – $1200 when installed by a professional but well worth it when you think of the value of your time and materials you buy for your gardens that potentially die quickly.

The beauty of a good timer is that you can change the run time in one-minute intervals. The timer can set for 5 minutes and then adjusted by one-minute increments until your pots are getting the right amount of water. Additionally, if the water is running through the pots too fast, you can run it for a shorter period and more often during the day.

Method 2: Battery-Operated Timer

If you are unable to put a potline into your landscaping system, an alternative is to add a y-valve to a hose bib near the location of the pots and connect them to a simple battery-operated timer.  These timers are inexpensive and typically allow for many start times. A good timer will cost between $30, and $50 and the rest of the parts will run less than $100 depending on how many pots you have.

What I mean by a good timer is one that can be set at one-minute increments. Some of the less expensive models only have a spin dial that is limited to five to 30 minutes increments. This will never do for container gardens.

A battery-operated system is an excellent solution for vacation time too! You can set something up for pots clustered in a part-sun area and ensure they receive adequate water while you are away. I still recommend that you have someone check on them to make sure nothing has gone awry.

Just be sure to change the batteries twice a year and do not wait for them to run out. Daylight savings time is an excellent way to remember – and while you are at it, change the batteries in your smoke detectors too!

Adjustable Emittor on Stake is great for pots

An Adjustable Emittor on a Stake works perfectly in your pots

Regardless of which method you use, you want to use the right emitters for your pots. An adjustable emitter on a stake is my preferred method. The outpInline emittor on laser 1/4" lineut of water is in patterned like wheel spokes and is adjustable from about 4” – 10”. In larger pots, you would use two or three emitters, each off their own ¼” line.

Another option is an in-line emitters spaced every 6” on a 1/4” line. These lines will need a longer run time to water your pots thoroughly, but they do work well with gardens that require a slower water delivery. Test your system by running it for 5 to 10 minutes. After watering, the soil should be thoroughly wet, with some water draining out through the container’s drainage hole. If water floods out, you have run it too long; if no water comes out and the soil isn’t thoroughly moist, you need to run the system longer or change to more emitters. Most controllers allow you to run the system several times a day, which is particularly useful in our hot climate.

The best bet is to give it a try and adjust the timer and emitters to provide your pots with consistent water. Get this done and enjoy your garden oasis with the newfound time you have gained!

There is much more to be written about irrigation and watering your container gardens. Stay tuned as I write more posts. However, if you have a question now, please email me right away or comment in the section below.

Pots with winter flowers in blues, white and yellow

The end of a great season – with Drip Irrigation for Pots!