An automatic watering system is an irrigation system that can make polytunnel gardening a whole lot easier. One of the major pitfalls for many gardeners new to polytunnel growing is getting it wrong when it comes to watering their plants. It is easy to water too much, to water too little, or to simply water wrongly. An automatic watering system does away with most of the problems polytunnel gardeners are likely to encounter when it comes to watering their plants.
To help you understand why an automatic watering system could be the right choice for you and your polytunnel, here are some of the benefits that such a system can bring:
An Automatic Watering System Can Save Water
Both sprinkler and drip irrigation systems can be set so as to provide exactly the right amount of water for the plants in your polytunnel. Such a system can be far less wasteful when it comes to water. An automatic system can help save water because:
- Just the right amount of water will be released. (Unlike when you hand water, when you can easily use more water than you need.)
- The water will be directed to exactly where it is needed. (Unlike with hand watering, when you can easily waste water by splashing it around where plants roots cannot retrieve it easily).
- An automatic shut off can help to keep water usage to a minimum.
Saving water and gardening in a water-wise way is one of the steps you can take towards a more sustainable garden system. If your water is metered, this can save you money too.
If you set up your automatic watering system to run on natural rainfall, this will be even better for your plants, and you can potentially save even more water and perhaps even more money. Check out guides elsewhere on this site to learn more about setting up your own rainwater harvesting system.
An Automatic Watering System Will Save Time
One of the other main benefits of an automatic watering system is that it can save gardeners a lot of time. In summer, watering by hand can be an extremely time-consuming process. You will usually need to water at least once a day, sometimes more, in hot weather. Many gardeners simply do not have the time to keep up with this chore. If you have a full time job, you may wonder how on earth you could ever make the time to maintain a polytunnel garden and grow your own food. But with an automatic watering system, maintaining a polytunnel will take far less time.
What is more, even if you do usually have the time to water by hand, an automatic watering system can be useful for when you wish to go away. When you are not there to spend the time watering your polytunnel, an automatic watering system can be set in advance to do the job for you while you are on holiday or travelling for work.
An Automatic Watering System Will Save Gardener Effort
Such a system will not only save the gardener time, it will save them effort too. Watering by hand can be not only time consuming but also tiring. Maintaining a garden can take a toll on the body. If you struggle sometimes to find the energy to make the effort to water, weed, hoe, mulch, and harvest, then an automatic irrigation system could be just what you need to take some of the effort out of gardening and make it seem like fun again!
Gardening can be wonderful exercise – good for body and mind. But taking a little of the strain away can help this valuable and healthy pursuit feel like a joy rather than a series of chores. Automation is one, simple way to make things easier.
Water Can Be Directed To Where It Really Needs To Be
As mentioned above, an automatic watering system will save water by making sure that the water is directed to where it really needs to be. While sprinkler systems can be good for certain applications, sometimes a drip irrigation system that delivers water right at soil level, or below, where it can be taken up by plant roots, can be the best idea.
Water is taken up through roots beneath the soil, and so watering from above can sometimes mean that plants do not get that water before it evaporates in the sun. By directing water to the base of your plants, you can ensure that less water is wasted and more can be taken up by your plants.
Another thing to bear in mind is that when you water erratically from above, you risk increasing the likelihood of certain plant diseases. For example, when the foliage of tomato plants gets wet, it is more likely to succumb to blight. Certain mildews can also be more likely to take hold if you water foliage rather than roots.
Water Can Be Delivered At Optimal Levels For Plant Growth
In addition to making sure that plants get water where they need it, the right automatic irrigation system can also make it easier to make sure that plants get the quantity of water that they require. By delivering a consistent water supply for plants – not too much and not too little – such a system can increase the yield from your polytunnel by creating the conditions necessary for optimal plant growth.
Watering by hand can often lead to inconsistency in plants’ water supply. Watering too much can cause waterlogging or nutrient leach, while watering too little can increase plant stress. Both watering too much and watering too little can cause problems with the plants you grow in your polytunnel. Both can mean that they do not grow as well as they should, fail to thrive, or even die. An automatic irrigation system can cut out a range of such problems and make it easier to get a good harvest from your polytunnel – whatever the temperatures and conditions may be.
An Automatic Watering System Can Reduce Weeds
By making sure that water is directed to exactly where it is needed, a carefully designed automatic irrigation system can also reduce the number of weeds that you have to contend with. Weeds can often spring up to take advantage of errant watering that was provided soil moisture in gaps between plants.
By watering only at the base of plants, you can ensure that they grow strongly, and prevent the formation of weak or weakened plants which can be more easily outcompeted by weeds. What is more, with less water going to waste, there will simply be less water available for any interloper plants.
What is more, when plants are getting exactly the right amount of water in exactly the right way, they can grow strong and, if you spaced plants correctly, grow to cover the available soil surface. Ensuring good plant coverage of growing areas can also help keep down weeds.
An Automatic Watering System Can Protect the Soil Ecosystem
It is not only people and plants that can benefit from an installation of the right watering system. When implemented correctly and appropriately, an automatic polytunnel watering system can do far more. In addition to making life easier for the gardener and ensuring that their crops thrive, such a system can also help to protect the whole ecosystem of the soil.
The topsoil in your growing areas is a precious resource. It is vitally important to take care of it in whichever ways you can. The soil is a web of living organisms, nutrients and minerals. Without the soil, we could not sustain life in this planet. There are a number of different things that can damage the soil ecosystem – excessive disruption through digging and tilling, pollution with harmful chemicals… But even organic, no-dig gardeners can inadvertently do harm to the soil by over or under watering.
With an automatic watering set up, gardeners can avoid the nutrient leeching, water run-off and erosion, soil baking and other problems that can come with getting the watering wrong. Avoiding these issues is just one important step gardeners can take to protect the precious soil in their polytunnel.
As you can tell from the above, there are plenty of reasons to choose an automatic system for watering plants in a polytunnel. But it is important to make sure that you select the right system for you and your specific needs. Do you have tips or suggestions to share regarding the right automatic watering system for a particular type of polytunnel garden? Please share these, along with any other thoughts that you may have, in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.