Irrigating/watering "cottage" garden

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)


I've planted my cottage & potager type gardens. It's been fun to hand water the babies - it's my favorite early morning ritual, but now that the gardens have been in place for a year or two, it's time to think about irrigation - the yard is too big to hand water long term.

A large part of my yard is xeriscape plants & I put a sprinkler out once a week for them - easy peasy. However, I have several beds which are ornamentals and/or ornamental/herb/veggie mixes & I've planted a lot of self-seeding flowers, so they'll grow where they want. Since I prefer the cottage style & there are no neat rows of plants or empty spaces, my limited knowledge leads me to believe that drip irrigation isn't ideal. The potager type beds are triangular, so I can't imagine a type of sprinkler that I can use, temporarily, which wouldn't waste a tremendous amount of water. I live in Northern California, where we have perpetual drought conditions.

I'd love to have some suggestions about irrigation methods you've used/installed in your cottage gardens.

Please feel free to direct me to any past threads which discuss this or a different forum, if appropriate. I don't want people to have to repeat themselves.

Thanks in advance!


Austin, TX(Zone 8b)

Hmm, I would have said drip irrigation, just kind of wiggle the lines through the bed, but I'm pretty big on letting things self-sow, and also sort out amongst themselves which ones need a little more water than others.

Aside from the drip emitters, there are mini-misters, like teeny little sprinkler heads. Maybe that is the niche you want? You'd get more even watering over the whole area, with some evaporation, but not as much as a big sprinkler.

I dunno.... Show us some pictures while we think about it... 8>)

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Realbirdlady, Thanks for responding.

I suspect the mini-misters will make sense for me. I wondered how strong the spray is - ie. would I outline the beds with them or nest them throughout the bed? I don't have pictures available, at the moment, (I'm out of town), but the most challenging beds are vaguely triangular, in shape, with one rounded end - ie. a slice of pie. They're roughly 15 ft. long at the outer edge.



Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Soaker hoses might work for you (I love them) if you don't have a lot of slope in your beds. I think they can handle a foot or so of elevation change, according to their specs. Even in your triangular bed, they should work; a 50 foot length will be more than you need to run back and forth through the bed, but you can just space the zig zags more closely, or you could use a "customizable" system where you cut the soaker hose to the length you need. Soakers will water pretty well for 1 1/2 feet on either side, unless you have super sandy soil.

You can just run lengths of regular hose between beds (trench them down if you want) to piece your irrigation system together. I think the max *continuous* length for soaker hose is 150 or 200 feet, but you can do more than that if you run the hoses in parallel (connect to your main supply hose with a splitter).

Especially when you're making a lot of turns, those U-shaped metal staples are really useful for pinning soakers and other irrigation hoses into place.

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)


Yours is a challenge.

I just had a rather creative irrigation guy come out and look at my garden hodge podge and he gave me some good ideas on how to do something economically that would work in our habitat. He was the third guy to come out though. The others basically just wanted to install sprinklers for rectangular lawns (of course). He was willing to put together a combination of pop-ups, drippers, misters, etc., but he loved the challenge of a mixed garden~~he said no one else was interested in flowers any more.... It works great but I still do some hand watering on certain thirsty plants to save a bit of water. I almost fainted when he only charged $250 for the whole set up!

When we lived in Pasadena CA we put in pop up misters in our irregular beds and they worked OK but I can't help but think that there was a lot of evaporation. The black soaker hoses didn't work for us too well even though it was pretty flat~~don't know why that was though.

Here's a link to the Drip Works catalog~~many folks on DG have used their products and designed their own systems. Maybe something will catch you eye:

Good luck. t.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

Thanks for your responses Critter & Tabasco! I was on vacation & just read them.

Critter, I'm interested to hear that you like soaker hoses - I've always read bad reviews of them. Is there a specific brand you recommend? They would be an easy solution to try.

Tabasco, thanks for the Drip Works link - I'll check it out. I think the combination method, that you have, is probably going to be the answer for us.

I think that DH really understands the need for some irrigation help, after hand watering for over a week, while I was gone!

Menifee, CA(Zone 9a)

thanks for your post tabasco, because it will also help me. : - )
May I also recommend battery operated timers? They really help when you go on vacation.
We're figuring out ours as we go. Using a combo of drip, pop ups, micro sprinklers, misters, etc.
I've never had good luck with either type of soaker hose. Then again I've been building dirt from Decomposed Granite for the last 20+ years too.
Good luck lizzipa, let us know how it works out for you.

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

We just put in drip irrigation throughout our entire property, even the unplanted (so far) areas. We have 9 zones, altho the timer will allow us to go to 12. We have quite complicated beds. At least one main bed is triangular.

In some areas I ran the brown netafim that has the holes in it. It's 1/2". I also have some of the 1/4" tubing with holes but I haven't used that yet. What I'm using a lot of is the 1/2" black tubing with no holes which I wind thru a bed, either along the back end or in the center. Then I put the little 1/4" tubing out to each plant with emitters. My irrigation guy told me to stay away from the misters. He said they work better in a greenhouse.

He did all the below ground work and I'm putting in all the tubing to the plants. It's actually been quite fun. I've even gotten creative and am running tubing into pots and I have an emitter that runs up the back of a birdbath and hangs just over the lip so it keeps the birdbath filled.

The irrigation guy loved doing our yard because he said it was such a challenge. Every time he came over he commented how much fun he was having. LOL I kept telling him that his idea of fun wasn't the same as mine! But now that I've gotten into running all the tubing, and have finally wrapped my brain around how it all works, I can see that it is sort of fun because it's like a big puzzle. And there are many options of how you can get the water to the plants and figuring out what works best for each bed is like working this big puzzle.

Now that my plants are getting water regularly, they are doing so much better. They are actually growing! It's like a miracle. And the weeds don't get watered as they would with overhead watering so they aren't growing and crowding all the plants out.

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

I'm so happy & grateful to hear people chiming in with their experiences.

Gwendalou, great feed back. I haven't heard of netafim, so will look that one up. I suspect I, too, will enjoy the process, once I get the courage to dive in. Fortunately, we have hose bibs near all the areas, so no major plumbing to do. I'm planning to have my 20 yr. old son help me with this project, this winter.

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I've got drip irrigation out in our little orchard, but most of my garden areas get soaker hoses. I get the cheap ones from Home Depot or WalMart, haven't really had a problem with them wearing out (I'm more likely to chop them accidentally with my shovel). UV radiation can degrade them, but even a little mulch or something on top takes care of that.

My soil is pretty heavy, amended clay, and that might be why soakers work well for me. The soil gets moistened to about 2 feet out from where the hose is laid, so I run the hoses 3 to 4 feet apart for fairly good coverage. You won't see the soil getting wet on the surface except right under the hose; you have to poke your finger down to see how far the water is spreading. Expect to run soaker hoses at least 45 minutes to an hour. If you only run them 15 minutes, you won't get much good from them (same with most drippers,etc.).

Langley, WA(Zone 7b)

The netafim I believe is a brand name. It's brown and is sort of like a soaker hose. You can get the holes 6 inches apart or 12 inches apart. If you have the little tubie things with the emitters at the end, you can get the emitters in different 'sizes' so that they emit more or less water depending on the size. I do not have the ones that emit a ton of water but I can tell you that the emitters water much more quickly than the netafim or my soaker hoses I have elsewhere. But still slow enough to really soak the area underneath.

Critter is right that you won't really see the ground on top wet, but when you dig down, there it is!

Emerald Hills, CA(Zone 9b)

That's what I need: something I can run for a while, that will deep water! I was shocked, a few weeks ago, when I dug into my potager garden (which I water every other day) & found that it was dry, just a few inches down. Now, I water deeply, once a week, with a trickle from the hose... in addition to the every other day watering. I have heavily amended clay soil, like Critter.

I may try a combination of both Critter's & Gwendalou & Tabasco's suggestions: soaker hose in the ornamental beds, immediately to give me some relief from frequent watering, then install drip irrigation in the potager beds, this winter.

Thanks again for the suggestions.


Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Gwendalou, when can you come over to my house?!?

Sounds like you could work wonders with our back garden!

Do they have an irrigation forum on DG?? They have so many other forums, they certainly should have on for this!

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

I think it's come up recently as a possible new forum -- check in the DG forum for the thread if you want ot add your 2 cents.

Pasadena, CA

You sound like you know quite a bit about different types of irrigation systems. And you seem to be aware that different nozzles work best with different types of plants. In case you're interested, here is an article that ties them together and talks a little bit about why choosing the right nozzle is important:

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Hey, shinetiger! Thanks for giving this thread a bump... looks like we've had that "new" irrigation forum for a while now LOL. Are you "watergeek" on hubpages? If so, thank you for a succinct and well written article! (and if not, thank you for the link!)

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Shinetiger, I coudn't get that link to work...sounds like a good article.

BTW, where do you live in Pasadena? We used to live on Fairfield Circle (off Oak Grove in the Huntington Hotel (Langham) area).

I must go check out the Irrigation Forum. After all the rain we had this spring, for the past five days it's been dry as a bone and I'm already tired of dragging hoses!

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