Smart Garden: automatic irrigation

A vigorous drying out is enough, and the long-cherished blooms are gone. On some summer days, only daily watering helps. With an irrigation system, you can save a lot of time and water here.

Models for automatic irrigation in the home garden were golf courses or landscaped gardens. There are now many systems that also make things easier in smaller terraced house gardens. No more watering with the hand shower for hours, instead the plants are effectively and water-saving supplied with moisture according to their needs via underground water pipes. Various sprinklers or drip irrigation systems can then be connected to the lines, which can be operated and controlled either manually or fully automatically.

Plan and install an irrigation system in the garden

When planning, detailed planning is useful. This allows you to ideally position the pipes and the sprinklers. Although the installation of an irrigation system requires a lot of effort in planning and laying the pipes, it is worthwhile. However, before you start digging with enthusiasm, you should plan carefully. Ideally together with an expert from an irrigation company, because all garden areas rarely need the same amount of water. Sensors can help here.

The nature of the soil also plays a role, which must be taken into account when planning: sandy soil naturally retains moisture much worse than, for example, soil with a high proportion of clay. The different garden areas should therefore be better developed through different irrigation circles and watered according to their needs.

Automatic watering in the garden: the water connection

If the area to be irrigated is of average size, the system can be connected to a normal water tap on the house or in the garden. There are suitable adapters for the transition between the pipe and the tap. In a large garden, a direct connection to the house water pipe is recommended. If the branching point is at the house, think of a stopcock at the lowest point so that the garden irrigation can be completely separated from the house irrigation in winter and emptied to protect against frost damage.

The available water pressure is important for planning irrigation. You should therefore use a flow meter to measure the amount of water available (cbm / hour) in relation to the flow pressure (bar), because these values result, for example, in the possible number of irrigation circuits (stations).

Irrigation computer for the Smart Garden

The irrigation system can be controlled fully automatically via the irrigation computer. It is mounted directly on the tap or separately in a protected location. Individual irrigation stations can be programmed and selected separately from one another via the computer. For example, you can set at what time, on what days or how long a station should rain. The stations are activated one after the other via solenoid valves which are controlled by the irrigation computer via a 24 V line.

The computer itself requires a 110-220V connection. The mains voltage is converted into harmless 24 V via a transformer. The control should be easily accessible in the technical room of the house or in the tool shed.

Automatic irrigation: moisture sensor

Most irrigation systems are equipped with a sensor that measures soil moisture or air humidity. The sensors are connected directly to the computer or the app and send it their measurement data. When sufficient natural precipitation has fallen, the system is switched off.

There are also so-called evapo-transpiration systems (RP-ET systems). They measure the evaporation rate and the light intensity and, together with previously entered factors such as the nature of the soil and the water requirements of the plants, can automatically adapt the irrigation systems to the respective requirements.

Sprinkler for large areas

Semi-elastic PE plastic pipes run underground serve as water supply lines. So that they do not interfere with gardening, they are laid in trenches 30–40 cm deep. Sprinklers with a range of 3–15 m are suitable for large plantings or lawns. Circular sprinklers irrigate a radius of up to 360 °, rectangular sprinklers can be set well on rectangular beds and lawns.

The sprinklers can either be hidden in the ground as pop-up sprinklers, which then slide out during operation, or connected to the pipe using a garden hose and set up anywhere in the garden.

Mini sprinkler for the garden

Small mini-runners cover a radius of up to 2m and are particularly suitable for watering taller shrubs and trees. In the herbaceous or rose bed, under bushes and woody trees, inconspicuous small circular sprinklers have proven themselves, which spray finely distributed drops at low altitudes. The flowers stay dry – an advantage over sprinklers, which leave ugly water stains on summer flowers and delicate rose blossoms and promote fungal diseases.

Smart garden: drip irrigation

For a targeted water supply in the vegetable garden, underground drip irrigation systems are ideal. Drip irrigation delivers the water finely dosed, economical and effective. There are different systems. Single drippers are particularly suitable for targeted watering of individual plants, for example in the vegetable garden or for potting on the balcony or terrace. They are mounted on a soft PE pipe (16/20 mm ∅) using punch pliers and placed directly on the plant in the ground.

A drip hose, on the other hand, releases the water over a large area and drop by drop from fine holes. You can let it run both above ground and underground. Drip pipes are particularly recommended for watering flower beds and large planting areas with ground cover.

In order to guarantee the minimum water output, the water pressure at the station or at the connection must be reduced with a pressure reducer and a filter installed to protect against contamination.

Irrigation by radio control

If you are often away from home, you can switch the irrigation on and off via the phone or radio depending on the weather forecast. Some systems can be conveniently controlled by radio or even from the vacation spot by telephone or via the Internet. This requires the appropriate hardware and software as well as a radio receiver on the irrigation computer or on the solenoid valve. The range for a radio is up to 200 m. Depending on the system, other devices such as pond pumps or garden lighting can even be linked to it.

Automatic irrigation: these systems exist

  • Gardena: The idea behind the complete “Gardena smart system” package is to control lawn care and automatic watering from a single source using an app. With the “Sensor Control Set” the soil moisture is measured and forwarded to the irrigation computer. For 2018 the manufacturer has announced new products for the Smart Garden – including the “smart Pressure Pump” as a time-controlled garden pump or the “smart Irrigation Control” irrigation system, with which you can control up to six different watering zones with the Gardena app. Price for the complete system including robotic lawnmower: $ 1,850.
  • Kärcher: With the SensoTimer ST6 Duo eco! Ogic, Kärcher is bringing an irrigation system onto the market that uses two sensors to supply the garden with moisture-controlled and demand-based water. If the value falls below a certain level, watering starts automatically. The package includes a tap connection, pre-filter and batteries. Price: from $ 140.
  • Viratec: The startup “Viratec” competes in the Smart Garden 2018 with the “Miyo” system against the major manufacturers. In this system, too, a sensor measures the temperature, brightness, humidity and precipitation in the ground and forwards the data to an intelligent irrigation system. The big difference: sensors and valves are completely solar powered. This means you can save yourself having to change batteries or laying cables across the garden. A few hours of sunshine a month should even be enough to ensure seamless functionality. The app completes the system to provide insight into sensor values ​​and irrigation status from anywhere.
  • GreenIQ: This company from Israel is also dedicated to the topic of sustainability in smart irrigation. The “Smart Garden Hub” from GreenIQ also works with values ​​from the data cloud, the weather report from the network and is compatible with smart home systems such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home. With the system, the garden owner should save up to 50 percent of the water consumption in the garden. The complete irrigation kit with control unit, sensors, valve box, nozzles and lots of accessories for an area of ​​175 square meters is available from various retailers for 1,220 dollars.

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