In my part of the world, the hot, sunny summer growing season does not overlap much with the rainy season. It can go weeks without a drop of rain in the summer, which makes watering my vegetable garden daily a necessity. But summer is also vacation time, so if you don’t have a sprinkler system, how do you keep everything from dying while you’re gone? Don’t worry, there are a variety of DIY solutions to this problem.
Watering globes and stakes are one way to keep your container plants watered. Water-filled glass globes can be a decorative element, or you can find another type where you use recycled wine bottles as a reservoir. Depending on the weather and the size and type of the plant, these can keep your plants happy for a week or two.
Self-watering pots are one way to solve this problem. They have a reservoir of water at the bottom, so they can reduce or eliminate the need for daily watering. The selection and size of these type of pots can be pretty limited, though, so you may want to consider drip irrigation instead (see below), which also works for containers.
For the rest of the yard, your best bet is to set up a watering system, hooked up to an automatic timer. Whatever system you use, you do want to test it for a while before you go out of town and leave your yard to its mercy. But a big benefit of setting up a system like this is that you can use it even when you’re home. I know that the best time to water is early in the morning, but as a non-morning person, getting up at 5am to water my garden is just never going to happen. Thanks to my hose timer, my garden doesn't know that.
There are basically two options for DIY automated watering: A soaker hose, or drip lines, which can be installed entirely above-ground and attached to a hose faucet (get a screw-on faucet splitter, if necessary).
Personally I prefer drip lines, because they allow more precision, but they do take more effort to set up. There are a variety of brands, and whichever one you choose, you may want to begin with a starter kit. Mine came with enough supplies to get going, plus instructions that covered what I needed to know to set up the system.
Before I started working on my drip system, I was worried that it would be complicated or difficult, but it really wasn't at all. At its simplest, it's just a series of tubes to which you can attach tiny sprinklers that emit water in various volumes. You run the tubes throughout your garden, delivering water right to the roots of your plants. There are all types of specialized sprayers and water emitters, so you can make it more complicated if you want, but you don't have to. Unlike an in-ground sprinkler system, it's very easy to change up and expand as I refine my yard.
Drip-irrigation is one of the most efficient, least wasteful ways to water your plants. I like it so much that I’ve slowly expanded it to cover my whole (small) yard, and containers, too. You can get a system up and running in an afternoon, and then be free to enjoy your summer vacation without worrying about whether your plants will still be alive when you get back.