I know many bonsai-ists have set up irrigation systems to water their trees. I have just set-up my own after five years of hand watering. I have more questions now that I have set one up. I used a Rain Bird System. They have many tips to provide water in different ways to plants. There are tips that create a spray, some are 180 or 360 degree sprinklers, some create a single stream or drip. There is also the matter of setting the frequency and duration. I welcome hearing what has worked for others.
Not surprised you are asking. When i first set my system up i thought it would be simple. Not so, the set up was not difficult, the difficult part was determining what would work best for my trees. I ended up doing the following. Created separate zones for different needs. Growing developmental trees, seedling beds, mature tree benches. I also sorted and placed my trees so they were grouped by watering requirements.
This became a bit difficult as species also required differential placement due to sun and shade preference.
My system was also modified with a control system to prevent it from watering during rainy days.
For general use i find the drip stake 160 degree 3gph to be the most versatile. Larger containers or pots may have two stakes.
My normal setting is for 8 am and 2 pm, shorter intervals but twice per day.
The shortest answer is that over time you will need to adjust your system and its delivery to suit your needs.
Check your system on a regular basis to ensure the delivery is what you expect.
I tend to water manually during the rainy season and during heat waves. The system is most valuable when i travel.
Hope these hints help and point out the things to consider moving forward.
I agree with Frank. The best way forward is to see how it goes and improve it based on actual results. I’ve seen good systems that use soaker hose - I may try some myself this year.
What are the pros and cons of drip vs spray system? And is there a system/brand that you would recommend? I’m trying to figure out how to set something up for the rare occasions I go on vacation. I don’t have anybody that would be able to come by and reliably water for me.
Spray is easy to set up and offers good coverage but is wasteful, and if the canopy is really full, the water can drip off the leaves and away from the soil.
Drip is more effort and prone to clogs that may affect a single tree at a time making the problem hard to detect. Depending on the setup, the water may not come out evenly and reach all corners of the pot. That said, a well-set-up drip system can work great.
I’ve been using a watering system for 9-10 years with some success…and a couple failures.
I’m using a Galcon Bluetooth Flip Open LCD Timer with both sprayers and ‘drip’ emitters for a few months now with good results. Quick to program and intuitive. I used another battery timer (Orbit from Lowes) for the past 9 years but they became very undependable. I travel a lot so I always have someone feed the cat twice each day and check on my trees. When a system fails-and it will-have a back up plan. Make sure your ‘person’ is dependable. Losing 65 trees due to an undependable person will hurt for years!
As Frank mentioned, create separate zones for different pant needs; bald cypress, several water events per day in one area or bench Vs juniper-not so much. I use at least two emitters for each tree so if one type does not work, gets clogged or a cat knocks it over, your tree is safely watered by the second emitter. I like both the 360° sprayers and the drippers as each has a place in the system. Change the battery at least every six months, not every year as instructions states. Better safe than sorry.
After setting up the system, watch each tree during the watering event to make sure it is completely watered and the system works as planned. There are always issues that pop up!
Do not change the system time cycle before a trip unless you can physically watch the watering cycle a few days before leaving the system to the programmed timer.
The system i prefer is manufactured by “Hunter” the controller is an " X Core" . The system is wired in not battery operated. I reccomend using a pressure regulating valve for the system and adjusting it when the system is operating. Each zone has a separate micron filter and electronic control. I clean filters every four months.
I use two emitters for each area and or container as well to ensure overlap and backup.
The controller allows for multiple programs and multiple zones. Has a rain sensor to adjust program timing or shut the program off during rain events.
The controller is easy to program, adjust, and turn on and off without losing the programming.
My latest system has been trouble free for four years. I tried the battery style controllers on hoses and drip set ups for several years before giving up on them due to unreliability. It got so i felt i had to put fresh batteries in each time i went away.