It's Time for a Timer
Drip irrigation users enjoy the benefits of healthier plants, less water usage, and time and money savings, but these benefits can actually be multiplied by adding a timer. An irrigation timer can not only save a significant amount of time by automating the on/off cycles but it will also improve the health of plants and increase crop yields with carefully scheduled watering cycles. Have you ever turned your faucet on only to walk away and get involved with another project? If you're like me, you may have remembered to turn it off only after everything was flooded. The benefits of a timer can far surpass the perceived convenience of manual watering.
A timer is typically connected to a water supply at an outdoor spigot. After installing the timer, the water valve should be kept in the fully opened position. These timers are typically battery operated and weather resistant. A single timer will operate a single watering zone, but a few timer models are designed for two zone systems. In some larger systems, a timer, often called a controller, is wired to one or more electronic water valves for multiple watering zones, with the timer and its plug-in power supply protected from the effects of weather. The rest of the irrigation system then follows after the timer or electronic valves.
Timers are available with different features to provide the user with options such as the time of day to water, the number of times each day to water, the days of the week to water, and the duration of the watering cycle. Some timers have cyclical options to allow watering every 2 or 3 days for example. The timer programming can also be overridden to allow for manually turning a water supply on or off as needed. A few timer models also allow a rain sensor device to be connected, which will temporarily suspend the programming during periods of wet weather in order to conserve water.
The programming procedure can be somewhat complicated depending on the specific watering needs. For example, it's easier to program a system to operate every day for 15 minutes than it would be to program a system to operate Monday, Wednesday and Saturday starting at 6 a.m. for 12 minutes and then again at 7 p.m. for 8 minutes. Based on your watering schedule needs, you can select the timer with the right options. If your scheduling needs are more simplistic, you would not want to spend more money than you should on a timer with more features than you need.
Keep in mind that watering schedules will need to be adjusted for the changes in the local climate. It's a common practice to have different timer settings for the periods of time before summer, during summer, and after summer. A timer is typically not needed during the winter months and it should be removed and stored indoors along with the filters and pressure regulators to protect these components from being damaged by freezing temperatures.
Without a timer, it will be difficult if not impossible to avoid human error. Manually watering plants will inevitably result in over or under watering. Timers will insure that your plants receive regular, consistent watering which leads to decreased plant stress resulting in higher plant yields and overall healthier plants. With the addition of a timer to your drip irrigation system, watering your plants could easily become one of the most hassle free outdoor tasks you have.