Watering the Garden to Conserve Water and Time

Getting enough water to your plants is a constant concern for any gardener.  Here in the desert, it is a particularly troubling problem.  However, after several years of gardening, I feel I am finally getting the hang of keeping my plants happily watered, even in the dead of summer.

The key to success is owning and using a good soaker hose as well as a good timer.
Soaker hoses (which are made of a porous rubber)  conserve water by allowing it to slowly seep directly into the soil.  This helps by reducing the amount of water lost to evaporation and runoff.
Used in conjunction with a timer, soaker hoses also save time.  There is no need to stand at the garden mindlessly spraying the ground with a hose.  Instead, you set the timer, turn on the hose and walk away.  The water seeps out of the soaker hose slowly and is applied directly to the base of your plants at the root zone.
During the summer I water each of my beds for 25 minutes every other day.  In the fall, winter, and spring the gardens only require water once or twice a week.  Many people would suggest watering longer during each session and for fewer sessions a week.  I’ve found that any longer than 25 minutes and the water just runs out of the bottom of the raised beds and slowly starts engulfing the backyard.  The soil in our backyard is extremely hard-packed and does not absorb moisture very well.  So shorter periods done more frequently really seems to work for us.
Couple of things to know:
– Soaker hoses are relatively cheap and won’t last for more than a season or two.  They get leaks pretty easily.  Usually, the leaks are rather small but as you can see in the picture above, sometimes they can get big.
– A soaker hose longer than 100 feet is pretty much pointless.  After 100 feet, the pressure is very uneven and the plants near the end of the hose will get very little water.
– Try to keep the soaker hose on level ground as much as possible to ensure that all of your plants receive equal amounts of water.
If this is something that interests you, I’ve come across a couple of good articles on the subject as well.
A fellow Arizonan, Jay, “The Scientific Gardener,” wrote a good article about how he uses soaker hoses and suggests that you bury some of them, which is something that I haven’t tried.  You can read his article here.
I thought that this pdf document titled: “Soaker Hoses: Good for your garden, your wallet and our environment” was a good resource.

I also enjoyed the article “ Soaker Hoses: The poor man’s drip system.”

How do you water your garden?  I’d love to hear what people in other climates (as well as my own) do to keep their thirsty plants satisfied.