The best automatic watering systems for indoor and outdoor plants.
There are many reasons people decide to set up a self-watering system. Whether they are planning several vacations and day trips over the summer, or just have a busy schedule where watering the garden is not at the top of the list.
Having an automatic plant watering system is one of those gadgets that help make daily life just a little bit easier.
Table of Contents
- Indoor Plant Watering Systems
- Outdoor Automatic Watering Systems
- Automatic Plant Watering Schedule Tips
Here are a few of the most popular automated watering systems.
Indoor Plant Watering Systems
There are several different types of indoor plant watering systems. Depending on the level of automation needed, you may use a plant watering globe, an indoor drip system or self-watering container.
1. Plant Watering Globes and Spikes
Plant Watering Spikes
One of the more successful and attractive indoor systems is a water spike. There are several different manufacturers of this device, which gives you a choice of styles and appearance, as well as cost.
The basic premise of the plant watering spike is the fact that it is a reservoir that waters your plants through capillary action. The spike itself is made of unglazed ceramic or other porous material. It sits almost flush with the surface level dirt in each herb pot, with the spike beneath the surface.
A small plastic tube goes from the spike to the nearby reservoir, and when the soil around the spike gets dry, it automatically draws water through the device into the soil. Yes, this does involve a reservoir, but some of the containers are quite attractive.
Some watering spikes do not come with a reservoir, so you have to supply one on your own.
I like the terracotta plant waterers as they have a natural look and you can choose the long-neck bottle of your choice such as a pretty wine bottle.
Some folks have also used the 2-liter soda bottles however, it becomes a little top-heavy when full. Place the reservoir above the plants so the siphoning action will work properly.
Plant Watering Globes
For your containers, both inside and outside, Plant Watering Globe Stakes are quite popular. These are lovely glass globes with a hollow spike. They are a pretty and practical way to water your herb pots
You fill the globe with water and insert the spike into the soil. As the soil dries out, water leaches from the globe into the soil.
These self-watering globes are an attractive way to water your plants without having hoses and tubes trailing everywhere. Large pots may require more than one globe.
2. Indoor Drip Watering Systems
Drip watering systems can take the guesswork out of watering your plants. You don’t have to remember when you last refilled the reservoir on your self-contained pots. Instead, you can run a drip system to those same pots and set a timer.
Drip watering systems are possibly one of the more unsightly systems, as you have obvious tubes running hither and yon across your herb pot collection.
However, for low-maintenance watering, this can hardly be beat. You can also be creative in your design to camouflage the drip lines.
One strategy to keep in mind when using this type of watering system is that there is no way for the dirt in the pot itself to regulate the water flow, as it does with most self-watering pots.
The timer on the water source turns on, and drips water into the pot for X amount of time, then turns off. If your herbs do not require much water, you run the chance of overwatering them. Or perhaps even flooding your garden area.
If you elect a drip system, consider having two timing systems. Your “wet feet” herbs will need to be watered more frequently with less water, while the herbs that prefer “dry feet” will need to be watered for longer with more time between watering.
The Oasis Plant Watering System is a great example of this type of drip system. It is completely independent from your faucet since it has a water reservoir that can hold up to 6.6 gallons. You can adjust the number of days, by simply turning a dial for up to 40 days and it can water up to 20 plants.
If you are planning a vacation, this is exactly the type of system that will keep your plants healthy & watered. You won’t need to hire a house sitter or beg a friend to come in and water your plants while you are away. The Oasis is a unique type of automatic watering solution perfect for those who frequently travel, need to go out of town or are just plain forgetful.
3. Self Watering Pots and Containers
Self-watering planters and pots are a must-have in the container herb garden. These planters come in multiple colors and sizes to allow for almost any design style.
A good self-watering pot should have a reservoir deep enough to store at least several days of water and allow for easy access to refill as needed.
There are several self-watering pots on the market today. Here are a few of the more interesting ones.
The Self Watering Pot Reservoir
A self-watering conversion kit is a nice low-cost option to build your own low maintenance watering system.
I love this option for the simple fact that it can convert any existing pot or planter to one that will water itself. Self-watering pots are great, but most are plastic – and you may have limited style and color options. With these conversion kits, you can select convert a heavyweight ceramic or stone planter into a self-watering unit.
If you like to grow larger herbs (or vegetables) in 5-gallon buckets, GroBucket makes another kit that fits inside turning them into a self-watering container.
This size bucket fits the standard tomato cages and is deep enough to allow for strong root growth.
Self Watering Mini-Pots
The size of these mini-planter pots is just right to hold a 3 to 3-1/2 inch pot. This is just the right size for most herbs sold in your local garden center, making the whole planting process super easy. Just pick up a few of your favorite herbs, discard the plastic or peat pot the herb was sold in, place it in the container and fill up the reservoir.
This trio of pots are sold on Amazon and include both the soil and germination bags in case you want to start your herbs from seeds. The size is 4 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall. They look great on a window sill.
Stackable Self Watering Containers
Stackable self-watering containers are a nice way to grow a variety of herbs in a compact space. They work easily when placed near a nice sunny window or porch. The one on the right includes twelve individual growing pots which allows for plenty of variety.
There is a water reservoir inside the planter to keep your herbs well hydrated. Water from the top and will trickle down through the system. These types of modular stacking planters are versatile to let you add layers as your garden grows. They also work well indoors where you don’t have too much room. So find a nice sunny spot and enjoy fresh herbs indoors this year!
Vertical Herb Garden Wall
The vertical herb garden wall is a unique concept that will make your herb garden the talk of the town. There are many different versions of this type of product hitting the market lately. This is a great way to grow up instead of out, especially when space is at a premium. Some are mounted on the wall – others outside on a fence or you can always stay a little more traditional and lay it flat.
Most of these planters include a water distribution system where you add water to the top & it will distribute water equally to all your herbs. The one pictured above is sold in 3, 6, or 9 pocket configurations and includes a self dripping watering system, and is available from Worth Gardens (on Amazon). See the different options available here = > Worth Garden Self-Dripping Vertical Garden Wall Planters
Grow spreading herbs like mint or thyme that will drape over the sides of the garden boxes to create an edible living piece of art.
Outdoor Automatic Watering Systems
Timers are an important part of setting up an automated system. By setting up a timer system to water your garden you can keep your plants from getting stressed from over or under-watering.
Setting up your irrigation system with the right schedule can also conserve water.
There are a few ways timers can be used to water the garden. They can be hooked up to your hose, sprinkler, or drip systems. Timers let you decide when and how often to water. Once you have set up the schedule, the timer will do the rest. Here are a few different types of electronic timers.
The latest in modern technology is a sprinkler timer you can run from your smartphone. This automated watering system from Rainpoint can even check the weather to see if rain is in the forecast and adjust the watering cycle accordingly.
Electric Hose Timers
Attach the timer to your water spigot, then connect your hose. Electric hose timers are best combined with either a sprinkler, soaker hose, or drip irrigation system.
You choose the length and frequency of the watering cycle, then program it into the timer. The Orbit 1 electronic timer to the right also has a rain delay feature that helps to prevent overwatering your garden without resetting the timer.
Using Sprinklers with Timers
Oscillating Sprinklers connect to your hose then evenly distribute the water in your garden. The AquaJoe is a favorite since it has an adjustable range control and a wide coverage area of up to 3600 feet.
You can attach your hose to a timer to automate the process. This prevents over-watering in case you get tied up or forget to turn it off. There is also an always-on feature when you want to override the timer.
5. Soaker Hoses
Soaker hoses are one of the best ways to water your garden. You can also bury the hoses so they are all but invisible.
Soaker and weeper hoses are some of the most economical ways to keep your garden watered.
They deposit water directly in the soil, which means there is less chance of evaporation and you actually use less water. The water is also less likely to lay on the ground or leaves causing mold and mildew to collect on the ground near your plants
Tips for Setting up a Soaker Hose
- Cover the hose with a layer of mulch so it blends in with your bed. This can also prevent mineral build-up which may clog the hose.
- Use small twigs or stakes to keep the hose in place, especially if your garden beds are frequented by animals which may knock the hose away from your plants.
- It may take 10 minutes or so for the water to reach the end of the hose and build enough pressure to start watering evenly. Include this lead time in your schedule.
- Smooth out any kinks and try to avoid unnecessary turns. This will allow the water to flow easier to all parts of the hose.
6. Outdoor Drip Irrigation Systems
A drip irrigation system is ideal for most plants since it brings the water directly to your plant’s roots.
This is achieved by installing drip emitters next to your plants which are connected by a feeder hose that carries the water.
The water is released in a slow and steady drip exactly where it is needed so these systems are also very efficient in conserving water.
The beauty of a drip-irrigation system is you can customize the amounts of water given to plants with different requirements. Simply place more lines running to the plants or herbs that require more water and less to plants that prefer to be on the dry side. You can even set up a container drip irrigation system on your patio to make sure all your potted plants stay well-watered.
7. Self Watering Containers
Having a potted herb garden is a great way to add color and flexibility to your garden. However, potted herbs dry out much faster than herbs planted in the ground, so under watering is very common especially in the hotter months. Self-watering window boxes and planters are usually larger than their smaller container cousins, and can, therefore, hide some of the mechanics that make them work.
Self Watering Planters
Self-watering planters are perfect for combining groups of herbs and storing them on your patio or deck for easy access to the kitchen. They are also nice and deep which means you can combine more plants in a single planter.
The Urban Garden bench planter is a good example of a longer planter with many herbs growing together. The design is raised just a few inches off the ground which is much better for your patio or deck. A mini version is also available that is suitable for indoor out outdoor use.
Self Watering Window Boxes
Window boxes are a great way to grow herbs. They attach to the outside of your window so they get great light, while still being very accessible from the indoors. This way your plants get the best of both worlds.
A beautiful example of a self-watering window box is the Fairfield Self Watering Window Box. It is made from high-grade polyethylene so will hold up to nature’s elements without losing its beauty.
The self-watering feature is a built-in water reservoir so your plants will draw up the water as needed. The dimensions of the window box are 36″W x 11″ D x 10.8″H.
This is a perfect example of beauty, form, and function that can transform your window into your very own windowsill herb garden.
8. Self Watering Hanging Baskets
Hanging baskets are a beautiful way to add herbs or flowers to your landscape without taking up too much space.
You can hang them on your balcony, porch, or front entryway. These self-watering hanging baskets are a nice way to keep your plants hydrated without too much fuss.
When choosing a hanging basket, look for a pot that is at least 5 inches deep in order to establish a healthy root system.
Another good feature is a hole in the side of the pot to allow for easy watering. The reservoir system in the bottom of the pot will allow the plants to draw up water from their roots as they need it, ensuring a healthy and happy plant.
What if you already have a hanging basket? A hanging basket drip pan can be used to fit over your existing basket.
This serves 2 purposes. First, it will keep the water from dripping out of the bottom of your basket onto your patio when you water a bit too much.
Secondly, it will store the extra water in the plastic liner, keeping your herb plants moist. They are made from clear plastic so are hardly noticeable when used over any color hanging basket.
Automatic Plant Watering Schedule Tips
Setting up an irrigation system is important to maintain healthy plants while freeing you up to do other activities. When setting up your irrigation system, it is important to evaluate your watering schedule depending on the maturity of your plants, their growing cycle, and the time of year.
Here are a few tips to help you plan your watering schedule.
- Ideally, water your garden early in the morning. This allows the roots to soak up the moisture before temperatures rise and prepare for the heat of the day.
- Plants in their heavy flowering or fruiting cycle will need more water.
- Always give a long thorough soak to newly planted flowers and herbs.
- Established perennials do better with less frequent, but longer watering times.
- Water more frequently in the heat of the summer and less often in the cooler months.
While automatic plant watering systems may make herb gardening easier, you will still want to keep an eye on them and make adjustments where necessary. However, any of these systems will reduce the daily care required to keep your herbs beautiful and healthy.