Automatic Watering System

Can anyone with experience post some recommendations for timers, tubing, nozzles, etc for setting up an automatic watering system?

I am moving from a work from home position to needing to be in the office 5 days a week. I’d like to get an automatic watering system set up to do mid-day watering before we get to our 100+ degree summers, beginning in late May-ish.

I have 1 bench thats about 5 x 15 that I’d like to cover. I have another bench too, but I think I can consolidate all the trees that will need midday water to the one larger bench.

Anyone who has any experience or thoughts on the equipment, setup, or other considerations please let me know.

I’ve built quite a few automated watering systems. how many plant sites are you trying to water? is a good source for supplies to build what you need :+1:t2:

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This would be I think one “site”. One largeish bench. maybe 6 emitter nozzles, depending on the area they cover? But only one area, all would be on the same water line in, schedule, etc

Yeah, I meant how many plants are you trying to water? There may be simpler ways but I really like Jain’s Octa bubbler systems for splitting off irrigation lines. I like that you can choose your flow rate, it will be pressure compensating so they will all be watered evenly. Here’s a link

From here I run my 1/4"od (I believe 3/16th ID) lines from the bubbler to each plant then use a drip spike pushed into the substrate like this:

If you plan on running the water from a spigot you could pick any inline irrigation controller that you’d like and run a hose over to your table. There’s various configurations for using pvc to adapt from the garden hose to the octabubbler as well as ways to connect more then one octabubbler inline that I could explain if you’re interested or have the need. It’s a little more work overall but I like the durability and flexibility that the octabubbler gives me. If you’re planning on doing more then 15-20 plants I would recommend using a lower flow rate. The pressure from your spigot may or may not be able to handle a lot of plants with a high flow rate meaning the pressure may not be high enough for the bubblers to operate properly and water the plants evenly. I’ll post a picture of a system that I built for reference later, I have to dig it up.

I will build a system in the next few weeks with Hunter products. I don’t have any experiences yet but i will write them here as soon as i have some. But my system will be more a drop-system than a spray system.

@MaineBonsai i have one question which you could possibly answer. My system will work as well with a kind of octabubbler where the diameter changes from 1/2" to ca. 1/6". I don’t have so much plants so it would be enough for me to work with the 8 hoses from the octabubbler but the length of the hoses would be very different (some 1-2 meter and a few up to 7 meter). Would it be better to work with more octabubblers and try to keep the small tubes nearly the same length or doesn’t it matter?
In my opinion it shouldn’t make any difference in the pressure, am i right?

In that scenario I do think tube length might play a role in how even they water. I would keep them as even as possible. The other option would be (which I do often) is to pull the insides out of the octabubbler so it is free flowing. And then I put a pressure compensating drip emitter right at the plant before the drip spike. That way the 1/4" tube is “pressurized” and tube length doesnt matter as much. These drippers are in my opinion far superior to any of the many others I have tried.

Again you can choose emitter size, but the more plants you go, the lower gph I would choose.

Ahh, I see what you mean now. I guess I was hoping I wouldn’t need a line (or more?) for each tree. I was thinking more like a fire suppression style setup where it covers the entire bench and douses it from a spray nozzle.

For the drip spike system, do you need to use more than 1 per pot and does the number vary based on how large the pot is? I’ll have maybe a dozen small-medium size trees, 3-4 larger ones, and a bunch of pre-bonsai that are still basically rooted cuttings, so it would take at least a few dozen connections to get one or more to each pot.

Thanks @MaineBonsai,
those drippers are pretty similar to the ones i will use. i will use mostly single drippers or drippers which drip in an 180° angle. I will try to work with equal tube lengths or perhaps go the long distance with a 1/2" tube and set up a second octabubbler so that the 1/4" tubes have the same length.

@bentleythekid The spray setup you mentioned has one major disadvantage. When your trees are in full leaf most of the water won’t reach the soil. In my opinion a drip system is more suitable and perhaps a few sprayer to improve the climate. Depending on the pot diameter you will definitely need more than one dripper for each pot except for Mame bonsai but there are drippers you can put in line so this shouldn’t be a problem as long as you have enough pressure.

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i did not have the best experience with the dripper approach. It is very hard to get the entire soil wet and thus you risk damage to areas of the roots especially in summer. There are micro sprayers which work better imo as they cover a broader area with finer spray vs. dripping out. I switched to a larger scale sprinkler, which work better for the trees last summer for a two week holiday period.

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I see this problem coming up with the drippers as well @antelion. I hope the 180° dripper will be the solution for me.
Do you have the sprayer mounted above the trees or between them? I always thought that if you place them above your trees it won’t really wet the soil when all trees are in leaves. I thought about placing them between the trees just slightly above the rim of the pots.

Those are good points. In theory I like the sprayer for a more even distribution, more flexibility with size and number of pots, and to help raise the humidity in the area since it is very dry here for most of the year, but I can see why the foliage could get in the way as the season goes on. The drip systems seem to be more popular from what I have seen while looking into this.

Rainbird makes micro sprays that work off the same 1/4" tubing that the drip emitters uses. They have several different options from stream sprays to flood 360 patterns. The flood 360 can be adjusted on the distance it covers. If you close the flow enough it will resemble a flood bubbler that runs of 1/2" pvc risers landscape trees and shrubs. I plan on using the micro 360s later this year when I set up the irrigation in the garden. I have worked in the landscape industry for over 30 years including a few years at a national distributor as a regional lead for smart irrigation controls for commercial products. You will find everyone has their preferred brand of heads and controllers. I just happen to prefer Rainbird.


I use spot spitters. Drip depot has mini ones that are only 2 to 3 inches tall. Perfect for bonsai containers. And they come in different spray patterns and volumes. Bonus they last a long time in the sun and are cheap. spot-spitters-short-2 spot-spitters-short-1

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I’m looking at the jain octa bubbler. If I’m reading this right, it has a 1/2 ftp inlet? so I need a 3/4 hose to 1/2 adapter of some sort to get water from the spigot to the bubbler?

Yea exactly, theres multiple ways to do it. I would think most hardware stores should have the fittings to adapt. I like to put the ball valve inline so I can shut it off or reduce the pressure to the bubbler if I need to.

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Ahh, that also sounds like a good idea. Thanks again!