Gardening can be a little hard on the wallet. There are always new gadgets and more plants to fill in that space, you know, between the hostas and the astilbes. That said, I think that hands down the best purchase I made this year was a handy contraption: the Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer Watering System with Four Valves. I bought mine at Lee Valley Tools, but it is widely available online. Once I got it set up I realized how it helped address one of those key garden basics: water. I am now convinced it will pay for itself in water savings and the increased produce from a regularly watered garden.
The key problem I was trying to solve was that I had two separate garden beds initially with two lines go out two separate sections of weeping hoses to water my front flowers gardens and my veggie garden running off a splitter attached to a manual timer (up to 120 min) screwed onto the tap which I had to manually activate each day. Then if I wanted to do anything else, set up the lawn sprinkler or water my pots by hand, I had to start disconnecting hoses.
Now the two weeping hoses are on dedicated valves to water my front flowers gardens and my veggie garden for two hours each at 6 am daily. Using the digital screen, there are loads of self explanatory programming options. It was easier because I practiced programming it before attaching it to the tap.
The big upside for me was that I now I have a the fourth valve which I can operate manually for these other jobs like wasting the car or manually watering my pots.
A couple other things to bear in mind when you are ready to install this digital water timer: 1) it takes two AA batteries and 2) it has a high profile and will require some head room. I installed mine in the garage and had to shift some shelves to fit it in.
If you search this product the online reviews were quite mixed. I think this is because there is one critical piece of information that is not clear from the trouble shooting guide for this product. After the first day I realized that the weeping hose off valve two was not closing and the water just continued to run. If you just switched it to another valve, valve two would just consider to pour out, no matter what is was programmed for.
The instructions indicated that you should take out the batteries to reset the device, but this did not work. Eventually I came across a very helpful review on Amazon.com that indicated that you need to do this as many times as it takes to reset the magnets in the valve. In my case it took five times. I was so relieved when it finally worked! Since that the timer has worked beautifully and I highly recommend it. It has saved me time switching out hoses and ensures that everything gets watered with consistently.
We’ve had a sunny, cool spring here in Vancouver this year with very little rainfall (except that one record breaking day–but that’s another story) so this system has proved critical to my early success. I’m looking forward to finding something similar for the backyard. Ian has another programmable timer but I have become kind of attached to have that one line dedicated to manual watering without have to disconnect hoses and drag them across the yard, so may look for something that allows for more than just two lines.
I may just be in the market for another Melnor 3280 Digital Aqua Timer Watering System.