Regular watering is vital if plants are to grow. All plants appreciate water, especially straight after they've been planted and during dry spells. Those grown in containers (hanging baskets in particular) will need watering at least once or twice a day during the growing season, even if it rains. Watering systems are also useful for applying liquid fertilisers, biological controls, insecticides and weed killers.

Note: We don't recommend the use of chemicals and weed killers in the garden. They should be avoided where possible in favour of organic or biological methods. If chemicals are to be used, it is best to use a separate watering system and to dispose of any residue in a responsible manner.

Watering Cans

Plastic Watering Cans

One of the gardener's essential tools, usually constructed from rigid plastic or galvanised steel. Plastic watering cans are much cheaper and lighter than metal versions and are usually made of recyclable plastic. Choose a size that you will feel comfortable carrying when full.

Watering cans come in a range of sizes, often with volume levels marked on the side. For general use, choose one that holds around 2 gallons (9 litres). For the greenhouse choose a lighter 1 gallon (4.5 litre) model, with a longer spout to reach more plants. For indoor use, choose a smaller capacity of one or two litres to prevent spills. They can be fitted with different types of roses (sprinkler heads). Choose a fine rose for watering seeds and seedlings and coarse rose for larger plants and general watering. Make sure the can has a large enough opening for easy filling.

Usually the rose the first part to deteriorate on a watering can, so it will need to be replaced every few years or so.

Using a Watering Can

Watering seedlings and young plants should be done with a fine rose fitted upwards, which creates a gentle rain of droplets, so there is less danger of the seedlings been flattened or dislodged. When watering young seedlings is best to use tap water and not water from water butts as these can contain damping-off fungus.

For very large plants it is often more advantageous to remove the rose from the watering can and apply the water directly to the roots, however be careful as the force of the water can wash away the soil and expose the roots of the plant, so should be used with care.

Plants in containers can often benefit from a short length of pipe buried in the soil (or a plastic bottle buried upside down with the bottom cut off). When water is required, simply pour water into the pipe/bottle. This will make sure the water gets down to the roots and prevents the soil being washed away or splashed out of the container.


Watering Hose

Even in a small garden, a hosepipe can save you a lot of time and effort running back and forth to the tap. The best kinds are reinforced with a nylon mesh that prevents kinking and increases its lifespan. New expandable hoses are now becoming popular. These increase in length once the water is passed through them and shrink back down again once the water pressure is turned off.

Image Credit: Hozelock Pico Reel

When choosing a hose select one that is long enough to reach all areas of the garden where water is needed. It will need an appropriate connector to attach it to a tap and a spray nozzle for the other end to reduce the pressure and spread the water over a larger area. Hoses usually come with a bore diameter of 1/2" (13 mm) in the UK, which are designed to fit most hose accessories and fittings. Larger bore hoses can be used if you have low water pressure in your area but will require special fittings.

To prevent your hose ending up in a tangled mess, it is best to store it on a hose reel. This will help with moving it around and storing it away. If you have an outside tap a wall-mounted reel fitted nearby is the most convenient method of storage, where the hose will always be at hand. Free standing reels on wheels are ideal for storing long hoses and will assist in transporting them around.

Back Flow Preventer

If are connecting your hosepipe to a tap you will need to safeguard your drinking water by fitting a double check valve or back flow preventer. This prevents dirty water from the garden from being sucked back up into the potable water system. Outside taps should all be fed via a double check valve as a minimum, which is a legal requirement of most water authorities in the UK. If in doubt check with your local authority.

Hose connectors

A wide range of different types of connectors are available from traditional brass to plastic push-fit types. Brass connectors are threaded so they can be screwed together, although expensive they are made to last. Plastic connectors are cheaper, and tend to be of the push-fit style, utilising an o-ring to provide a seal. If the o-ring becomes worn or damaged or the plastic insert gets scratched or cracked, these connectors can then easily leak and waste water.

Hose Guides

If you have a large garden with lots of corners you may want to consider purchasing hose guides. These simple plastic devices are pushed into the ground so that the hose runs around them. This prevents it from being dragged over borders and flattening plants or for guiding it around corners without kinking.

Leaky Hose

Leaky pipe or seep hoses can be used to water plants in the borders. These deliver a fine spray or a gentle trickle of water along the length of the pipe, down at soil level. They are much less wasteful of water than sprinklers and can be left in place for regular use.



When attached to the end of a hosepipe, a sprinkler is convenient outlet for watering a large areas, lawns and borders. There is an astonishing range of sprinklers available, which mainly fit into the following two categories: static sprinklers that spray over a circular area and oscillating sprinklers, which revolve or swing from side to side and can cover quite a large area.

Image Credit: Hozelock Rectangular Sprinkler Plus

Automatic watering timers can be attached between the hose and tap, and programmed to water the garden at set times. Ideally at night when the moisture won't evaporate quickly in the suns heat. Timers as can also be used in conjunction with sprinklers, drip irrigation systems and seep hoses.


Plants grown under cover or in heated greenhouses will benefit from fine misting, which increases the humidity in the air and prevents the leaves from drying out.

Watering Systems

Plants can use up water quickly in hot dry weather and this needs to be replenished before the plants expire from lack of moisture. This can be a slow laborious job using a watering or even a hose.

Capillary Matting

If you own a greenhouse, watering can be a problem at holiday times unless an obliging neighbour is available to do it for you while away. The use of a capillary mat system is very useful in this situation. It consists of a relatively inexpensive absorbent mat that can be laid on the staging and kept constantly moist via a water tank, into which part of the matting is dipped. Pot plants stood on this damp mat will take up water as required by capillary means, without causing over watering. Capillary mats can also be used to water house plants. This is easily be done by placing the mat on a sink draining board and dipping part of the mat into a bowl of water in the sink. House plant pots placed on the mat can then take-up water as required.

Irrigation Systems

Complete irrigation systems can easily be fitted and are not as expensive as you think. In principle, a small plastic pipe is run around those parts of the garden that are likely to need frequent watering, which practically means to every part of a garden, apart from established trees and shrubs. This system is most effective for container grown plants and hanging baskets

In order to allow the water to do it's job you will need to insert special fittings at points in the pipe where watering is required. These tiny sprinklers and drip connectors allow the water to either drip or spray-out to provide water where it is needed. This type of watering system can actually save water because the water is applied directly at the point where it is required and not wasted by being sprayed over the leaves of the plants or allowed to run away. Used in conjunction with a water timer, this type of system can be very effective at providing a measured amount of water at set times.


Although we don't advocate the use of chemicals in the garden, sometimes it is necessary to turn to natural products such as Pyrethrum, natural oils or even just soapy water to control bugs and pests. In order to apply these effectively you will need some form of sprayer.

For small gardens and in confined areas, such as a glasshouse, a 1 pint (500 ml) capacity hand sprayer is quite adequate. Larger areas need bigger sprayers and a 4 pint (2 litre) capacity sprayer is a wise choice. If you find the constant hand squeezing on the trigger tiring, there are pressurized designs that reduce the effort, requiring a few initial priming pumps to get going. Once sufficient pressure is built up they will provide several minutes of useful spraying. Battery-operated sprayers are also available, which reduce the time and effort still further.

Long-reach lance attachments are also handy to get right into trees and shrubs.

Pump action pressure sprayers can be used to cover larger areas. These produce a very fine spray that can be applied evenly without wastage. For even better coverage you can buy a pressure sprayer with long lance that can be held out to reach difficult to reach areas. If you really have a large area that needs to be sprayed than a knapsack sprayer is ideal.

Remember to pump clean water through your sprayer after use, adding detergent if you've been using an oily spray.