Written by Terry Smith
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UK’s best automatic watering system for greenhouses, lawns, outdoors, and indoors: Hozelock, MIXC, Landrip
This article was last updated on April 25th, 2022 at 3:36 am
Why do you need an automatic watering system? In my case it’s to stop me watering the lawn over night. Yes, I actually managed to leave my garden sprinkler on all night and water logged my up coming lawn – if ONLY I bought a water timer– so here I am testing the best automatic watering systems! My newly sprouted grass seed luckily stood up, but not by much I reckon! Now imagine leaving the water running indoors! Or worse, running in the greenhouse forgotten! With so much on my mind an automatic watering system is worth its weight in gold – and let’s not forget it’s the perfect solution if your plants need watering frequently but you need to go on holiday or away for a while! And don’t worry. I have you covered wether you’re looking for drip irrigation systems, greenhouses, indoor, outdoor, or for general plants.
Tip from testing: The Hozelock easy drip sprinkler kit can be bodged to get more out of the system than quoted because of additional fittings you may not need. See my testing automatic watering systems section for that handy tip to save money.
However, if you’re new to this then take a look at my automatic watering system buyer guide as there are some serious pitfalls that will stop some systems dead in their tracks, and it’s worth understanding the benefits of an automatic watering system too – this will help picking the right one for you, no doubt. If you’re not new to this, let’s take a look at the best automatic watering systems:
Best automatic watering systems: my top picks from testing:
Best overall – Hozelock Easy Drip Universal Watering Kit and they have a drip irrigation version too. Good quality components that will last and super easy to setup I found from testing. [Tested and proven]
Best budget and best for greenhouses – MIXC irrigation system. Low cost but a good selection of drippers and sprayers [Tested and proven]
Best for indoors and pot plants – Landrip indoor watering system. An inconspicuous and versatile indoor watering system.
Best for hanging baskets – T4U self-watering baskets. Easy to install and look great
Best for lawns – Kazeil water timer. Excellent features for the price.
Best for borders and raised beds – Gardena Soaker hose. Easy installation and uniform watering for your borders.
Testing automatic watering systems – setup and use
You’ve got two main systems really – drip irrigation and sprinkler. Drip irrigation is more effective but sprinkler is more reliable. I know this from years of testing and using various kits. Let’s take a look at how to setup and use a sprinkler kit as it is far easier than a fiddly drip irrigation setup. Before I get into it, you might want to see my short testing video from start to finish on this process. I take it step by step and show you the ins and outs of how it works as well as a bodge to get better value for money at the end. Here’s a look at that:
How to setup and use an automatic watering system
If you prefer a read of watching a video however let’s get started. The first thing we want to do is familiarise ourselves with what we get in our automatic watering system setup. Before we dive in it’s worth understanding what is in the kit so you can visualise / measure what you’ll be able to achieve. And I have to say they are pretty generous to the point there’s enough components left over to bodge up an extra run at the end so laying out your components and having a good work out of what goes where will definitely pay dividends!
How you connect your sprinkler to your hose
The sprinklers are a wonderful design. They simply screw and clamp into the hose where you want to place them. So as I mention in the video simply run your hose about the garden first so you know what length you’ve got to play with and then go along screwing in your garden sprinklers. Here’s a look at how this works:
The sprinkler pegs can be adjusted to any angle.
It’s worth knowing your pegs will adjust to any angle so you can shoot your sprinkler in different directions. This is particularly handy when you are trying to reach different sides of a flower bed when keeping your pipework straight – the sprinkler can adjust over 90 degrees. Here’s a look at that:
If you make a mistake when piercing your hose
Don’t worry, they provide a few clamps that sit inside the pierced hole and then click clamp together. This is best demonstrated on my video at the time provided but here is a look with an image as best as I can show you:
As you can see there’s a plug that slots into the hole and then it simply clips and clamps around. So far from testing I can confirm these work absolutely great and stop all leaking water. So with all this in mind we can now start the process.
Lay your hose first
The best thing to do is lay out your hose so you know how far you can get with this kit. Remember there is a straight connector and you can just simply extend it with a standard half inch hose pipe. This is very useful to know for planning and only something I found out from personally testing this watering system.
Attach your automatic watering system sprinklers
Now attach the sprinklers as I showed you in my video. It’s very easy to do and with the pipe laid out you can get a good perspective of where you want to place your sprinklers. You can generally place them 80cm apart and still easily cover the area with water entirely. Here’s a look at one of my raised vegetable beds:
What I learned from testing
I learned that the Hozelock claim to being universal was entirely truthful and really was easy to add on with various hoses – hence being able to bodge the T section they gave us in the kit and make a drip irrigation run from a standard bit of hose. If you want to see that I would recommend watch this part of my video.
So with the testing out the way, let’s review more of the automatic watering systems available to us in the UK:
Best Automatic watering system reviews
We spent a lot of time with all kinds of automatic watering systems, from full micro irrigation kits and soaker hoses, to different types of water timers and watering computers. After all that hands on, we selected these following products as the best ones for specific gardening duties, and also our favourite overall auto watering system. Take a look”
1. Hozelock Easy Drip Universal Watering Kit
Hozelock pump out a ton of products, year after year, and while not all of them hit the mark, there are still enough quality items in their repertoire to keep them on my list of trusted brands. Before we go too far with this here is my video of this working and how I found the setup as well as a little extra bonus getting more from the kit than you should:
Their universal watering kit is our top pick for automatic watering systems, chosen for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it is one of the easiest systems to set up and operate. Unlike some cheaper drip irrigation kits that can be quite fiddly when it comes to the drippers, these clip on to the flexi hose in seconds as you can see from my testing section.
When it comes to the micro drippers, they are just as easy, simply requiring you to slip them onto the micro hoses. It only takes about 10 minutes from start to finish and you’ll have a system that’ll cover up to 10 square metres – but as you’ll see from my testing section you want to get this setup opened up and sussed out before diving straight in.
The drippers are easily adjusted by turning the nozzle, which is nothing new for this kind of product. However, this part of the kit did seem more durable than a lot of others that I tried out, as was the hose, and gave me a lot more confidence in the product overall. They are decent quality and work very well. The sprinklers adjusted 15cm to over half a metre for me – granted you’ll have to see what your water pressure can do.
I liked the fact the system is compatible with not only other Hozelock products, but can be connected to 3rd party irrigation setups too. This modular design also means that you can connect multiple kits for covering large areas, and it can be broken down quickly for winter storage. I’d personally just roll it all up into a sack and see where you’re at next season.
In the box, you get almost everything you need to set up an automatic watering system. I say almost because there isn’t a water timer and you’ll have to buy one separately – I would highly recommend the Hozelock Sensor Electronic water timer as it fits perfectly with this kit. The system still works when connected directly to the tap, it’s just that you’ll still have to turn the tap off yourself when the watering session is done, so it isn’t quite automatic without a timer, is it? But on the plus side the extra components meant I could extend this kit considerably with a bit of additional 1/2 inch hose pipe. A real bonus and only something you would know from hands on experience.
Again though, the compatibility of this kit will make it easy to find a well-priced timer if you don’t like my recommendation, like the king fisher product I review below, that’ll do the job just fine. Like I said, Hozelock doesn’t have a 100% record for great products, but the majority of them are up there with the best, and this kit is definitely in that majority – a super effort well done Hozelock, very impressed.
- Very easy to set up thanks to clip on emitters
- Compatible with most 3rd party irrigation systems
- Good quality throughout the kit
- Easy to adjust the emitters
- More expensive than some lesser-known brands and no water timer included. Hozelock do have a wide range of these to buy separately though.
2. MIXC Irrigation System
Greenhouses are amazing things that give us green-fingered types the opportunity to keep on growing through the colder months. On top of that, they allow us to grow a wide range of plants and vegetables in a controlled environment.
With this variation comes specific needs for different types of plants, and so, having an irrigation system that you can adjust to suit these needs is a must. With this in mind, I chose the MIXC system as the best budget choice for these purposes.
Costing less than half of what you’ll pay for our best overall pick from Hozelock, this product gives you a lot for your money. There’s a 5.3 metre long ¼ inch drip tube, 20 drip tips and T-connectors, 20 mini sprayers, and all the connectors you need to run the system. The only thing that is missing is a water timer.
Quality-wise, the irrigation tube is decent and made of UV resistant ABS plastic. The smaller components don’t feel quite as robust as the ones in the Hozelock kit, but that’s to be expected for the lower price. I don’t know how they’d hold up to frost and freezing temperatures, but if they’re set up in a greenhouse with a good heater, this won’t be a problem anyway.
Installation isn’t as simple as the Hozelock drip irrigation system due to the drip tube being quite stiff and needing to be soaked in hot water to soften it up before you slip in the emitters and connectors. On the plus side, once the tube cools again, you do get a nice seal and less unwanted leaking.
The small spray nozzles can be adjusted by twisting them, and you can actually get a nice fine spray from them, which is great if you set them up hanging from the ceiling of your greenhouse. You might find that water pressure is reduced when setting up this way, but there are a few things you can do to rectify the situation, such as using ½” tubing from the tap that connects to the ¼”.
So, in summary, there are a couple of quirks that you have to deal with, but overall, it’s a great little set with an affordable price tag. Obviously, you have to factor in a water timer into the cost, but it’s still a good deal.
- Excellent value for money
- A great choice for greenhouse irrigation
- 5.3 -metre-long drip tube
- Made from UV resistant ABS plastic
- Tube has to be soaked in warm water to soften it
3. Landrip Indoor Automatic Plant Watering System
The problem with deciding upon an automatic watering system for the house isn’t that there aren’t enough products, it’s that the best of them are usually the same irrigation systems that are used for outdoors and greenhouses like the Hozelock and MIXC products I reviewed above.
Although these systems work really well, the idea of having thick, black, drip tubes running from the kitchen or bathroom tap to all the various rooms in the house where the pot plants are, turns a lot of people off. However, recently there have been smaller systems coming onto the market that work in a similar way to outdoor drip irrigation systems, but are better suited to indoor automatic watering.
The landrip indoor watering system is one of these, and the one I chose as the best out of the bunch. The kit contains a compact water timer and enough tubing and drippers to automatically water up to 10 pot plants.
The tubing that you get is clear in colour though, and this makes it less of an eyesore than the darker coloured tubing that you get with outdoor drip irrigation sets. The drippers, connectors, and barbed tees, are also all translucent and this helps to make things look more inconspicuous.
The main advantage of this system, when it comes to indoor automatic watering, is that you don’t need to connect it to a tap to run. Just fill up a bucket or other container with water, and the built in pump will send the water to your house plants. Obviously, there is less water pressure than you would get if connected to the mains, but for feeding a few drippers it’s perfectly fine, as long as you aren’t feeding the tube up too high and the pump is appropriately placed.
Setting up isn’t overly hard, but you will have to soak the tube in hot water to soften it, just like the MIXC product, and make sure that the timer has either AA batteries in it, or that you’re connected by USB. The timer itself is easy to program, is fairly intuitive, and the memory feature is very helpful.
I did find that with nearly all of these indoor automatic watering systems that there were leaks, and this one was no exception. Saying that, this product leaked less than most, and it was an easy fix with a bit of tape. Another downside to this design is that you can’t adjust the dosage of each dripper, so if you have a thirstier than usual plant, you’ll need to insert two spikes into the soil of that pot.
- Clear tubes and drippers make it less of an eyesore
- Can be powered by batteries or USB
- Pump allows you to use other water sources rather than the tap
- Simple water timer included
- A small leak here and there but was easily fixed
The timers that you get in these sets are really easy to set up, but dot just take our word for it, here’s clip showing just how easy it is:
4. T4U Plastic Hanging Planter Self Watering Basket with Detachable Base
Setting up an automatic watering system for your hanging baskets can be quite frustrating due to good old gravity. If your water pressure isn’t up to the task, getting those essential fluids and nutrients up to your suspended plants isn’t going to be easy.
On top of that, you either have to spend time securing the tubing that leads back to the water source, or have it dangling down which isn’t going to do much for the attractiveness of your garden and might be snagged, tripped, on. Etc.
A good alternative is to use self-watering baskets, and this offering from T4U is the best out there, with the right mix of style, build quality, and just doing what they are designed to do- keep your plants alive and healthy.
When it comes to comparing cost to drip irrigation systems like the one from MIXC, these self-watering baskets aren’t the cheapest option, especially if you need a few of them, but for keeping your garden or even your indoor hanging baskets tube free and looking their best, I think it’s a price a lot of people are prepared to pay.
Installation is about as easy as you’ll get, and you only need to fill up the water reservoir in the bottom of the pot, which is easily removed and reattached. After that, the plant will be fed at a steady rate.
A nice little design feature is that there are drainage holes in the bottom, so if there’s a patch of rain, the excess water will drain through and be stored to be used up later. Very simple, but nice and effective, and will also help tackle root rot.
The pots are very durable, being made from polypropylene, and won’t get damaged by extreme weather conditions. You won’t have to worry about freezing temperatures damaging these pots like you might with the Hozelock drip irrigation kit or similar products.
The only thing I have against these self-watering pots is that the water reservoir is quite small, and that means you will have to top it up 1-2 times per week. So, this means that they aren’t exactly fully automatic, but it only takes a minute to top up and will still save you time when compared to using a watering can or hose.
- Very neat and tidy compared to drip tubes
- Very easy installation
- Excellent quality PP plastic and durable pots
- A good drainage system and will store excess rain water
- Reservoir is on the small side
5. Kazeila Water Timer Digital
Search online for automatic sprinklers and most products that you’ll see are not actually what I would call ‘automatic’. You see, the part of the sprinkler that is advertised as automatic is usually just the part that makes it spin, using water pressure as opposed to a power source, and not actually turning the sprinkler on and off automatically.
For that to happen you need a water timer, sometimes called a watering computer, irrigation timer, and a few other names, but basically the same thing. The details of functions vary from product to product, but all of them will offer you some kind of programmable watering schedule. When combined with a decent sprinkler, it’s most of your lawn care taken care of.
The Kazeila water timer is one of the best deals out there when it comes to these products, and has all the same features that you’d find on more expensive, well-known branded water timers, but at a much lower cost.
For example, as well as being able to set watering duration from as little as 1 second, right up to 300 minutes, and intervals of 1 hour to 15 days, there are also very handy features like a rain sensor that’ll pause the programmed watering cycle, a child lock, and a sleep mode that’ll turn off the LCD screen when not in use to save battery power.
Talking of batteries, when the timer detects that the power is getting low, it will automatically shut itself off before the batteries die to avoid any related problems. Features like this and the ones I pre-mentioned are not that commonly found in water timers in this price range, and if they are, they tend not to work properly, but I was impressed with the Kazeila.
Build quality is comparable too, and things like the top connector being made of nylon fibre rather than lower quality plastic, and the fact that it has been tested for weatherproofing and earned a high IP65 rating, make it stand out amongst the other low-cost water timers out there.
One quick thing I need to mention here is that the valve in this timer requires a certain amount of water pressure in order to open. Now, for your standard garden tap it’ll be no problem, but if you’re planning on using a water butt as your source, you should probably look for something with a motor actuated valve instead.
- Inexpensive when compared to well-known brands
- An excellent list of features including rain sensor and child lock
- Solidly built from good materials
- IP65 weatherproof. If you’re not sure what this means, check out this informative video
- Can’t be used with water butts unless you boost pressure somehow
6. GARDENA Soaker Hose: Water-saving sprinkler hose
When it comes to watering borders and raised beds, a great alternative to drip irrigation systems are soaker hoses. These porous hoses slowly leak small amounts of water onto your soil, giving them a constant supply of H2O.
Some of the reasons that gardeners opt for soaker hoses over drip irrigation is that they are relatively inexpensive and incredibly easy to install. There’s no fixing of emitters into place or plugging t-sections in, you’re only required to lay the hose down where and as you want it and turn on the tap.
Because soaker hoses sit at ground level and only ever drip small amounts of water, there’s almost zero chance of getting your foliage soaked and this reduces the risk of fungi development and disease. This can be said of drip irrigation systems too, but not when the mini sprayers are used.
Gardena is a very well-known name in the gardening business, and because of this their products tend to be a bit more expensive than the really budget stuff. On the plus side, you usually get a better-quality product and this is true of their soaker hose.
With some of the cheaper soaker hoses I’ve spent time with, I noticed that the water dripping through wasn’t always uniform and that there were more than a few jets spraying out in places. With the Gardena hose, I only noticed one such jet. It was small and once I turned down the pressure using the tap, it all but turned into a drip itself.
For the price, Gardena gives you 15 metres of hose, but that can be cut to the size you like, or even combined with another hose if you buy one and the needed connectors. The hose is strong and yet also more flexible than many I tested, and the included fittings were about what I expected in terms of quality.
One of the best things about this soaker hose is that you don’t really need a water timer as there is little chance of over watering, but even if you really don’t have time to turn the tap on and off once a day, it is compatible with pretty much any timer.
So, what are the flaws? Well, with any type of hose you are going to have problems in the winter and they’ll need to be stored properly or be damaged, and this is true of the Gardena soaker hose too. Personally, I don’t take chances with the sun either, and tend to bury my soaker hoses under a thin layer of mulch to protect from UV. I’ve tried it with soil but the pores get clogged, however light mulch doesn’t seem to affect them negatively.
- Child’s play to set up and operate
- Reduces risk of fungi and disease on foliage
- Water timer isn’t completely necessary
- Strong and flexible hose with uniform dripping
- Susceptible to cold weather and will have to be stored appropriately
Automatic watering system buyer guide
While having any irrigation system is better than none at all, to really get the best results you should pick an automatic watering system that suits a specific purpose. What I’m saying, for instance, is that the Kazeila water timer and sprinkler system you can use for watering your lawn, might not be the best for your raised beds or hanging baskets, and what will work great in your greenhouse, won’t necessarily be the best choice for your indoor plants which would probably benefit from a system like the Landrip indoor set.
With this buyer’s guide, along with our reviews, I hope to clear things up for you so you find it easier to make the right choice. Let’s have a look at a few of the important factors that come into play when picking the optimal automatic irrigation system, shall we?
Mechanical vs electrical
The biggest and most important thing to consider is a good old fashioned mechanical timer versus a more modern electric timer. Most analog (mechanical) are pretty simple and work on a minute basis – simply set the number of minutes you want water to flow for, and that’s it. Your unit will turn off as it gradually comes back to zero. Obviously so much less can go wrong with such a setup. Here’s a look at that:
The downside is half the reason for an automatic watering system is you want a set daily time to just take care of everything. Electric automatic watering systems can be set for days, and times of the day, as well as the power flow of water too!
Cost, quality, and durability
There is nearly always a connection between these things, and if you really want an automatic irrigation system that works as it should, with few to zero problems with things like leaks, pieces breaking easily, weather damage, etc. You should avoid the really bargain-basement type products.
That being said, some irrigation systems are just more expensive because they have a certain brand name attached to them, and this is not always a sign of top quality. As a rule of thumb though, you are less likely to be screaming in frustration in a month’s time if you buy products from Gardena and Hozelock than buying the cheapest stuff from abroad. Just look at this used Gardena set, its been put through its paces over time and is still functional:
Of course, there are always exceptions, and that’s why I test products from right across the price range in the hopes that I find those rare gems that have low cost without sacrificing quality too much, and we’ve found a few- the MIXC product for example.
This ties in with what we were saying above, but we thought we’d just quickly mention a few things on the materials side that could indicate if an automatic watering system is well made or not.
Basically, the majority of your irrigation system will be made of rubber and plastic, and for most of you, it will be spending its life outdoors. Cheap materials will break down in extreme temperatures and just generally deteriorate from the exposure, and faster than you can imagine.
Polyethylene, Polypropylene, PVC, and ABS plastics, are all durable materials and often they have been manufactured to be resistant to UV, micro-organisms, and chemicals, so keep an eye out for those.
Check the max. and min. water pressure
Water pressure is far from uniform in homes across the British Isles, so it’s a good idea to check if the watering system you are interested in will be badly affected by either very low or high-water pressure. For instance, Kazeila’s water timer is an excellent product, but needs a certain minimum amount of pressure to open the valve and therefore can’t be used with water butts that are low to the ground as there isn’t enough pressure. I know from testing.
Obviously, if you’re running multiple hoses out of a water timer to more than one sprinkler for your lawn, your home had better have enough pressure or you’ll be getting nothing more than a little squirt out of the business end.
On the other hand, a low-cost micro irrigation system might not be able to handle high water pressure coming through without suffering damage and starting to leak, especially from the connectors and other small parts.
Some automatic watering systems have built in pressure regulators, but they aren’t as common as you would imagine. You can always buy these regulators separately, but it’s not guaranteed that your automatic irrigation system will be compatible.
Ease of installation and programming
Nearly all manufacturers will tell you in their advertising that their watering system is easy to set up, and for the most part this is true. However, some micro irrigation systems include a lot of small parts, and you should check that these systems are easy to put together, or that the instructions that come with the system are easy to follow. Take, for example, the ease of Hozelock’s irrigation kit which has clip-on emitters, compared to both MIXC and Landrip’s systems that require you to soak the hose before installation.
Water timers can vary quite a lot in the way they are programmed and operated. Some can make setting up a watering schedule a piece of cake, while others can drive you mad trying to figure things out. This is why reviews, like the ones featured in this article are really helpful, as is the customer feedback you can find online.
This clip shows how easy it is to set up the CROSOFMI water timer, which was just pipped by the Kazeil product to top spot for best for lawns in this article. You can see how straightforward these products have become:
Getting the right size
Nearly all automatic irrigation systems will require the use of hoses, but the length of these hoses will differ from product to product. Go out in the garden with your tape measure and work out how much hose you need before you buy. Often, it isn’t a problem if the automatic watering system you have your eye on doesn’t have enough hose, as long as it is easy to connect extra sections, but you need to check if this is the case.
What are the benefits of using an automatic watering system?
There are a ton of advantages that come with using an automatic irrigation system over the old fashioned, hosepipe in hand, manual way, but I’ll just quickly mention a few here.
I guess the main one is how much time it will save you, especially when you work that out over the space of a year or two. With a decent water timer, you can program the number of times per day, days per week, etc. and then just let the system get on with it, leaving you to either get on with other important gardening jobs, or simply take a well-deserved break. Some types of irrigation methods, such as using the Gardena soaker hose, don’t necessarily need a timer, though it is better to use one for completely ‘hands free’ watering, even if it’s just an inexpensive analog timer.
Automatic watering systems, particularly drip irrigation systems, can save you up to half the amount of water that you would normally use with a garden hose. The Hozelock irrigation kit and MIXC drip irrigation system can save up to 70% when compared to using a normal garden hose. As I’m sure you are all well aware, clean water is a valuable resource that we need to conserve as much as possible. It’ll also save you a bit of money too, let’s not forget.
Prevent disease and other problems
Some of the biggest problems we gardeners face is dealing with disease, mostly types of fungi, and the ever-present threat of weeds. Believe or not, a focused and well programmed automatic watering system can help on both fronts.
When you overwater an area, it creates an environment where disease can flourish and weeds can get the nutrients they need to grow. If you set up your irrigation system properly, you can focus on getting the water to the roots of the plants that need it and lower the risk of promoting unwanted growth of fungi and weeds.