Written by Terry Smith
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UK’s best garden sprinklers tested for both small and large gardens
This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 6:51 am
So, interestingly I just moved home and made a retaining wall. This mean’t I changed the height of the land, and you’ve guessed it, I needed something to automate the process of germinating my grass seed. Enter the best garden sprinkler, in combination with an automatic hose reel and an automatic watering system of sorts – enter the garden sprinkler test. Now over my time I have used many, but I decided to go with testing one highly recommended online – the Hozelock. I learnt a lot about use, water pressure, what makes one work great. So before I get into that, let’s look at the top picks based on my testing:
What surprised me though with some of the others I tried, the balance – they just wanted to roll over, or worse, didn’t work properly. Fortunately over my period testing I sorted the wheat from the chaff and here’s the list of the best garden sprinklers from what I found using them:
Best sprinklers: my top picks from testing
Best overall sprinkler: Hozelock 2972P0000 Rectangular Sprinkler 180m2 [proven in testing personally] great overall value, build quality, and practical performance – easy to see why man lawn specialists are using this no thrills but solid solution.
Best oscillating sprinkler – Karcher premium oscillating sprinkler – this is probably the best if you have lower water pressure as you can concentrate the jets
Best in-ground sprinkler for square lawns- Gardena pop up sprinkler
Best sprinkler for large lawns- Orbit travelling Sprinkler – just out of stock but best of best so I had to include it
Best sprinkler for low water pressure and small lawns- Gruntek mini sprinkler
Best heavy-duty sprinkler- Aqua Joe Oscillating sprinkler
Best budget sprinkler- Wisdomwell garden sprinkler
Best garden sprinklers buyers guide
Diving into any transaction without being armed with the right information greatly increases the chance of disappointment with your purchase. With that in mind, we recommend you read through the following buyer’s guide before heading over to the reviews section of this article. We’re sure that after fishing both, you will be better equipped to make the right choice and end up happy with the sprinkler that you choose.
Is a sprinkler the best choice for your needs?
As wonderful as the best sprinklers are, they are not always the best choice. If you are looking to water your lawn, no matter what the size, then I would definitely suggest setting up a sprinkler or two. On the other hand, if watering your flower beds, borders, or the things you’re growing in your greenhouse is your goal, there are options out there that are better suited.
Things like drip irrigation systems, soaker hoses, and even self-watering hanging baskets, can all reduce water usage and also bring other benefits with them. If you’re not sure, then perhaps you’d like to check out our best automatic irrigation systems article or other associated pages we have on this site.
Water pressure and coverage
When you see in a product’s advertising that it has a certain maximum range and coverage, don’t just expect that’s what you’ll get when you connect it to your tap at home. The figures that the manufacturers give you are based on absolute perfect conditions and great water pressure, and unfortunately, here in the UK, a lot of us don’t have the best water pressure. Here’s a look at how well the Hozelock 2972P0000 Rectangular Sprinkler 180m2 performed at half tap:
Full power with decent water pressure however you can cover a span of nearly 18 by about 8/10 metres which means on my new little garden I only need a single move to cover the entire square area:
Some designs of sprinkler work better than others when water pressure isn’t exactly optimal, with automatic, 360 degree spinning models that rely on high pressure, being at some of the worst choices, although our budget pick- the Wisdomwell garden sprinkler is an exception to this.
If your home seems to have better water pressure at night than during the day, and therefore you’re forced into using your sprinkler once the sun goes down, you should probably buy yourself a water timer so that you don’t end up over watering and causing problems with fungi. A good water timer can be set to turn your sprinklers on and off reliably and at times and durations of your choosing, reducing the risk of overwatering. Water timers come in digital or analog styles.
Products like Gardena’s pop-up OS140 sprinkler should ideally be used with a water timer, but travelling sprinklers such as the one we feature in this article fromOrbit, can turn themselves off without a timer.
Nearly all modern sprinklers are adjustable to some degree, but the better products really give you a lot of control over the angle, range, etc. of the spray. This can be very important for people with smaller gardens or irregularly shaped ones, as it’ll prevent you spraying the fence, path, house windows, and everything else in sight.
Even among the best and most adjustable sprinklers, there are others that stand out, and for us it was the Karcher oscillating sprinkler pictured below. It just gives you so many options, including turning off individual jets.
Weight and stability
With some garden tools, being lightweight is a great feature, but when it comes to garden sprinklers, a lack of weight can be a bit of a nightmare. Just think of how strong the winds can get here in the British Isles, and now imagine what they would do to a small, lightweight, piece of plastic…you need to have a stable base and decent placement – this is how I put mine down with no problem:
So, unless you want to be knocking on the neighbour’s door and asking them to retrieve your sprinkler from the top of their tree, either buy a sprinkler with some weight to it, the aqua joe with its metal base is a great option, or better still- one that is staked into the ground or fixed down somehow. Even a light breeze can cause a flimsy sprinkler to wobble and topple over, so it’s better to err on the side of caution when you buy.
There are numerous ways that your sprinkler can get damaged, from being kicked or stepped on by people or pets, to simply becoming degraded over time from UV exposure, frost, and other weather conditions.
Sprinklers that last will usually be made of similar materials, such as ABS, polyethylene, or polypropylene plastic, and rust resistant metals or ones that have been coated to protect against corrosion.
It’s a matter of opinion about whether plastic or metal sprinklers are better. On one hand, metal is the stronger material and less likely to crack, bend, or warp, but there is always the risk of it rusting. Plastic doesn’t have any problems with rust but, depending on the quality of the plastic used, they don’t hold up to other types of damage as well as metal products.
Personally, I prefer to opt for metal whenever possible, and that’s why I would go with either the Orbit travelling sprinkler or the Aqua Joe oscillating sprinkler if it only came down to durability. Either that or something heavy duty like this.
Types of sprinklers
If you’ve been looking around shopping sites on the internet, you’ve probably noticed that there are quite a few different types of sprinklers for you to choose from and might be wondering which one is for you.
Well, a lot will depend on your garden size and shape, how much money you’re willing to spend, how much time you’re willing to invest in installation, your home’s water pressure, and a few other factors.
In the hope of keeping things simple, and not having to write thousands of words on the subject, I’d say that you should avoid automatic spinning sprinklers if you have low water pressure as they just won’t work properly. Likewise, don’t bother buying pop-up sprinklers such as the Gardena product if you aren’t willing to spend a long time setting it up, or willing to pay someone else to do it for you.
Oscillating sprinklers are a pretty safe bet, and as long as you don’t have really low water pressure, or a very large lawn, you should be ok, and this is one of the reasons we chose the Karcher sprinkler for our best overall oscillator.
If you do have a lot of lawn to cover, a travelling sprinkler can be a good choice, but you might have to keep an eye on it just in case it gets stuck on its journey around your garden, and they aren’t the cheapest type to buy. Having said that, the Orbit travelling sprinkler we review in this article costs a fraction of some of the others that are out there. The product in this photo sells for a lot more.
Best lawn sprinklers reviewed
Ok, time to dive into our reviews of the products we handpicked as the best available at the preset time. We spent our valuable time testing a wide range of sprinklers in various properties, and cast our discerning eyes over them in order to make your buying decisions easier and to prevent you from buying a dud.
But don’t worry, we haven’t shied away from pointing out flaws and you will get our honest opinions on each one in our ‘best’ list, as well as how they compare to each other and other products on the market.
Let’s kick things off with our best overall sprinkler:
1. Hozelock 2972P0000 Rectangular Sprinkler 180m2
I was desperate for a solid well rounded garden sprinkler that would be useful beyond getting my grass seed germinating. I decided to test the Hozelock 2972P0000 Rectangular Sprinkler which claimed to cover 180m2. I’ll tell you what I found from testing. It’s not far off. But consider I have decent water pressure. I measured the reach to to be around 18m and width of spray approx 8-9m which is more like 150-165m2 or so. However, that is the only place this sprinkler didn’t live up to it’s billing, I wouldn’t call it disappointment but certainly short. Other than that it was pretty much the perfect test. Here’s a better look at what’s going on in a picture format with the range / reach of this sprinkler courtesy of my security ring camera:
As you can see in my test setup I am using a standard hosepipe that extends to my automatic hose reel. I then run this to the garden sprinkler. In total I am about 30m away in terms of distance but has little impact on the range of the sprinkler so all good there.
Now what you’re going to love about this unit, some in tests did not operate very well at all when there isn’t much pressure. I tested a few garden sprinklers but when all directly compared this one operated properly. Now what do I mean? If you look close up at your garden sprinkler the mechanism works on a simple spring that ‘clicks’ as it turns from left to right. Some simply wouldn’t so this and rely on greater water pressure. The threshold for proper function on this unit was pretty low, about half my tap pressure which leads me to believe anyone with a narrow diy garden tap kit that tees into any 15mm water pipe would still achieve good function. This might seem trivial and unimportant to most of us but with the rise of those kits more and more homes have them – no good for me though as I have too much water pressure! Anyway here’s a look live at what you can expect with good pressure:
Connection from the hose to sprinkler is a simple hose connector– on the sprinkler itself is the male connection. This doesn’t leak and of course quick release. To be sure you understand what I mean and you have the right kit please take a look here:
As you can see the standard hose connector I linked above plugs straight in. If you need these ones, here’s the link to those hozelock connectors.
You can adjust how far you want the water to go – if the range is too far you can pull it back by adjusting the lever – this is very much trial and error. I can see this is going to be used a lot in Summer with the kids in the garden too on hotter days.
I noticed I needed to flatten out my garden sprinkler before it would operate nicely, if I just threw it on uneven ground (as you can see it’s a bit lumpy in the pictures) then I struggled as it moved about a bit. I suppose that’s to be expected and was the same for all units I tested when compared together. Apart from what I believe is an overstatement of the total area of coverage this is a bullet proof, totally solid unit. Unfortunately I had the please of testing that too with the kids dropping it on the concrete forecourt. 😀 No harm done in the end. If Hozelock feel upset by my range remarks they are welcome to send me footage of their unit achieving 180m2, my seems to cover 150m2 ish with decent water pressure. It’s a shame because other than that claim, to me, this is absolutely faultless otherwise at the price point.
2. Kärcher Premium Oscillating Sprinkler - OS 5.320SV
Karcher is a name that is more commonly associated with high quality pressure washers, and I’ve owned a few of them in my time, so I was excited to get my hands on their premium oscillating sprinkler. Here’s a look from them before we get going at the overall usability and performance. Then it’s my turn 😀
I wondered if their expertise would transfer over into sprinklers, or would I end up disappointed? Well, as we have chosen this product as our best overall, I guess I don’t have to answer that, but I will tell you why we picked it and it’s easily as good as the Hozelock but just operates (oscillates) in a different way, hence difficult to directly compare. Here’s a look at that motion:
Generally speaking, there is nothing new to the overall design of the Karcher premium and, at first glance, it looks very similar to all the other oscillating sprinklers. However, as someone wiser than myself once said- the devil is in the details, and this product has some cracking little features that set it apart from most on the market.
I guess, if I was to pick one word to describe the Karcher premium oscillating sprinkler, it’d be customisable. There are little switches that turn off individual jets of water so you can avoid watering other parts of your garden, the water flow is adjustable without having to run back to the tap, and you can use a slider to modify oscillation. On top of that, there’s a handy little feature that allows you to block the jets closest to you while you make your adjustments.
Now, I know that some of these features are present in other oscillating sprinklers, but we didn’t find any that had all of them like the Karcher did, nor did they have the excellent build quality to go with them. This sprinkler is very solidly put together and the materials make you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, right down to the metal ground spikes.
On the subject of coverage, I never got near the claimed maximum of 320m2 (same story with the Hozelock I compared), even in our property that had the highest water pressure, but we never felt like we weren’t using a practical sprinkler. Would I choose it for a large property? Probably not when there’s products like Orbit’s travelling sprinkler available, but for small to regular sized gardens it’ll do the trick. At first, I thought the sprinkler wasn’t working properly, but once I realised that I had to adjust the valve for water flow, it soon perked up, so be aware of that.
If you have very low water pressure, this might not be the best pick. Well, not if you want to use all of the jets anyway. As we said, you can turn off individual jets, and this can help with low water pressure and flow, but do you want to be paying quite a bit more than the average for something you can’t use to its full potential? For me the Hozelock made more sense but if you need a tailored solution I have no hesitation recommending this unit.
- Excellent adjustment options
- You can adjust the water flow without going back to the tap
- Settings can be changed without getting soaked
- Top-notch build quality as you can see.
- Not great for large gardens
3. Gardena OS 140 Pop-Up Rectangular Sprinkler
The idea of having your sprinkler constantly set up and ready to go is obviously enticing for most people, but at the same time the thought of having hoses permanently spread across the lawn is often off-putting.
Pop-up sprinklers are the answer to this dilemma, staying underground and out of sight until needed, and then rising up to water the lawn before dropping back down again. Not only is it a very efficient way of doing things, it also looks pretty cool and who doesn’t like to show a little?
The Gardena OS140 pop-up sprinkler is our choice for the best in this category, bringing the reliability that this brand is known for, and a healthy dose of style to go with it. Watering performance is good (but not amazing) with average water pressure, and the build quality is among the best out of all the products we tested.
This model is designed for rectangular lawns and gardens, and thus sprays in this shape and no other. However, you can adjust the width and range from as little as 1 metre right up to 15 metres, which again is some of the most precise settings we encountered. The 16 jet oscillating spray head dishes out a uniform and even spread of water that is on par with the Karcher oscillating sprinkler in this regard.
Installing any pop-up sprinkler involves more work than any travelling, spinning, or oscillating model, and the Gardena is no different. You’ll need to set up underground hoses and connectors, and if you want real convenience, a water timer. These hoses and connectors have to be bought separately too, and this raises the overall cost by a not-so-insignificant amount, and will probably end up costing you more than the Orbit travelling sprinkler in the end.
One major problem that can occur with pop-up sprinklers and other permanent irrigation systems, is that winter frost can cause the water left in the hoses to freeze and cause damage. Gardena has come up with a drainage valve in their system to tackle this, and it’s actually quite simple, which makes me believe it would work. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to test it out in cold conditions, but we can confirm that it drained most of the water out quickly.
One thing I can say for this sprinkler, is that it worked as designed each and every single time without any issues, and that was with and without a water timer attached. For this level of reliability, I chose the Gardena OS140 as our best pop-up sprinkler.
- Permanent system so you only need to set up once
- No visible hoses or sprinklers lying around on the lawn
- Excellent build quality and reliability and self-drains to protect against frost
- Rectangular spray pattern would suit a lot of homes in the UK
- Not the cheapest or easiest to install
Watering a big lawn usually means either picking up your sprinkler and moving it to another spot, or running multiple units at the same time which obviously raises costs. There is another, less well known, option available, and that is to use a travelling sprinkler like this one from Orbit.
How does it work? Well, the sprinkler, which resembles a tiny 3-wheeled tractor, uses its front runner to follow any 5/8 inch hose that you lay down on your lawn. So, you could get your hands on a nice, long hose and have it running right across your lawn, even if it’s really large.
The orbit travelling sprinkler is powered from your water pressure, and as the two metal sprayers spin, helicopter style, on top, the mini tractor is propelled forward. It’s really simple, but very clever. Assembly and setting up is a piece of cake too, no more difficult than installing the Karcher oscillating sprinkler, except perhaps one small part when you need to use a little bit of force to pop a couple of plastic pieces over the metal spray rods.
There are three gears that you can choose from by flicking a switch on the body of the tractor before you turn on the water supply. There’s neutral which let’s you move the tractor around freely, back and forth, and then there are low and high gears. The low gear makes the sprinkler move along very slowly indeed but works with average water pressure, whereas you’ll get more speed from the high gear, but this only worked with high water pressure during our tests.
Still, the speed isn’t really all that important as you can set the hose and tractor up and then leave it, as long as you remember to set up the ramp stop at the desired spot along the hose. When the tractor hits this ramp, it’ll activate a little button on the bottom of the tractor and switch it off. There’s no need for a separate timer like with other types of sprinklers.
There is a sight downside to this design though, and that is if your hose is the type to create bumps and kinks in itself, as this will cause the tractor to get jammed and stop moving. If this happens, and you’re not there to move it along, it can cause one part of your lawn to get waterlogged. This stopping can also be caused by long grass pushing the hose up into the button underneath.
As with nearly all modern models, you can adjust the spray radius on the Orbit travelling sprinkler within a 15 to 50 feet diameter. This adjustment is as simple as changing the angle of the sprayer tips, and even without really good water pressure, the sprinkler has decent coverage.
Build quality is rock solid too, and everything from the metal spray rods to the large spiky tires feels like it was built to last, and you don’t have to worry about the metal body breaking if you accidentally tread on it like with a plastic sprinkler.
- Excellent for larger lawns
- Shuts itself off automatically
- No need to move the sprinkler as it moves itself
- Extremely solid construction
- It sometimes gets stuck on a bumpy hose
Here’s video of this excellent product in action:
5. GRÜNTEK Mini - Lawn Sprinkler
Gruntek’s mini lawn sprinkler is a great option for people with smaller lawns and lower water pressure. Is it perfect? No, but then nothing is, and it does offer good value for money and top-notch customer service to back it.
This model is a strange looking little thing, almost resembling a mini surface to air missile launcher or futuristic tank. The plain blue plastic base is in contrast with the grey sprayer head and its multiple orange switches, and it certainly stands out. This colour scheme is probably going to be one of those love it or hate it things, but I did like that it made the sprinkler easy to see and therefore less likely to be trodden on.
If it was stepped on by an adult, I don’t think it would fair as well as the Aqua Joe or Orbit travelling sprinkler as this is a fully plastic construction, and as tough as the base section is, the top section of the sprinkler has a lot of small plastic parts that wouldn’t be as tough.
When it comes to spray pattern options, it’s hard to beat the Gruntek, and it’s this adjustability that makes me pick it for small gardens and homes with lower water pressure. By selecting to only have the sprinkler swing through 90 degrees instead of 360, adjusting the flow, or by focusing the water jet, you get this sprinkler to do what you need to, even if you don’t have the best conditions.
If you have average water pressure of between 2 and 4 bar, then you should have no problems using the Guntek to its full potential, and enjoy close to its maximum range of 20.4 metres and 16.5 metre spray width. That’s not the largest coverage available, but should be more than enough for smaller gardens.
I do have a couple of small gripes to aim at this sprinkler. The first is that there’s no cleaning tool provided to unblock the nozzles, and the second is that the sprinkler occasionally stopped rotating for no apparent reason for a while before starting up again. The first issue is easily solved with a pin or something similar, but the second means that you have to keep an eye on the sprinkler while it does its job, which isn’t ideal.
Overall, though, this is a decent, compact, sprinkler that will still work with low water pressure and gives you a ton of different options when it comes to spraying patterns, making it ideal for smaller gardens.
- Very adjustable spray patterns
- Great for smaller gardens
- Can be used even if you have lower water pressure
- Base is made from very strong plastic
- Occasionally stops rotating
6. Aqua Joe SJI-OMS16 Indestructible Metal Base Oscillating Sprinkler with Adjustable Spray
When we saw that this Aqua Joe oscillating sprinkler had the word ‘indestructible’ in the title, we had to put it through its paces to see how it fared in our best heavy duty sprinkler category. It didn’t disappoint.
We’d seen the advertising videos where a grown man is standing with both feet on this sprinkler and all that happens is a bit of bending before returning to shape, so of course we had to try that for ourselves. Sure enough, it took my 14 stone like a champion, something I doubt any of the plastic sprinklers could have done without showing signs of damage.
The metal fittings add to this already high level of durability and showed no sign of leakage, even after we dropped it on purpose a few times to see what would happen. It’s no wonder that the company is offering a 2-year warranty, they know the product will last.
The Aqua Joe’s design is similar to the Karcher, but it lacks all the fine details and functions of its rival. For example, while you can adjust the coverage of the 20 jets, you can’t switch them off individually like you can with the Karcher.
There’s also no sliding cover to stop you getting wet while changing settings on the sprinkler, and so it becomes a bit of a timed sprint to reach the controls, change them, and then get back out again. Either that or you have to turn it off at the tap.
We did notice that you got nice, even, water flow with this sprinkler, just like the Karcher, and it also has a similar pull-out cleaning tool for unblocking the nozzles. The controls for changing the spray pattern are really easy to use too, and only require you to move a slider around.
This product is heavier than most of the oscillating sprinklers we played around with, and that’s a good thing in my book as it adds a lot of stability. Weighing close to 800 grams, you don’t even need to use ground spikes to secure it onto your lawn like you do with the Karcher.
One thing you have to be aware of if you’re considering this sprinkler, is that it ships from the USA, and so there’s a waiting time for delivery and you might end up with some extra charges for importing. Personally, I think it’s worth the wait because you’ll end up with a really solidly built sprinkler, with ¾” coupling which allows for better water flow.
- Solid as a rock and lives up to the indestructible nickname
- Metal fittings prevent any leakage
- 20 jets provide excellent coverage
- Has a lot of weight so it won’t get blown around by strong winds
- Ships from the USA so you will probably have extra shipping costs, but this photo shows you how well built this thing is
7. WISDOMWELL New Garden Sprinkler
As great as the Gardena pop-up sprinkler, Karcher oscillating sprinkler, and Orbit travelling sprinkler are, they aren’t the cheapest models on the market. As we know there are many out there who just want something inexpensive that’ll get the job done, we decided to have a best budget category, and the winner was this product from Wisdomwell.
For such a low price, you can’t expect to get all the adjustment options of the Gruntek, Aqua joe, or Karcher sprinklers. In fact, the only real control you have over the coverage with this model is to turn down the water pressure at the tap.
Don’t let that put you off though. With the tap turned fully open, and as long as your home’s water pressure isn’t terrible, you will get a decent spray in a circular pattern. Unfortunately, it doesn’t spin that well with the tap turned right down, and wouldn’t be the best choice for smaller gardens.
If your water pressure exceeds 4 bar, you should never open up the tap the whole way. The sprinkler is just not built to take that kind of pressure and even the manufacturer tells you it will spring leaks if you try it. However, 4 bar is at the higher end of the scale when it comes to UK homes’ water pressure, and most people don’t have that much.
Assembling the Wisdomwell sprinkler is really simple and only needs you to pop a couple of parts together and attach a hose. As mentioned, there’s no settings too speak of so it’s just ‘plug and play’ and I think some people will appreciate that.
The quality of the plastic is noticeably lower on this product than any of the others featured on this page, but that’s to be expected for the price. Saying that, I think as long as you avoid dropping or standing on it, it’ll do you just fine. It won’t last forever, that’s for sure, but at such a low price even getting a year’s worth of use out of it won’t make you feel out of pocket.
- Very low initial cost
- Works just fine and will fill a lot of people’s needs
- Good for large lawns
- Very easy to assemble and get started
- Not built from the hardiest materials so you’ll have to be careful not to drop or stand on it
All in all though, it’s not too bad at all for the price, and actually looks quite good.