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I'd like to put in my first drip irrigation system because I'm too inconsistent when it comes to watering. My garden patch is only 100 sq ft of ground. It's continuous and adjacent to a tap. Some kits include a timer, and others do not. At ~$40, it seems like the timer is the most expensive part, so it'd be nice if I didn't need it.

Can I simply attach a drip or soaker hose, open the tap very little, and keep the system on constantly? Or is that going to be unhealthy for my plants?

*Note: Answers to this question cannot include manually, habitually turning the irrigation on and off. That defeats the purpose of the system for me and fails when, e.g., I go on vacation.

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    _I'm too inconsistent when it comes to watering. _ And bingo, that's why a timer is used. It's consistent and always on time per the schedule you set. – Fiasco Labs Aug 2 '15 at 21:18
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It is very unlikely you'll be able to adjust the faucet so that the drip system works well and doesn't over water your garden while leaving it on all the time.

plants also don't want to be constantly wet. Reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients they can take, increases chances of disease and weed seed germination.

Just get the timer and remember you'll likely need to increase the amount or frequency of watering in the summer when it's hotter.

If you want to save money you can get a manual timer that you switch on manually but it shuts off automatically after the time you set. Won't work for when you're on vacation but it is at least better than not using any type of timer at all.

If more automatic watering is desired, I've been using this Melnor WiFi AquaTimer this year. More expensive than a single zone timer but it does have 4 zones and can be adjusted via the web from anywhere. It also uses the AquaSentry which is a soil moisture sensor that will shut off the water if it is already sufficiently moist. The AquaSentry will work with some of Melnor's other, less expensive timers but I'm not sure which off the top of my head.

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    Drainage and periods of time between watering so that can happen are just as important as having just the right amount of water applied to moisten the soil. So timers are a quite important part of the system, unless you're a biological timer with lots of spare time (requires OCD or extreme plant love to do well). – Fiasco Labs Aug 2 '15 at 21:27
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If you really want to go to the extra effort, you do it with a siphon valve (basically a flush toilet, but it doesn't need to be designed to pass solids) a reservoir tank at sufficient height to provide the needed pressure, and a standard drip irrigation system.

You'll find similar setups in aquaponics systems, only in this case you can do without the pumps and the fish. Size your reservoir tank to hold the amount of water you want to dispense through your system, and set the trickle rate from your water source so that the tank fills in the period you desire between waterings. When the tank fills up it activates the siphon and the tank then empties all at once through your drip system. When the tank is completely empty the siphon's seal breaks and the trickle of input water starts filling the tank again.

Or you could just buy a garden timer. They're simpler and easier to adjust. I'd only suggest this method if you're someplace with running water but no electricity and want it to run for months unattended.

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Get the automatic timer!

Reason 1: You will probably waste more that $40 in water by leaving a hosing running all the time (even if it's just a trickle) - then again you might not depending on your water metering and cost of water.

Reason 2: As has been stated above, plants need air in the soil. Depending on your soil type, you might saturate the soil by leaving a hose running.

If you're looking to save a little water, you can likely find a controller/timer with a season adjust. If you google "evapotranspiration rate" and your city/area you can likely (may take a little work) find a calendar telling you when the plants need the most amount of water. From there, you can adjust your timing down according to how much water the plants need.

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