Timing is Everything
Rainbird Easy-Rain
9 volt valve timer

battery operated hose-tap water timer

battery operated hose-tap water timer

Toro valve timer,
in-ground installation

Irritrol Commercial 24 volt multi-station controller

One of the most pressing questions I hear when I speak of irrigation systems is how to automate a water system without the availability of electricity. There are excellent irrigation timers for use in applications where there is no electricity, and they are highly reliable. The range of controllers and timers includes types that can be mounted on a hose tap to control anything on the end of a hose, to a multi-station controller able to control 6 commercial-grade electric valves. Many of the 6 volt AA battery powered hose-tap timers can be purchased at retail gardens stores and building stores, and cost from $ 25-$45 each. The commercial grade valve controllers are mounted to an electric valve, and take the place of a hard-wired electric controller. These higher-grade controllers are available through irrigation supply houses, and cost from
$ 100-$ 200 each or more. Both groups of timers are effective in controlling water, although the smaller hose-tap controllers will not handle high water pressures. The commercial grade timers simply turn electric valves on or off, and are generally configured to run that brand of electric valve ( Toro timer on a Toro valve, etc) although conversion parts are available to convert one brand of timer to another brand of valve. 

Of particular importance is the idea of using these timers to control drip irrigation systems, or temporary sprinklers while landscapes are establishing. I have used them to control solid-set PVC pipe irrigation systems for many years and they have been a real life saver where it was impractical to install permanent electrical service. In residential applications, these timers can be just the solution needed to operate a sprinkler in dry weather, help a new tree or plant get established or to irrigate a specific distant spot where the main sprinklers don't cover. There are lots of options, so do some research. 

Unlike the many blogs I've written about plants and their associated plant society aficionados, there isn't likely to be an "irrigation society" nearby. Contact a few local landscapers and see what they say about which brands they like. Irrigation supply houses can assist, although they are often is industrial districts, and can occasionally be hard to get to in rural areas. One thing is certain: don't let the lack of electricity stop you from installing automated irrigation to reliably water your plants and make your gardening experience easier. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens