Some years back, I wanted to plant fruit trees in a new part of my yard, but there was only a faucet over there. I handwatered the trees at first, but when that work became too much I set up the easiest form of automatic irrigation.

It consists of only five parts. They are parts that are easy to find for purchase and require zero expertise to install.

Maybe your vegetable garden has become too big for you to water by hand, maybe you need some automatic irrigation on a couple fruit trees for when you go on vacation, or maybe you’re just tired of dragging a hose around. 

Here are the parts you need and how to put them together, in order to build the easiest automatic irrigation system I know.

Five parts

The names of the five parts are: a hose-end timer, an adapter, a polyethylene tube, an emitter, and a figure eight.

Here’s what they look like, in that order:

Separated parts of the easiest automatic irrigation system.

Here’s what each does: The hose-end timer attaches to the faucet and allows the water to come out of the faucet on a schedule that you set (for example, every Monday for three hours).

The adapter connects the timer to a tube that will take the water to your plant.

The tube that carries the water is often called poly tube for short, and it is often called half-inch poly tube, referring to its diameter.

The emitter is what lets the water out of the tube next to your plant. There are myriad emitters that let water out in various shapes and quantities. In the photos above, the emitter lets out about two gallons per hour, and it emits the water from one hole. But there are also small sprinklers that can be attached to the tube.

Finally, the figure eight holds the end of the tube closed so that no water comes out there.

Putting the parts together

The five parts go together in the order mentioned and shown above. What will vary with your own installation is the length of the tube as well as the emitters that you attach. The tube can be two feet long or more than two hundred feet long. And it’s possible to water a large vegetable garden or dozens of fruit trees on this same single tube and timer. 


In my yard, I water all of my vegetables using one of these hose-end timer systems. From the main tube I have other tubes with emitters on them running down rows of vegetables.

drip irrigation for vegetables
Drip emitters connected to hose-end timer, watering my lettuce plants.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, in my yard I also use one of these hose-end timers to water a group of fruit trees. Currently, there are 13 fruit trees being watered on this simple system. The emitters I’ve attached to the tube vary: some are drip emitters while others are sprinklers. You can mix them up if you want.

Micro-sprinkler attached to tube and hose-end timer. It waters my macadamia tree.

Many people water their gardens successfully using similar simple automatic irrigation with a hose-end timer. I even know a small commercial avocado farmer who waters his grove with a couple of them.

A couple extra notes

Some people will tell you that you must add additional parts to this simple system, and sometimes this is true. Parts you might hear that you need include a filter, a pressure regulator, and a backflow preventer. You can add those parts, but they may be unnecessary according to your situation.

Rather than get into the details as to when and why, I’ll link to my post on troubleshooting drip and micro irrigation, where I talk about some of these components. I’ll also link to Irrigation Tutorials, where you can find more information.

Here I’ll mention that I sometimes go without using a pressure regulator by just opening the faucet valve partially.

If you want to also use a faucet for other things besides your automatic irrigation, you can install a Y or manifold. This way, you can still attach a hose or other things.

Four-outlet manifold connected to faucet. Gray hose-end timer made by DIG goes to fruit trees. Orange hose on right.

Where to buy these parts? They are all available at every hardware store or home improvement center. They are also available at numerous online retailers; just do a web search for “drip irrigation supplies.”

Cost? The hose-end timer is the most expensive unit. It will cost roughly $35. If you were trying to water ten fruit trees, all of the rest of the parts would only cost around $30, for a total price of approximately $65. I’ve found that that’s a small price for the amount of time and energy that such a simple system can free up.

All of my Yard Posts are HERE

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