Over the years I have accumulated a number of favorite watering-related devices and accessories that make the watering job just a bit easier.
Faucet extender. If your house is like mine, the outside water faucet is covered up with the foundation shrubs, making getting to the faucet an adventure. A faucet extender is simply another faucet attached to a hose that is attached to your existing faucet on your house. Mine extends about six feet, so my new faucet is in the front of the shrubs where I can get at it. You can buy these at Lowe's or check out Lee Valley Tools. They cost about $38.
Hose guides. If you have to move your garden hose around to change the location of a sprinkler or to be able to walk through the garden with a watering wand, you soon find that if the hose is pulled around a certain corner it will roll right over some of your flowers.
Hose guides come in all manner of shapes, sizes and prices. The idea is to pound the hose guide into the soil at that point where the hose needs to go around a corner where you need to protect the plants. You can get inexpensive guides at Lowe's, or more fancy choices at Gardener's Supply Co. ( Gardener's Supply Company) or Lee Valley Tool Co. ( Lee Valley Tools).
There are several devices available that allow you to feed your plants at the same time you are watering your plants. These "injectors" either siphon dilute liquid fertilzer from a pail into the water hoses or slowly dissolve pelleted fertilizer as the water passes over the pellet on its way to the garden. Either approach provides a very, very dilute level of fertilizer to your plants every time you water. Research indicates that plants will respond better to a steady source of very dilute fertilizer than they do to large inundations of feeding normally occuring in the home landscape.
Various degrees of automatic watering can be achieved with simple timers to complex multi-station solid-state controllers (which may need an electrian to install).
Timers - There a many mechanical timers on the market that work just the same way the cooking timer for the stove works. You turn it on to a preset number of minutes and the watering system runs for that time and turns itself off automatically. They are inexpensive and easy to use. You can turn on your watering system and go shopping knowing that the system will turn itself off. Beware, however, because some of the mechanical timers depend on a certain minimum water flow and will not perform properly with drip irrigation systems -- be sure before you buy.
There are some examples in the Tool Shed or check out Lee Valley Tools
Computers - With the cost of computer chips coming down, there are now a number of relatively inexpensive computer devices that allow you to program your watering activities so that the system goes on and off on preset days of the week. It will water your landscape all summer long without you ever having to touch it. The devices in the $50 to $80 range control one watering section but allow up to six different watering programs each week. The more expensive devices ($150 +) allow you to have varying programs on up to six different sections of your property. You can have a different watering program for your lawn than you do for your vegetable garden.
Inexpensive moisture meters ($5 or $6), usually sold in the houseplant section of the garden center, have been available for years. It's a little box on top of a metal prong. It is used to determine if there is a need to water outside as well as inside. The trick is to stick the prong down only about 3 inches. If it says that soil is dry, it is time to water.
Cadillac Versions - There are now sensors on the market that will monitor the moisture level in the soil, at various depths, so that the watering system only is turned on when the actual moisture level in the soil demands it. These devices can accompany a computerized controller that does the turning on and off of the watering system. Such a device allows you to have a watering system that works only when it doesn't rain for a few days.
There are also devices available that stand alone and are useful in measuring the moisture condition of the soil. These devices tend to be expensive and are used primarily by research scientists.