I really like the Gardena watering set. It does exactly what it says and I've had no problems with it so far. I've used it for one month only, but my two sisters have both had this system for about one year each, and theyÂ’re still happy with it. It works like clockwork, itÂ’s made of good materials (and it doesn't look bad)--and, most importantly, there are no spills.
I bought the simple version (without the bucket) because I already have a good water tank on my roof terrace. I definitely did not want a system that used an open faucet. It seems much safer to use a tank and a pump while I'm away, rather than running water, and the Gardena set is the only one that does that (as far as I know). I won't even say anything about the other improvisations I've used before (water spikes, etc.) They are definitely not reliable--I've lost a couple of plants like that.
[One of my sisters also has the more complicated system where you can program the timer, but I don't really need that--she lives in a hotter climate, where watering more than once a day is important, but here hot days are quite rare, plus I have a northern terrace.]
The instructions that came in the box were very clear--I liked that very much. Installation is not complicated in itself, but figuring out how to group the plants and then doing all the arrangements (cutting the pipes, etc.) might be time-consuming. I think it took me about 2-3 hours (planning and contemplation time included :)
I use the system half-outdoors and half-indoors. The pump and power cord are on my roof terrace (I put the pump in my 20-liter plastic tank; the power cord is also outside but in a covered area). I connected two of the distributors to my terrace plants. The third one I brought inside, through a window. When I went on vacation, I put my tropical plants (which I keep indoors) on the other side of that window and Gardena took care of them too. It was ok that the distribution pipe went pretty high up through the window and then back down to the plants inside. It worked well. What matters is that the water distributors be placed higher than the pump itself. If you cannot place the distributors high enough (as was the case with one of mine for a while), then at least make sure the end of the drip pipe (i.e. the thin tube that drips water into the pot) is higher than the pump. Then you'll have no spills.
The instructions tell you to put the system in function well before leaving on vacation; definitely do as they say and test it before you go! I'd recommend using it for *at least* one week before leaving; different plants have different watering needs and even if you know your plants, you don't know the Gardena set, so you might find that you've guessed wrong (I'm here referring to how many pipes/which distributor to use for each plant). Personally, I've made a number of changes since my first arrangement (I've added more pipes to some plants, took a few out, moved them around a bit, observed the dripping, etc.)
I left the system on even after I returned home. I've removed a few plants from it (for aesthetic purposes mainly) but the rest are still happily watered by Gardena. (Although now, with the constant rain weÂ’ve had lately, it doesnÂ’t make as much sense as it did a week ago, so I decided to disconnect the system for a while). The pipes are not that visible so the arrangement doesn't hurt the eye, although I wish the distribution pipes (the thicker ones, which connect the pump with the distributors) were dark grey like the drip pipes, because then the whole system would be even less visible. See the attached pictures.
If there's anything I wish for, it would be some extra drip pipe length (youÂ’re supposed to cut it into pieces, according to your needs). It's hard to arrange the plants perfectly on your first try, so you might find yourself running out (or ruining some of it) if you're not careful. I still have a pretty long piece left, but if I had more plants, then that would get used up pretty quickly. So plan carefully before you start cutting! Also, like I said above, I wish the distribution pipes weren't almost white but rather dark grey, like the rest of the system.
Well, that's all I can think of. All in all, I'm happy with the system and I'd recommend it to anyone.