Water is a vital, life-sustaining natural resource. Many parts of the world — including regions of the U.S. — suffer from drought. Therefore, we all are responsible for saving as much water as possible.
Crops need water to grow, and gardeners have multiple watering options. Top among them is a drip irrigation system. According to MIT, drip irrigation cuts a farm’s water consumption up to 60% and boosts crop yield up to 90%. Micro Spray Irrigation
Though a yard or large garden is much smaller than a typical farm, the same water conservation principle applies. This comprehensive guide breaks down drip irrigation benefits, offers general use tips, and compares different system types.
In a drip irrigation system, water flows through the tubing, out of emitters, and onto the soil. According to the University of Rhode Island, drip irrigation is 90% efficient at allowing plants to use the water they receive.
The system takes some time to set up — but it’s not too difficult. You attach the setup to an outdoor faucet and place the tubing where you want it in the garden. This Old House offers step-by-step instructions on tubing placement, staking it down, and attaching emitters. If you prefer, you can get help from a landscape professional to install it.
Once it’s up and running, drip irrigation has multiple benefits:
Once you start enjoying a drip irrigation system, there are a few tips for routine use and maintenance.
Setting the system to work automatically is convenient and saves time. It can also run manually. Doing the latter would enable you to leverage rain as it falls, saving even more water from the outlet.
Drip irrigation typically runs daily. Per the University of Rhode Island, run times vary according to the emitters’ flow rate and how much water your plants require. The system usually disperses water once or twice per day. The best time to water is early morning. There is less evaporation, and evening watering increases plant disease.
For system maintenance, check emitters regularly to ensure they are dripping and not clogged. Look for signs of wear on tubing, stakes, and other parts. Pull the system up when the gardening season ends to prevent freezing and cold weather damage.
Always follow the equipment manufacturer's guidelines for use and care. Contact a landscape or irrigation professional if you have any questions or concerns.
The information above details an emitter drip irrigation system. Here are three other common types.
Soaker hoses are flexible and contain small, evenly spaced holes to dispense water onto plant roots. They’re like an emitter system but don’t work on sloped surfaces. They also use more water.
According to The Spruce, some soaker hoses consist of recycled rubber. While the material is eco-friendly, you shouldn’t place it near food crops. They do work along shrubs, hedges, and the lawn. This system costs less than an emitter system but maxes out at a length of 200 feet.
A micro-misting irrigation system, also known as a micro-sprinkler, disperses a constant water mist to a large area. These are most common in vineyards and orchards. Per Colorado State University, “micro-sprinkler irrigation saves water because of the high application efficiency and high-water distribution uniformity with little if any waste if managed properly.”
The setup attaches to your hose irrigation system. It easily accommodates sloped surfaces and works well for flower beds, large trees, and ground cover areas.
Drip tape only works if you set it up in a straight line. It’s easy to install and is the least expensive drip irrigation system. However, it doesn’t last as long as other types. Per The Spruce, drip tape works well in vegetable gardens and annuals.
Whatever system you choose, drip irrigation will save time, labor, and water — and your plants and the planet will thank you for it.
Go Green is presented by RALOS, a Boise company committed to helping people and organizations learn the benefits of going green. Learn more about RALOS here.
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