Drip irrigation system

WATERWISE GARDENING: ADDING WATERING SYSTEMS

When we garden, we also water. There’s no real way to grow plants without water — even the most drought-tolerant plants like agaves and cacti need water sometimes. And with many parts of the world experiencing regular drought conditions, it’s vitally important that we plan how to water our gardens while protecting this invaluable resource. Much of that depends upon the type of watering system you choose — choose poorly, and water will be wasted. So let’s go over the different types of watering systems out there — which one is right for your garden?

Child in the garden
Drip-irrigation

WATERWISE GARDENING – ADDING WATERING SYSTEMS

• Soaker hoses: Soaker hoses look like thick black garden hoses with a porous outer membrane through which water oozes. While this type of watering system avoids evaporation, it can be a bit difficult to get the thicker hose to stay flat against the ground. Plan to pin it down into place using “U” shaped garden pins and a heavy layer of mulch.

• Drip irrigation: Arguably the most water-efficient system out there, drip irrigation has a slim tube with emitters attached every so often. The tube is arranged through the garden with emitters located close to the plants. This is the type of system you often see at garden centers because the water gets where it needs to go without a lot of evaporation. This system is best for garden beds and container gardens but is not recommended for turf areas.

• Spray systems: This type of system is what most of us are used to — the pop-up heads that spray water out in a circular or semi-circular pattern and set on an automatic timer according to zones. Spray systems are great for turf and garden areas, but there is a certain amount of evaporation and water run-off to be expected when using them.

Soaker hose spray
Grandmother and grandson in the garden

• Rotor systems: These are similar to spray systems with the same benefits and drawbacks (evaporation), but they are admittedly useful in delivering water to a large area (broad lawns, golf courses, very large gardens, etc.). However, because the spray pattern moves over a large area, the water has more time to absorb into the soil before the spray comes around again, avoiding wasteful runoff.

• Hand-watering: Now we’re going old school here, talking about the good old-fashioned hose at the end of your arm. This is a perfectly valid way to water your garden (hello, our forebearers did it all the time) provided you do it correctly. Water the base of the plant at soil level rather than just spraying the leaves, and aim for a thorough soaking rather than a light sprinkling. I sometimes leave the hose on a slow drip and set it at the base of a plant for about 10-15 minutes while I prune the salvias, then I go back and move the hose to another plant.

A word about timers: Most automatic systems have a control box with a timer, but you can also set timers up at your spigot. Always be sure your timer is set to go off according to your area’s watering guidelines or restrictions, and ensure you have a rain sensor installed so the system shuts itself off in the event of rain. If you don’t have a rain sensor, you’ll need to be prepared to go outside yourself and shut the timer off when it’s raining to avoid wasting water. Buy any one of these timers or sensors at an irrigation supply house or a home improvement center (though you’ll likely get more thorough and specific advice at a supply house).

Adding Watering Systems
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