Drip Systems

Why a drip irrigation system is right for you.

Are you concerned about wasting precious water with your current sprinklers? Do you have plants on an odd-shaped, narrow, or sloped area that is difficult to water? Do you want to learn how to keep your garden irrigated but conserve water at the same time?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, think about installing drip (a.k.a micro-irrigation) technology to your landscape, garden or vegetable beds. A drip system consists of a tube or hose with holes or emitters along it. The low-pressure system uses a timer to deliver water to plants and allows you to put fairly exact quantities of moisture where you want them.

The Drip Advantage

A drip system can save water (50% or more compared to the average sprinkler system) when properly installed. By maintaining the moisture level of the soil, less water is lost to the sun and the wind. This method causes the water to seep deeper into the soil and helps promote the plants' roots to grow downward and not just laterally as they would with shallower watering. Because it delivers water without creating an overly-moist environment, it helps prevent the growth of mold or fungus.

There are other advantages: the very low flow of water enables you to water a much larger area from a single water source. The low pressure insures you do not have to worry about pressure drops in your household; for example, you will not notice if the system goes on when you are in the shower.

Drip irrigation was first used in commercial agriculture and in parts of the world where harsh climates limit water supply. Advancements in polyethylene tubing helped the growth of the system. In the late 1960s, farmers discovered that by using drip irrigation they could increase yields while lowering water use. In the 80s, drip irrigation made the transition into commercial landscape. Today micro-irrigation systems are more widely available and better designed for use in agriculture, commercial landscaping and residential gardening.

How to Design your System

A drip system can be designed for separate watering zones on your property and be modified to your personal landscape for raised beds, vegetables rows, trees, hedges, grass or containers. It can also be used on balconies, decks or patios.

Create your drip system around the irrigation needs of your landscape and plants. Larger plants and those that consume a lot of water will need more emitters, while smaller, low-maintenance foliage will require fewer emitters. New plantings need water positioned over the root ball. Initial placement on perennials is often permanent, unlike trees and shrubs that require emitters to be moved away from the trunk as the tree grows.

Adaptable and changeable, drip systems can be easily expanded to irrigate additional plants or new growth or scaled back as needed. When plants are removed or die, drip lines can be plugged.

Save Water While Watering

When properly used and maintained, a drip irrigation system is more than 90% efficient (in terms of putting the water specifically where it needs to go,) as compared to the 50 - 70% efficiency of sprinkler systems. Because of this, many water utilities exempt landscapes irrigated with drip from restrictions during drought. Of course, an irrigation system is only as efficient as the watering schedule used. Any system set to water excessively, including drip, wastes water. Keep in mind that we tend to over water our plants, a habit we need to break for the sake of our thirsty planet.

Related articles:
Gardening for Your Senses
Tune up Your Garden this Fall
Build an Arbor

Article DIY Projects Reference
Article Lifestyle Reference
Article Basics Reference