What is drip irrigation?
Drip irrigation (also known as micro-irrigation or trickle irrigation), transports low-pressure water to plants through a network of plastic tubes and emitters, delivering it to precise locations in your garden. Some systems may also contain soaker hoses, which release water along their entire lengths. Because of the low flow and low pressure, water is applied much more slowly than with a sprinkler system. Also, plant roots fare better with even soil moisture than the wet/dry fluctuation that results from sprinkler irrigation. Whether your garden is ornamental or food-producing, a drip irrigation system can be used with equal success.
Why is it better than traditional sprinkler systems?
With sprinkler systems a lot of water is wasted. This is due to wind and evaporation of the spray droplets flying through the air, as well as runoff. Drip irrigation systems use less water, because it’s applied directly where the plants need it most. While sprinkler systems are 50-70% efficient, drip irrigation exceeds 90% efficiency!
Additional benefits of drip irrigation include:
- Saves Water: Limits water loss caused by runoff, wind, and evaporation, due to its slow and direct watering method. Studies show that drip irrigation systems use 30 – 50% less water than conventional watering methods, such as sprinklers.
- Improves Growth: Smaller amounts of water applied over a longer amount of time provide ideal growing conditions. Drip irrigation extends watering times for plants and prevents soil erosion and nutrient runoff. Also, because the flow is continuous, water penetrates deeply into the soil to get well down into the root zone.
- Discourages Weeds: Water is only delivered where it’s needed. Drip irrigation allows the rows between plants to remain dry, improving access and reducing weed growth.
- Saves Time: Setting and moving sprinklers is not required. A timer can be added to the system for automatic watering. Can be managed automatically, with an AC or battery powered controller.
- Helps control fungal diseases, which grow quickly under moist conditions. Wet foliage can spread disease. Prevents disease by minimizing water contact with leaves, stems, and fruit of plants.
- Adaptable: A drip irrigation system can be modified easily to adjust to the changing needs of a garden or lawn. Can be easily expanded or adjusted to accommodate additional plants: emitters can be exchanged or removed, emitter lines can be re-positioned, and drip lines can be plugged.
- The low-volume requirement of drip irrigation is a good match with supply lines that are old, corroded, and therefore restricted.
Although this system sounds great and simple enough, there a lot of factors that must be addressed when installing a drip irrigation system. Root development can be restricted if emitters are poorly placed, and it can be difficult to know if the system is working properly just by looking at the water seeping in. Drip tubing can be a trip hazard if not properly fastened down and/or covered with mulch. Furthermore, as with high-pressure sprinkler systems, regular maintenance inspections are needed to preserve system effectiveness. Hire a professional if you are unsure about your irrigation upgrade.