Choosing a Garden Watering System

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Whether you have an established garden or are planning to install one, there are several factors to take into account when planning for and choosing a garden watering system. The best watering system for you will meet your personal time and budgetary needs as well as the needs of your garden.

The 3 watering systems addressed in this article can be used individually or together to meet your various needs. Each can use timers, water pressure regulators and filters to provide the most effective and efficient water usage. Each needs periodic maintenance to make sure it is performing optimally. Following are the 3 main types of garden watering systems, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Sprinkler Systems

Sprinkler systems use PVC and/or Poly Pipe, connectors, fittings and sprinkler heads. The main advantage to a sprinkler system is ease of use. It is also the best system for watering lawns and can be relatively inexpensive to install. This usually means digging trenches in your yard or digging up existing plantings.

Disadvantages of sprinkler systems include runoff and overwatering. No matter how carefully sprinkler heads are directed, there is almost always runoff on sidewalks and driveways. If the sprinklers overlap, it can lead to too much water. If they do not overlap enough, brown spots can result.

Water from sprinklers is often delivered too quickly for the soil to absorb it, resulting in runoff. Overhead spray can evaporate, be blown elsewhere by wind and contribute to leaf diseases.

Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation uses several drippers or emitters off a main water supply pipe to deliver water. This can be to:

  • Specific plants
  • Contained areas, like medians or raised beds
  • Plants on slopes

A primary advantage of drip irrigation is that it reduces water waste through runoff or evaporation. Water can be aimed at specific plants.

This type of irrigation applies water slowly and more directly to plants' roots than a sprinkler system, thus being more energy efficient. Its targeted watering reduces weed growth and extends the life of mulch.

A disadvantage is that it can be unsightly if there is too much tubing on the ground. Installation can be complicated and expensive. If you plant new plants or move your plants, you have to adjust the system accordingly.  

Soaker Hose

Soaker hoses have tiny holes in them that allow small amounts of water to irrigate the surrounding ground. This type of system is by far the easiest to install and it is relatively inexpensive. Soaker hoses deliver water slowly and saturate planter beds so that the water goes directly to the plant roots. You can add sprayers and mini-sprinklers or use them in conjunction with drip irrigation to improve their efficiency.

Disadvantages include not being able to use these in areas where they can not be laid out straight. They can be unsightly if too much hose is showing above ground, and they can become clogged from dirt or sediment.

Doing the proper planning and making the right choices for your garden will result in a time- and energy-saving watering system and a beautiful garden.

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