If you've spent any amount of time gardening, then you know that regularly watering your plants can be both time consuming and difficult. Many plants have specific watering needs that must be met and deviating from those requirements can result in plants that are less healthy or productive than they would otherwise be. Watering your garden by hand is reasonable for small or very uniform gardens, but for large, varied gardens it can rapidly become tedious and time prohibitive.
Keeping your plants well hydrated can be simplified with the help of an irrigation system. Many new gardeners shy away from setting up an irrigation system since it can, at first blush, sound like an intimidating and expensive process reserved only for professional gardeners and farmers. Nothing could be further from the truth, and simple irrigation systems can be cheap and relatively easy for a handy home gardener to install.
What About Sprinklers?
Sprinklers are technically a form of irrigation, but they are more useful for watering lawns than vegetable or flowers gardens. Sprinklers cannot be used to provide targeted irrigation, and they are somewhat inefficient on warm days where water may evaporate before reaching deeper vegetable root systems. Sprinkler systems do provide excellent coverage, however, making them ideal for homes where the primary concern is making sure that an expansive lawn is well irrigated.
Drip Irrigation and Soaker Hoses
Drip irrigation is a common, highly effective form of irrigation useful for both in-ground gardens and raised beds. The basic theory behind drip irrigation is simple: water is delivered to plants via hoses or pipes and dripped out through emitters. Water is released slowly, allowing it to soak down to the roots of the plants. There are many forms of drip irrigation, and the system can be scaled from small gardens to very large ones.
For the home gardener, simple drip irrigation systems generally consist of hoses and emitters that are attached to the hoses. The emitters are placed to deliver water either to individual plants or to groups, making sure that the soil is hydrated exactly where necessary. Drip irrigation systems are extremely efficient since water is generally not lost to evaporation or runoff. Drip irrigation systems can usually be bought in relatively inexpensive kits from a variety of stores, and those kits can later be expanded as necessary to fit the size of the garden.
Soaker hoses are a simpler type of drip irrigation that lacks separate emitters. Instead, soaker hoses have small holes that "weep" water constantly. They work on the same principle as traditional drip irrigation and are likewise very efficient. Since the water is weeping from the holes slowly, little water is lost, and the soil is allowed to soak down to the roots. Soaker hoses can be installed either above ground or below ground, depending on need. Soaker hoses that are installed above ground should still be covered with either mulch or a small amount of soil to prevent water from evaporating before it can soak into the ground.
Both traditional drip systems and soaker hoses have their uses and which one you choose is a matter of preference and the needs of your particular installation. Whatever the case, installing a proper irrigation system is a great way to ensure that your plants will receive plenty of hydration without adding more work for yourself.