Garden Irrigation System: Choosing the Best Garden Watering Methods
If you’re reading this article, you’re probably getting a bit more serious as a gardener and looking for efficient ways to water your plants rather than by hand and hoses. Not only is hand-watering plants an ineffective irrigation method compared to others, but your hand is starting to cramp and your fingers are getting a bit too pruney for your taste. That’s why we’re here. We’ve compiled a list of a few of our favorite irrigation methods, rated them by ease, explained when, where, and why you should use them, and most importantly, described how to set them up. Enjoy!
Who: Beginners. Soaker hoses are easy to setup and don’t require much work–for that reason, we recommend that beginner gardeners give this method a try.
What: They’re hoses that are perforated with tiny holes that seep water into the soil. You lay them along raised beds, either between rows of plants or curved between your plants. Once you turn the spigot on, water slowly trickles out onto the plants.
Where: They should be used either in traditional row style gardens or raised bed gardens.
Why: Not only do soaker hoses help the environment by conserving scarce water resources, but they also save you time and money. This is because there’s less effort (compared to hand watering and moving hoses) and less wasted water. What’s more, it keeps your plants healthy because it waters them slowly and at the root, exactly how and where they need it. Lastly, they’re fairly inexpensive. If you’d like to save even more water and money, try connecting the timer to a WiFi or IoT based system.
- First, connect a filter, a timer, and a pressure regulator to the faucet. Then attach your garden hose and fasten your soaker hose onto the end.
- Be sure to lay your soaker hose on level ground because they don’t water well on slopes or in vertical positions like rockeries. If there are kinks in your hose, uncoil them and allow the soaker hose to relax before laying it along your plants.
- If you’re using several soaker hoses, lay them 12-18 inches apart on sandy soil and 18-24 inches apart on loam or clay soil. Either way, the soaker hose should be about 1-2 inches away from the base of the plants. If your plants are new or annuals, you can lay the hose a bit closer and gradually move it away from the base as your plants grow.
- To retain moisture and protect your soaker hoses from sun damage, cover them in about 2-3 inches of mulch, wood chips, bark, or compost.
- Don’t blast the faucet. Turn it on just enough so that the hose is seeping slowly and not spraying. Too much water can bring about leaf diseases.
- Run your soaker hose twice a week for 30 minutes each time. About an hour after the first time you use your soaker hose, dig into the soil and check how deeply the water ran through–it should be 1-2 inches below the surface. If it’s too shallow or too deep, adjust the pressure and time accordingly and check again that it worked better on the next watering day.
- When you’re done watering for the day, disconnect the soaker hose and plug the opening so insects and soil can’t clog it.
Who: Advanced. Gardeners everywhere agree that drip irrigation is the most efficient garden watering system. It’s a bit difficult to set up, which is why we recommend it for advanced gardeners. But ambitious beginners can give it a try by purchasing a ready-to-assemble drip kit.
What: It’s an elaborate system of perforated tubes that transmit water one drip at a time near the base of your plants. In addition, the tubes have emitters attached that are designed to control pressure and water flow.
Where: Unlike soaker hoses, drip irrigation systems can be setup on steep slopes and pretty much everywhere else.
Why: Again, drip irrigation systems save you money because it uses less water (no runoff or waste) and less pressure than other systems. It’s also great for your plants because it keeps them healthy and reduces the risk of plant disease, just like soaker hoses. But actually, drip emitters are more precise than soaker hoses because they let you control both the exact location of the drip and the flow rate. Again, since timers and pressure regulators are involved, connecting to a WiFi or IoT system could save you even more water and money.
- First, you’ll need a timer, a pressure regulator, a filter, emitters, connecting tees and elbows, ½ inch flexible polyethylene tubing (as the submain), and ¼ inch tubing with pre-punched holes (as the drip lines). We recommend purchasing a snap together kit.
- Attach the timer, filter, and pressure regulator to the faucet. Then, fasten the submain to the regulator and run it along the ground where you’d like to irrigate.
- If, according to your irrigation plan, the submain changes directions (elbow) or branches into two directions (tee), use a small blade knife to cut the submain where you’d like. Then, pop the elbows and tees into place.
- Now that the submain is installed, it’s time to attach the emitters. Punch a hole into the submain and push the first emitter through. Space the emitters about 12-20 inches from each other.
- Next, add the drip lines. Lay them along the raised beds, on the ground, or wherever your plants are. Punch a hole in the submain and snap on the first drip line using the connectors that came with the kit. We recommend spacing the drip lines about 3 feet apart from each other.
- Once you’re done setting up the drip irrigation system, remember to seal off the ends of the submain with a hose clamp.
What: Sprinklers are perhaps most similar to natural rainfall. They spray water into the air, which is broken into small water drops that fall on the ground.
Where: While soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems are meant for the garden, sprinklers are typically meant for lawns. But they’re also effective for large gardens and vegetables planted in sandy soil or soils with high infiltration rates. Sprinklers are also adaptable to any slope and terrain.
Why: Sprinklers use more water than other irrigation systems but are able to cover larger areas. If you’re worried about wasting water, consider an IoT solution designed to reduce water usage. In the end, IoT can help save just as much water as soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems can.
How: Check out our other articles that explain how to get the most out of your home sprinkler system.
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