Drip Irrigation vs. Sprinkler

December 22nd, 2015 by Ima Admin

Water drops on green fresh leaf

At Andy Mast Greenhouses, we know that water is a precious resource, and we use environmentally friendly techniques to conserve water in our greenhouses and outdoor growing fields.

Many homeowners would like to do the same, but lack the basic information or tools to know the best way to water their particular plants and landscaping beds.

Hand watering can be simple and effective, but watering using a hose without a nozzle is inefficient. It delivers water more quickly than pots or the landscape can absorb it, causing runoff that wastes water and carries away precious topsoil and nutrients. It is more efficient to use a watering can on potted plants. Water each plant once, then repeat 15 minutes later after the water has soaked into the soil. If you must use a hose, make sure to attach a hose nozzle so water comes out in a spray and can easily be turned off when not in use.

There are three steps to practical landscape watering. Follow these three steps to figure out the best watering plan for your garden:

  1. Know how much water your plants need.
  2. Know how much water each part of your watering system applies.
  3. Match your watering system output to your plants’ needs.

How Much Water Flow Is Needed?

For the average landscape plant or shrub, apply between one-half gallon and one and one-half gallons of water per square foot per week applied to them depending upon the soil type. Sandy soils need approximately one and one-half gallons of water per square foot applied per week, depending upon soil types. Good black soil needs approximately one gallon of water per square foot applied per week. Clay soils require approximately one-half gallon of water per square foot applied per week. One-half gallon of water per square foot equals approximately one inch of water.

Determine the number of square feet requiring watering. Multiply the number of square feet requiring watering times the rate above (depending upon the soil type as stated) to determine the total number of gallons of water per week required for the plant.

How to gauge: Use a one-gallon jug and measure hose output per period of time, with the hose set to a trickle rate. You will then know how long it will take to apply the amount of water required (as established above) for the plant.

Water Output of Drip Emitters, Bubbler and Hose:

Drip Emitter .5 – 4 gallons per hour
Bubbler .5 – 2 gallons per minute
Hose 2 – 5 gallons per minute

Drip Irrigation Advantages

  • This system is good for a small yard or for watering individual plants.
  • Drip irrigation is highly effective at supplying one to four gallons of water per hour directly to the soil.
  • The advantage of drip irrigation over sprinklers is that there is little water loss due to evaporation or runoff.
  • It’s particularly good for mulched areas because it can directly soak the soil without washing away the mulch.

How To Get Started: DIY Drip irrigation kits are available at big box home improvement stores. By piecing together a drip irrigation system to water your landscape beds in particular, you’ll save on water and preserve soil nutrients. For a great resource, check out this nicely illustrated step-by-step tutorial by Sprinkler Warehouse.

Sprinkler Irrigation Advantages

For extremely large beds, some homeowners choose to use their inground sprinkler systems to irrigate. While this has advantages and can be “dialed in,” also consider that today underground sprinkler contractors are happy to install drip irrigation runs to fine tune coverage.

  • Sprinklers can cover large areas.
  • Manual sprinklers require you to open the valve, time the watering yourself and then shut off the flow.
  • Automatic sprinkler systems offer the benefit of programmable controllers.
  • Make sure you set automatic sprinklers correctly and adjust it as conditions change.
  • Water early in the morning to reduce the evaporation rate.
  • If water runs off your yard, split your watering times into two or more sessions.
  • Be sure to turn off your system if you’re getting enough water from rain showers.