Proper watering is crucial to the success of any garden. But it’s harder than you think to effectively water a garden, to get the precise coverage specific to your plants or crops, and to avoid too much wastage. While you might find it relaxing to spend an afternoon outside watering with a can, it is actually an extremely inefficient way to hydrate your garden. Far better to take a more logical approach, and fit your garden with an irrigation system. Irrigation is an ancient technique which revolutionised agriculture, and while it uses more modern technology, its principles have barely changed. Better still, it’s easy to install and maintain an effective irrigation system in your garden, without paying a professional to help. DIY irrigation is growing in popularity, and as a result there are online resources and countless products to help you. Let’s take a closer look.
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Irrigation is all about getting the right amount of water to the right plants with minimum wastage and maximum efficiency. But there are some basic DIY irrigation factors to take into account, especially if you’re on a budget. With that in mind, the first thing you should invest in is a water butte, to catch rainfall. If you’re blessed (or cursed) to live somewhere with frequent rain, you’ll be able to let nature do its thing, and not use your irrigation method, and you’ll be able to save water for drier days. Most home irrigation systems allow you to hook up your hoses, pipes or sprinklers to collected water. If you’re watering above ground, the golden rule is to hose or sprinkle your garden early in the morning, or late in the afternoon / evening, to give the water the least opportunity to evaporate before it is absorbed. If you hose or sprinkle above ground, remember you are watering the roots, not the leaves!
Above ground sprinklers
By far the most commonly used garden irrigation method, sprinklers are a ubiquitous presence during the summer months. While it is possible to get advanced sprinkler systems with timers and different rotations, it is actually a fairly inefficient way to water. Lots of spray is lost through evaporation, and unless used early in the morning or late at night, much of the water will evaporate on the ground before it has a chance to hydrate anything. On the upside, sprinklers are cheap and simple, and do well watering lawns and containers.
In ground sprinklers
An alternative to the above ground option is in ground sprinklers. These can be set up to more accurately sprinkle water into flower beds, and can be better automated. Some options even detect rain in the air and shut themselves off when the heavens open. Different sprinkler heads are available to distribute the appropriate amount of water for certain plants or crops, and can be automated to rotate. Many in ground sprinklers retreat into the ground when they are not in use, so as not to detract from the aesthetics of your flower beds. They can be quite pricey but worthwhile irrigation options.
Drip irrigation is more efficient than either type of sprinkler, as the water they emit goes straight into the ground, not wasting spray on the leaves. They can be controlled with butterfly valves in order to save water, start and stop flow or isolate drips for your thirstiest plants. Pipes run under the ground, with holes to leak water effectively, and eradicate the potential for evaporation. Drip irrigation is highly accurate and effective, as it can be set up to soak around the roots of plants or crops.
A cheaper, simpler but marginally less effective option than drip irrigation, soaker hoses are just regular hoses with holes bored in the appropriate places for your plants. Usually made from recycled tyres, you simply trail it around your garden, attach it to the water supply, and leave it alone.
Ollas are an ancient irrigation system consisting of clay pots, or reservoirs, buried in the ground. The clay is porous, so the olla gradually emits water into the soil around it. Larger ollas spread their water further, so it is important to choose one the right size for the area you want to water.
Irrigation will take the headache and hassle out of watering your garden effectively. And if you do it yourself, not only will it be cheaper, but you can customise your system to suit your plants’ needs.