Drip irrigation is an excellent way to water your garden and it saves you a lot of time. It also conserves water and helps your plants get the nutrients they need.
Drip systems are not a set-and-forget solution, so they should be checked regularly and maintained. You should also drain your drip system over the winter.
1. Know Your Watering Needs
Getting water to the right places is critical to plant health and growth. Unlike sprinklers that spray water rapidly, drip irrigation allows you to control the flow of water so that each plant can absorb the proper amount.
Establishing a watering schedule that works for you can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many practical tips to help you meet your watering needs with ease.
Start by calculating the amount of water your plants need to thrive, then work from there. Use the Landscape Watering Guidelines chart to help you get started, and remember that weather conditions and soil type will also affect your plant’s water needs.
Next, use the emitter capacity/spacing (flow per unit of time) and irrigation schedule to determine how often you need to run your drip system. Avoid running it too frequently or too long, and remember to adjust your irrigation times as your plant needs change with the seasons.
2. Know Your Soil
Soil varies in its ability to hold moisture and how quickly it can be absorbed by the irrigation system. The rate of water absorption also dictates the best time and frequency to apply.
Sand absorbs water quickly while silt and clays require more frequent applications of water to maintain soil moisture. Drip irrigation helps reduce the likelihood of runoff or erosion by applying water slowly at a lower rate.
The most important thing to remember is that soil texture is the deciding factor in what irrigation method will work best for you. For example, a drip system with laterals that can be run along topographic lines may be the right choice on hilly or sloping land.
3. Know Your Plants
Drip irrigation is a great way to water your plants. It minimizes evaporation, runoff and overwatering by delivering water directly to the roots of plants.
A drip system can be designed around the irrigation needs of trees, shrubs and perennials. For newly planted trees and shrubs, place emitters over the root ball and add additional emitters as they grow.
When planting new perennials, space emitters evenly around the plant’s root system and toward the outer canopy of the plant. As a rule, perennials should have at least two emitters per plant.
With larger plants and higher water-using plants, use a greater number of emitters with lower flow rates. For low water-using annuals and perennials, fewer emitters with lower flow rates are needed.
When using a drip irrigation system, it is important to understand your plants and how to take care of them. Knowing your soil, the plant’s watering needs and how to keep them healthy will help you maintain a drip irrigation schedule that will provide maximum results without overwatering or underwatering your plants.
4. Know Your Water Supply
To make drip irrigation work for you, you need to know your water supply. That means knowing where your main line comes into your house and the location of your water meter and shut off valves.
The incoming water line usually enters your home through a basement or crawlspace near the front side of your house. From there, it runs into an underground pressure tank and out the back of your house near the exterior faucet.
Depending on your water source, you may be using surface water (lakes, rivers, and creeks), groundwater, or potable (drinking) water. You’ll need to choose the one that works best for your landscape.
As part of its responsibilities to you, every public water system in the United States must provide an annual report on drinking water quality, known as a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). It tells you where your drinking water comes from and what contaminants it contains.