What are the Different Types of Garden Irrigation?

Ken Black
Ken Black
Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Garden irrigation is limited to two main types: sprinklers and drip irrigation systems. Though sprinklers can further be broken down into automatic and manual varieties, the basic function remains the same. Drip systems may also be automatic or manual. Watering can also be done manually, with a person directly controlling the hose, and spraying plants as needed.

Whether using sprinklers or a drip system, automated garden irrigation makes the entire process easier. In some cases, underground sprinklers will come up, provide the watering as directed, then return underground. This allows the homeowner to have an entire and thorough watering system without the unsightly sprinkler heads. These systems are usually set up on timers to water at the most opportune times of the day.

Sprinkler systems provide garden irrigation by spraying water in an upward motion, and allowing the water to fall on the vegetation and soak into the soil. This provides the advantage of watering the leaves, which may be necessary, especially if the plants thrive in humidity, but are located in a relatively dry area. The disadvantage of these irrigation systems is that a certain amount of water will always be lost to evaporation, no matter what time of the day the watering is done.

Drip systems are good for garden irrigation in that they provide water near the root system, where there is less of a chance for evaporation. Therefore, it is a more efficient watering method when compared to sprinkler systems. This may not be a concern for most small gardeners, but it is a serious concern for large farming operations, some of which have switched to drip systems. Furthermore, the pipes for drip systems can often be concealed in a way where they are barely noticeable. A disadvantage is that leaves are not watered, which may or may not be an issue, depending on the plant species.

Using a manual garden irrigation strategy is likely the most time consuming and labor intensive. This involves an individual spending time in the garden with watering hoses. While this may not be the ideal strategy for all gardeners, it does provide the opportunity to water where it is needed most. If plants require differing amounts of water, it may be the best strategy.

Choosing a garden irrigation system is often a matter of personal preference, as well as a financial consideration. Automatic sprinkler systems and automatic drip systems are the most expensive. Manual sprinklers are very inexpensive, but require the gardener to move them as needed. While this may be an inconvenience, it may be a better option financially.

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Discussion Comments


What I like about the drip system is that I use less water, and this means I spend less money on watering; and with the drip system, there is less interference with the soil than there would be with a sprinkler system, or if I watered the garden with my garden hose.

Sprinklers and pressure from hoses and nozzles can pack the soil in your garden and eventually make it more difficult for vegetable and flower roots to spread and create healthy plants.

Call me old fashioned, but I enjoy taking the water hose out back and watering my garden. That's the way my mother watered her garden and that seems natural to me. However, I know there are easier ways to get the job done.

I have a friend who recently set up a drip system and installed a timer, so that her garden is watered at the same time every day. I do like that she doesn't have to worry that her garden will not be watered if she isn't at home to do it manually.

Whenever possible, I like to cut corners to avoid spending extra money maintaining my gardens. Instead of depending on our municipal water hookup, I use a rain barrel to capture and water my gardens. I attach old garden hoses to the barrel and lay the hoses through the gardens.

I have put small puncture holes in the hoses, so as water from the barrel moves through the hoses, water is leaking and hydrating the gardens. I know I could buy a more efficient system from the store, but I like the satisfaction of doing it myself, and on a shoestring budget.

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