Drip Irrigation: Everything you need to know
Drip irrigation is the type of irrigation where water is released slowly into the designated area. Different parts of the landscape have different irrigation requirements, and therefore what works for one area might not work for another. For example, a sprinkler system that is effective for watering a lawn may not have the same effectiveness for other areas like landscape beds as the irrigation requirements of plants are different from grass.
Edenapp discusses drip irrigation systems in detail in this article – what they are, how they work, where they are used, the types of drip irrigation systems, benefits of drip irrigation, risks of drip irrigation and the possible cost of installing a drip irrigation system. Let us start with understanding what exactly drip irrigation is.
What is Drip Irrigation?
Drip irrigation, also known as trickle irrigation, is the method of irrigating plants where the water is directly applied or allowed to ‘drip’ to the roots of the plants. This can be done from above the surface of the soil or from below the surface of the soil. This method of irrigation saves nutrients and water since a lot of water is not applied at one time, which prevents the loss of nutrients due to runoff and water.
In drip irrigation, water is supplied to the plants through long tubes that have small holes known as emitters that release water directly to the roots of the plants and do not apply water to the leaves of the plants, which is better for the health of the plants. The rate of application of water is slow in drip irrigation, and this ensures that all the water is absorbed by the plant roots and no water is wasted. Drip irrigation prevents water loss in another way as water is not lost to evaporation in this method.
Most parts of a drip irrigation system can be hidden under a layer of mulch, but you should ensure the emitters are not covered and remain above the layer of mulch to prevent the emitters from getting clogged.
Where was Drip Irrigation first used?
Drip irrigation was first used in Ancient China, according to the Fan Shengzhi shu, which was a book on Chinese agriculture written in the first century BC. In this ancient text, the use of buried unglazed clay pots is described to irrigate crops. These pots were filled with water and then buried into the ground to release water slowly through their unglazed, porous surface.
Modern irrigation can be traced back to the 1860s in Germany, when researchers started experimenting with clay pipes for irrigation. These clay pipes were buried into the ground to create a system that resembled a drip irrigation system combined with a drainage system. This clay pipe experimentation was expanded upon for 50 years, and in the 1920s, this system started using perforated pipes.
How does Drip Irrigation distribute water?
A drip irrigation system takes water from a water source; this can be a tank, cistern, well, or city water. Pipes or tubes are connected to this water source to take water from the source to the gardens. If your water source is a well or city water, you will need to install a regulator or a pressure control valve to control the amount of water released into the tubes.
Once the pipes and tubes transport the water to the garden, the water is distributed throughout the garden through emitters. Emitters can be of two forms – preset holes in the tube or a separate emitter plug that fits into the tube and resembles a small sprinkler head. Valves and regulators are used to control the flow of water in the pipes and to ensure moisture is evenly distributed throughout the area.
If you are a newbie in the world of drip irrigation, then Edenapp recommends using a starter kit. These starter kits come in a variety of sizes (small, medium, large) and types like garden bed kits, rose and shrub kits, individual plant kits, etc. These kits contain everything you will need to install the system, and they can be automated with a battery timer.
Drip irrigation applies water slowly compared to other irrigation systems, and this means it needs to run longer. However, this type of irrigation applies water deeply, and therefore, drip irrigation does not need to be used often. The frequency of drip irrigation can vary depending on the season. During the growing season of spring, you can use drip irrigation twice a week, and during the dormant season of winter, you can use drip irrigation once every other week.
Where can Drip Irrigation be used?
Drip systems are ideal for vegetable gardens, garden beds, hedges, and other areas where plants will flourish, like perennial gardens. They are not commonly utilized under lawns or grassy areas because the roots will jam the emitters when they grow into the tubes. Drip irrigation systems for under-lawn watering are available; however, frequent chemical injection is required in this case to keep the roots at bay.
Where plants are placed widely apart, online emitter systems work best. You can use them to solely water the root bowls of the plants. You may easily expand your drip system by adding more drippers, especially as your root zone expands and your plants grow.
Inline systems are ideal for median strip garden beds, landscape beds that are shaped intricately, and densely planted regions where overspray is a problem. Both methods are simple to set up and can be shaded from the sun by mulch.
What are the different types of Drip Irrigation?
There are different types of drip irrigation systems based on the kind of emitter they use. Edenapp explains the four main types of drip irrigation systems below.
- Porous Pipe Drip Irrigation System: The porous pipe drip system is also known as the soaker hose or drip hose irrigation system. These pipes are made from recycled car tires and are laid across the area that needs to be watered. When the spigot connecting the pipe is turned on, the water flows into the pipe and then is slowly released into the garden area through the pores in the pipe. This type of drip irrigation can be used to water small areas like flower beds and vegetable gardens. The benefit of using this soaker hose is that it can be easily moved from one location to another, and it is highly durable. The cost of a soaker hose depends on its diameter, length, and brand. A ⅜ inch diameter soaker hose that is 50 feet in length costs around $20 at Lowe’s and starts at $10.44 at Walmart.
- Emitter Line Drip Irrigation System: The emitter line drip irrigation system is one of the most commonly used types. In this method, pre-installed tubes water the area where they are present through emitters that are evenly spaced (about 15 inches apart) along the length of the tubes. These pipes are easy to install and can be used in both smaller areas like garden beds and larger areas like lawns, unlike soaker pipes which can only be used in small areas. Also, the risk of clogging is lower with an emitter line drip irrigation system compared to soaker pipes. Since these are pre-installed tubes, they cannot be moved like the porous pipe and can only be used to irrigate the area they are installed in. The cost of drip lines depends on the length, diameter, emitter spacing, and brand. A ¼ inch tubing with 6-inch emitter spacing and a length of 50 feet costs $14.28 on Amazon, and a ½ inch tubing with 24-inch emitter spacing and a length of 100 feet costs $29.95 on DripWorks. The cost of installing these drip lines is separate and depends on the landscaping company doing the installation.
- Punch-in Drip Irrigation System: In the punch-in irrigation system, each emitter hole is to be hand punched in the tubing and then the emitters are fixed in these holes. This feature makes the punch-in drip irrigation system more customizable than the soaker hose and emitter line drip irrigation systems. This is because emitters can be placed anywhere along the length of the tubing, according to your convenience. Some emitters come with self-piercing barbs that add to the convenience of their placement. When a hole is not required anymore, it can be easily closed using goof plugs. The most basic emitter hole puncher starts as low as around $1 on Amazon. Along with this, you will need a drip tube which starts at around $6 for a drip tube with ¼ inch diameter and a length of 50 feet. The cost of drip emitters that need to be attached depends on the type. A pack of 50 adjustable micro dippers starts at $1.22, a pack of 10 bend arrow drip sticks costs $1.95, and a pack of 25 adjustable drip emitters for a stake emitter drip system costs $1.99 on Amazon.
- Micro-misting Drip Irrigation System: Micro-misting, drip irrigation system is a combination of a regular drip irrigation system and a traditional sprinkler system. Like drip irrigation, micro-misting irrigation systems also apply water at low water pressure, but instead of applying water in drops, a micro-misting irrigation system applies water as a fanlike spray. These are suitable for large areas that need constant moisture and therefore are mostly used to irrigate orchards and vineyards. They differ from soaker hoses, emitter lines, and punch-in irrigation systems in the aspect of water conservation as they are prone to water loss due to evaporation, just like overhead sprinklers. They are usually installed on risers, but these risers are non-retractable, and therefore micro-misting irrigation systems cannot be used on lawns. A 2-pack of 180 degrees threaded micro spray costs $2.97 at Home Depot, while a complete drip irrigation micro-spray kit costs $38.48 at Lowe’s.
For more information on the best types of drip irrigation, you can read Edenapp’s article on the same.
What are the benefits of using Drip Irrigation?
The benefits of using drip irrigation are as follows.
- It uses water efficiently and does not waste water due to excessive irrigation.
- The plants grow healthily since the water is applied to the roots directly and deeply.
- It prevents soil erosion and loss of nutrients due to runoff.
- It is easy to install and does not require excavation or other complex procedures.
- Overwatering plants encourages weeds and diseases, and drip irrigation prevents that with precise deep watering.
- Drip irrigation systems are flexible and can be installed in different areas like containers, differently shaped garden beds, and in raised beds.
- Drip irrigation systems also have minimum water loss due to evaporation and overspray.
- The connection for drip lines can be provided directly through the hose spigot eliminating the need to cut into the home line.
What are the risks of using Drip Irrigation?
The risks of using drip irrigation are as follows.
- Drip irrigation tubes run along the ground, and this can lead to a risk of tripping over them and falling when you are working in the landscape. The tubing should be staked to the ground to minimize this risk.
- The tubing can also be damaged when they are stepped on or when they are run over with a mower or a tiller. In regions that experience extreme heat, the tubing also begins to break down due to constant sun exposure.
- If drip irrigation systems are not installed correctly, you will face the risk of your plants drying out due to ineffective watering.
How much is the possible cost of installing Drip Irrigation?
The possible cost of installing a drip irrigation system ranges from $1.50 per square foot on the lower side to $4.50 per square foot on the higher side. On average, the cost of installing a drip irrigation system is around $2.70 per square foot. The cost of installing a drip irrigation system varies depending on the site conditions, soil type, plant type, water source, new installation vs. modifications, local state taxes, and the type of drip irrigation system you want to install.
If you want to install a cost-effective and efficient irrigation system, then drip irrigation is the way to go. For a professional drip irrigation installation that guarantees complete effectiveness and a customized setup according to your landscape’s requirements, contact Edenapp.
From selecting the right seasonal plants to installing an outdoor kitchen, our landscaping services can do it all for you. Contact us today for a stunning landscape!