Drip irrigation is a method of applying slow, steady, and precise amounts of water and nutrients to specific areas of trees, vines, ground covers, potted plants, or shrubs.
At a slow application rate, water seeps into the soil and moves laterally by capillary action beneath the soil’s surface. An adequate section of the root zone of the plant is maintained with moisture close to soil capacity, providing a soil-to-water-to-plant relationship which is conductive to better plant growth. Thus, smaller quantities of water are used to the utmost efficiency. And no more pulling around the garden hose or sprinkler!
Utilizing a drip irrigation system involves the installation of a permanent plant watering system that enables the homeowner to place water where it is wanted, and in the exact amount that is necessary for optimum plant growth. Drip irrigation systems range in size from a few plants to several thousand acres, and permits the cultivation of slopes previously thought unusable and land left idle. In fact, the more difficult the installation, the greater the advantages of drip irrigation.
In short, drip irrigation is the slow and precise delivery of water to chosen plantings. This is achieved by the use of flexible polyethylene tubing or PVC pipe with devices for driping water (emitters) and low-volume sprays, drip tape, Laser Soaker Line, or Porous Pipe systems. The systems are easy to install, requiring no trenching and only shears for cutting polyethylene hose or tubing, and PVC pipe cutters for cutting PVC pipe. A hole punch is required for installing an emitter into the polyethylene hose. Drip irrigation can maintain near perfect moisture levels in the root zone of the plants, avoiding the too wet/too dry swings typical of overhead watering. Drip irrigation systems can be controlled manually or by the use of an automatic timer in conjunction with a tensiometer, and can be used to apply fertilizers directly to the roots of plants.
What are the Specific Benefits of Drip Irrigation?
- Water savings, since only those areas directly around the plant’s root zone are irrigated.
- Plants undergo less stress from variations in soil moisture. Plant appearance is enhanced.
- Constant moisture improves plant growth.
- Slow application rate prevents excess surface water build-up and reduces evaporation.
- The low application rate and the use of automatic timers results in precise water control.
- Weed growth is reduced because areas between plants are not irrigated.
- System can be designed for use in all types of terrain and soil conditions.
- System’s low flow rate allows irrigation of larger areas and more plants can be watered at once.
- Drip irrigation systems are usually installed at costs considerably less than those of an underground sprinkler, bubbler, or shrub spray system.
- Through the use of fertilizer dispensers, chemicals and nutrients can be fed directly to the plant in controlled quantities.
- The water application rate can be tailored to fit each individual plant. This is accomplished by the use of different quantities of emitters and emitters with different discharge rates.
- Conversion to drip irrigation is easily accomplished since the hydraulic design of a sprinkler system is more than adequate.
- The drip system is economical to use with native landscapes in dry weather conditions.