Drip irrigation (also known as micro-irrigation or trickle irrigation), transports low-pressure water to plants through a network of plastic tubes and emitters, delivering it to precise locations in your garden. Some systems may also contain soaker hoses, which release water along their entire lengths.Because of the low flow and low pressure, water is applied much more slowly than with a sprinkler system. Also, plant roots fare better with even soil moisture than the wet/dry fluctuation that results from sprinkler irrigation. Therefore, while sprinkler systems are 50-70% efficient, drip irrigation exceeds 90% efficiency. Drip irrigation is also a good watering method for sloped plantings because the slow rate of applied water is more likely to soak into the soil before gravity causes runoff.
Although drip irrigation has been traditionally used for growing fruit and vegetables commercially, it is a system that is also well-adapted on a smaller scale, in home and school gardens.
Additional benefits of drip irrigation include:
- Limits water loss caused by runoff, wind, and evaporation, due to its slow and direct watering method.
- Prevents disease by minimizing water contact with the leaves, stems, and fruit of plants.
- Can be managed automatically, with an AC or battery powered controller.
- Can be easily expanded or adjusted to accommodate additional plants: emitters can be exchanged or removed, emitter lines can be repositioned, and drip lines can be plugged.
- The low-volume requirement of drip irrigation is a good match with supply lines that are old, corroded, and therefore restricted.
- Unlike soaker hoses, allows the rows between plants to remain dry, improving access and reducing weed growth.
While you do not need to be an expert to install a drip irrigation, it is essential that your garden's drip irrigation system is applied carefully. Root development can be restricted if emitters are poorly placed, and it can be difficult to know if the system is working properly just by looking at the water seeping in (note that there is now an indicator device that overcomes the problem by raising or lowering a flag to show when water is flowing).Drip tubing can be a trip hazard if not properly fastened down and/or covered with mulch.Furthermore, as with high-pressure sprinkler systems, regular maintenance inspections are needed to preserve system effectiveness.