Types of Water System: Garden

WaterSystemGarden.com provides tips on how to choose, install and maintain a water system for your garden.

For any home gardener your goal is to see your garden flourish and grow.  Sometimes it takes more than just a green thumb to make that happen.  To really see your garden grow, you’ll need to find the right water system for your garden.

Three Types of Garden Water Systems

1. Perforated soaker hose: A perforated soaker hose is a hose that has small holes in it to emit water in a trickle or fine spray.  A perforated hose is usually covered with soil or mulch (for aesthetic reasons), but also can just be placed on the surface of the soil. Here is a video on how to use a soaker hose.

Pros: One of the nice things about the perforated hose water system is that once you set it out and bury it you leave it there.  You will not have to constantly roll and unroll your hose every time you want to water your plants.

Another positive is that the perforated soaker hose is very quick and easy to install (you can have a good sized garden all set up with soaker hose within an hour or so), and also easy to remove if you change your mind.  There is nothing permanent about it.

Perforated soaker hoses work well and are the most inexpensive of the three water system options.

Cons: One real negative with a perforated soaker hose is that you will need to turn the water on and off every time that you want your plants watered.  However, you can get around this by buying an  inexpensive manual timer that turns the water on and off. Another negative is that the perforated soaker hoses don’t last forever.  Especially if they are exposed to the elements, the material will break down over the years.

2. Drip Irrigation: Drip irrigation is a watering system that uses tubing and drippers to deliver water at low pressure directly to plant roots. The theory behind a drip irrigation system is that the system will slowly release water straight into the soil just at the point where it is needed (at the roots of the plants), and nowhere else.

Often, this system is referred to as trickle irrigation.   Drip systems are available with both a manual start and an automatic timer.

Pros: A drip irrigation system is a highly effective water system for your garden because it gets the water into the soil before it has a chance to evaporate.  Also, the system only releases water into the areas that need it.

This is the main benefit of drip irrigation – it conserves water because there is no water  wasted through evaporation, runoff, overspray, erosion or wind. The amount of water for each plant can be adjusted exactly for maximum growth.

Drip irrigation has an efficiency of up to 95% compared to 50 to 65% for overhead sprinklers.

If you are wondering how the drip irrigation installation pictured at right differs from using a perforated soaker hose, notice that the water is emitted only at intervals (not continuously along the hose as it is with a soaker hose).

Cons: Though there are a lot of positives to a drip system, if it is installed improperly, your system will not work and can lead to over- or under-watering your garden.  Additionally, there is quite a bit of hardware involved in a drip system so the possibility of a piece breaking is heightened. The initial investment is a drip irrigation systems can be considerable.

3. Automatic Sprinkler System: You could also look at installing an automatic sprinkler system into your garden.  For this, you will have sprinkler heads in your garden that will automatically start up according to the times that you set.  Once set off the sprinkler system will pop up the sprinkler head and it will water the designated area.

A sprinkler system has the appeal of being set to a timer, and that will give you the freedom to know that no matter what your garden will get watered on a regular basis.

Cons: One negative is that your sprinkler system does not guarantee that you aren’t wasting water.  Sometimes sprinklers can overshoot their desired area and will end up watering the sidewalk.

Additionally, you tend to waste some water because the water shoots up high enough so that some of it has an opportunity to evaporate before hitting your precious plants. An automatic watering system is also the most expensive water system of the ones described here.

Which do I think is best?

Perforated soaker hose, drop irrigation, automatic sprinker systems – and combinations of these three – are all good choices for a water system. Garden with confidence by determining which watering system is best for your garden.

If you ask me which I think is best – It all depends on your budget and your watering needs. For my needs, the clear winner is drip irrigation.  It saves water and gets the water right to the roots of the plants.

In my previous home I used perforated soaker hose with great success for my entire landscape.  However, it was just a regular sized lot.  When I moved to my current home, which has about an acre under cultivation, I upgraded to a combination of drip irrigation and automatic sprinkler heads. I only use the automatic sprinkler heads in a small part of my garden – an area where it is not practical to use drip irrigation.

You’re going to definitely want to do some thinking as to which method fits your lifestyle, budget, and watering needs.  Once you determine which one is the best fit for you, you can be sure that your prized plants will flourish!

Photo of soaker hose courtesy of healingmagichands.wordpress.com

Photos of drip irrigation system courtesy of northerngardensupply.ca

Photo of automatic sprinkler system installation courtesy of eschlandscaping.com