Spring gardens often thrive due to April showers. The same can’t always be said for later season gardens that often lack the blessing of rainfall. If you live in an area that is particularly dry during the hot summer months, you know how much time and expense is required to keep plants well-watered. Luckily, there is one thing that you can do at the beginning of the season that will save time and a great deal of money by slashing your garden’s water consumption by up to 60%.
A drip irrigation system delivers just the right amount of water, one drop at a time, to the plants’ root system. This eliminates the water waste that is so common with sprinklers and hand watering. Very little water may reach the root system of plants, and much disappears due to evaporation.
A simple drip system includes a ½-inch PVC pipe that connects to the main water source for your home. The system is easily concealed or can sit on the soil surface. The ½-inch pipe connects to a ¼-inch pipe that branches into lateral lines connected to water emitters. Some emitters have a bubbler head, while others may have a spray head or plastic tubing to disperse water.
One of the best things about a drip irrigation system is that it drips one drop at a time through pressure valves. Because the system is automatically controlled to apply water at the same rate that plants can absorb it, the exact mixture of moisture and air is maintained in the soil. This means that plants do not suffer from too much or too little water, which can be fatal if left unchecked. Run-off issues are a thing of the past, as the water is readily absorbed via gravity into the soil and taken up by plant roots.
When you install a drip system, expect water savings of at least 40% and up to 60%. This is huge, especially in areas that experience arid conditions. Using a drip system not only saves water but also results in healthy plants and better production. Plants that become stressed due to improper watering don’t grow as well as those receiving just the right amount of water.
You can even add plant food to your drip irrigation system by using special attachments. One of my favorite things about drip irrigation is that you can set it and forget it. You don’t have to worry about being gone a few days and your garden going without water. Plus, you no longer need to set an alarm to remember to water your plants. Best of all, my water bill is half of what it used to be since I started using this incredibly simple, effective watering system.
If you aren’t quite ready to install a drip irrigation system, you can try this neat garden hack that works to deliver water to plants slowly. Breathe new life into large coffee or food tins that you have been saving. Remove the lids and punch some holes around the sides near the bottom of the can. Set these containers down into the soil before you plant, with the container’s lip just above the soil level. Plant your garden and fill the containers with water. The water will slowly drip into the soil and keep your plants happy for days at a time when rain is scarce.
Another way to slowly water plants is to turn a soaker hose upside down and use it to deliver water slowly. Very little pressure is needed to provide just the right amount of water to thirsty plants.
Keep your plants happy this summer and cut down water use by employing these great slow-drip systems.
-Susan, CBHC, Master Gardener