Irrigation or watering might sound simple, but it is actually the hardest part of gardening since you pretty much have to do it every day. While it can be calming and can serve as a good pastime, it just takes so much time, effort, and energy.
This is why most people create semi-automatic watering systems in their gardens. Instead of manually watering your plants through garden hoses or water buckets, you can just turn on your water supply and continue on with your day!
However, the biggest question about watering still remains— should you use drip irrigation or a sprinkler system?
In this article, we will try to answer that. We will help you know what irrigation system is fit for your garden’s landscape, plants, schedule, and even your house budget!
What is Drip Irrigation?
Drip irrigation is made of PVC tubes which are meant to get the water straight to the plants’ soil. The main pipe is connected to a water source, and the series of tube connections are laid down all around the garden.
While it may look too traditional and troublesome to install, drip irrigation is the most preferred type of irrigation among gardeners growing vegetables simply because the water gets directly to the soil where they’re supposed to be.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Drip Irrigation?
The first advantage of drip irrigation is that it can save lots of water simply because it goes directly to the plants’ soil.
Aside from this, it can lessen the growth of weeds and other invasive plants since only specific areas of the garden are irrigated.
Drip irrigation can also boost the health of your plants since they get the water they needed no matter how big their leaves and stems become.
On the other hand, drip irrigation requires time and energy to install around your garden, especially if you have a large one. This is because you would need to place the drips into your plants’ soil areas manually.
If you have animals around your place, your drip irrigation could also be in danger. Since they’re made of PVC material, they could be easily torn and nibbled by animals. These tubes could also be clogged now and then, especially if you have an unreliable water source.
While the direct watering feature of drip irrigation can be taken as an advantage, an excess of it can also be dangerous to plants. Excessive moisture in the soil can enforce the growth of bacterial and fungal diseases on plants.
Lastly, you should store your drip irrigation indoors during wintertime. This is because PVC pipes, including the water buildup inside, will freeze and break because of the temperature. Needless to say, you would need to re-install it after winter.
When to use Drip Irrigation?
Drip irrigation could be really helpful if you’re growing crops and plants through elevated garden beds. This is because the sprinkler system may not be able to water them properly because of the elevated bed, fences, mesh, and other accessories used to protect the plants.
Furthermore, drip irrigation is really advised if you’re growing vegetables. Compared to growing flowers and other plants, vegetables greatly need moist soil. This helps the compost break down the nutrients in the soil so your vegetables could absorb them.
It’s also best to consider the sun exposure in your garden. If your garden can have access to sunlight for at least 6 hours a day, it’s best to use drip irrigation. This is because you would need that much warmth to maintain regulated water evaporation in the soil. This reduces the risk of bacterial and fungal disease because of too much moisture.
What is a Sprinkler System?
A sprinkler system is the easiest way to water your plants. Basically, you just have to set up an in-ground sprinkler, and the water pressure will do the job of reaching your plants and other areas of your garden.
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Sprinkler System?
The ease of use is definitely the top advantage of the sprinkler system. Unlike drip irrigation, you might need to check every now and then if all the pipes and drips are working. A sprinkler system is a piece of set-and-go equipment. Just turn it on, and you can carry on with your other task.
Sure enough, a sprinkler system can cover more land area than drip irrigation. One sprinkler can water up to 200 square feet. You can also do that with drip irrigation, but you would need hundreds of meters of PVC pipes.
Most sprinkler systems are cheaper and easier to install, too. Basically, all your really need is a durable water hose and the sprinkler head, and your irrigation system is already set up.
Furthermore, as long as your sprinkler system is made of durable water hose and sprinkler, you can leave it outdoors during winter.
On the other hand, the sprinkler system can waste up to 80% of your water. Because it needs pressure, it uses almost 10x more water than drip irrigation.
There’s also a great possibility that the water will not penetrate the soil. Instead, the leaves and stems of plants will get it. For most vegetables, this could be useless since it’s the soil that needs to be moisturized frequently.
This indirect soil irrigation can also cause a great amount of water to evaporate. The branches, leaves, and other parts of the plants are slower to absorb the water compared to the soil.
A sprinkler system can also increase the growth of weed and other unwanted plants. This is because it literally spreads water everywhere, even in those places where you aren’t growing any plants.
Lastly, a sprinkler system can lead to uneven irrigation. Obviously, plants that need the sprinkler tend to grow better and faster than those that don’t get much water.
When to use Sprinkler System?
If you are maintaining a lawn, then the sprinkler system is the best choice for you. This is because it can cover more area than drip irrigation. The sprinkler system could also help in maintaining a green turf.
If you’re growing flowers and not vegetables, then sprinklers will also do. Flowers need less water compared to vegetables. And instead of direct soil irrigation, watering the flowerheads is also a must.
If you live in a cold place or your garden doesn’t have access to direct sunlight for at least 6 hours a day, it’s best to use a sprinkler system. Places like these have less tendency of evaporation. Therefore, if you use drip irrigation, the soil will maintain the moisture for a longer period than usual and may cause overwatering.
Aesthetically speaking, a sprinkler system is easier to match with your garden design. Aside from the fact that they come in multiple colors, it’s only made of one water hose. This can be easily concealed compared to multiple PVC pipes around your garden when doing drip irrigation.
In short, if you’re maintaining more of a lawn and a decorative garden, it’s best to use a sprinkler system. However, if you want to keep a vegetable garden, you should go with drip irrigation.
Other irrigation systems:
If you don't think either drip irrigation and sprinkler work for you, then you can try a DIY misting system and plant watering stakes.
A DIY misting system releases atomized water. This makes it perfect for greenhouse use and germinating seeds as it has the least tendency of overwatering. You can also install it on your patio and make it your own outdoor cooling system to beat the summer heat!
On the other hand, plant watering stakes are funnel-like containers that are punctured through the soil. You just have to fill up each stake with water, and they will release it at a slow and regulated pace. Pretty much like a drip irrigation system, only that it goes straight to the ground.
Even though the gardeners do the irrigation and watering, your garden and your plants get to decide which one is best for them. However, you should remember that your garden will still not grow without your full commitment and guidance, no matter what irrigation system you chose.