What is drip irrigation?
Drip irrigation is a method of controlled irrigation that delivers water directly to the root systems of plants, helping to reduce water evaporation and aid in water conservation. A drip irrigation system typically consists of ½” black or brown poly-tube supply lines combined with a series of drip-emitters, 1/8” tubing, and possibly micro-sprayers on risers, depending on the specific watering needs of the site. Some polytube also comes with built-in emitters, so that no separate emitters are needed, typically spaced 12” apart.
Examples of dripline installations
Once the drip lines are pinned in place, either bark mulch or landscape gravel can be used as a top-dressing to hide the lines and present a neat, finished look.
A well-installed drip system will be virtually invisible in the garden, and your plants will flourish as if by magic!
What is the difference between drip irrigation and sprinkler irrigation?
While drip irrigation lines are usually laid above-ground, sprinkler irrigation supply lines are buried (which is why it’s sometimes referred to as “in-ground” irrigation) and are usually made of white PVC plastic. (PVC is most common in the Okanagan, but a type of black polytubing is more popular in other parts of the country, though it should always be a more heavy-duty, thick-walled polytube than that used in drip irrigation).
Sprinkler systems also run at a higher pressure than drip systems and use more water. Both systems may be connected to an in-ground valve box linked to an automatic timer. Sprinkler and drip lines may – and often are – be combined in a single system. However, drip and sprinkler lines should never be combined on the same zone.
Where is drip irrigation used?
Drip irrigation is best suited for garden beds, including vegetable gardens, flower, trees, and shrubs. It is also ideal for container plants and hanging baskets.
Drip irrigation systems can be used for lawns, but this is seen more rarely. Because in this case the lines are placed underground, they must be installed before a lawn is put down. While in most cases sprinkler irrigation is still best for lawns, drip can be a great option for small or oddly-shaped grass areas where proper sprinkler coverage might be difficult.
What are the benefits of drip irrigation?
The main benefit of drip irrigation is its greatly reduced water consumption – up to 60% less than sprinkler irrigation. Because water is slowly emitted at the base of the plant where it’s needed, evaporation and runoff are minimized.
Drip irrigation is also better for the health and appearance of plants. Delivering water directly to the roots encourages growth and reduces the likelihood of fungal diseases like powdery mildew, often caused by excess water on foliage.
Sprinklers in garden beds often end up being blocked as shrubs increase in size, resulting in some plants being over-watered while others receive none. Installing drip lines beneath the plants greatly increases the likelihood that each one will continue to receive sufficient water as your landscape matures. And if needed, additional emitters can easily be added to existing drip lines over time, whereas in-ground systems are more difficult and costly to adjust.
Sprinkler systems overspray large areas, meaning that even the soil in beds where plants are widely spaced gets watered, encouraging weed growth. Because drip emitters can be placed along a supply line only where there are plants that need watering, weed growth is less likely.
Drip irrigation has the highest efficiency of all irrigation methods. That means less water is wasted and more is concentrated on the desired location for maximum return. It also reduces the risk of soil erosion and contamination of nearby watersheds by runoff containing fertilizers. For these reasons it is especially suitable for our hot, dry Okanagan valley, and is increasingly coming to replace sprinkler systems.
At MCG, we specialize in custom drip irrigation systems. Contact us today to discuss an innovative watering solution for your property.