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View Full Version : Watering with a sprinkler VS. drip irrigation


Lochlainn
March 20th, 2012, 08:09 PM
Hi Folks,

I was wondering if I could pick yer' collective brains for a few ;-) Last year I bought and installed an elaborate system of soaker hoses complete with individual shut off valves for each bed only to find out that soaker hoses are a complete waste of money...in my opinion that is. More than half of them developed leaks and after running them for a few months the hoses became clogged with sediment and did not function properly. This year I am thinking of designing a pvc pipe drip irrigation system...we'll see what kinds of funds and energy are available hehe...

The other night I was sitting on steps of the back deck and was staring at my garden brainstorming like I usually do after work and was thinking about how nature waters....it comes from the rain (unless it's a plant next to a stream etc.) and it comes down from the top. The more I garden the more I find myself leaning towards mimicking how nature does it... I have no till garden beds which are permanently mulched year round, just like is found in nature. I have found this to be a very effective method of gardening which protects the soil structure and provides a welcoming environment for all of the worms and beneficial microbial communities. The mulch also helps retain moisture, regulate soil temperature and also keeps the weeds down.

The common cons listed for watering from the top via a sprinkler that I can think of are:

1. It wastes water by not applying the water directly to the plants that need it.

2. It can cause mold and fungi to grow.

3. It can cause the soil to splash up on the plants and introduce soil borne diseases etc.

In regards to number 3, I don't think this really applies to my situation because I use a mulch which protects the plants from soil splashing up on the plants.

The pros that come to mind are:

1. It would be the most least expensive method. A fully designed drip irrigation system would be a bit costly. In regards to the water bill I pay a flat rate via our land lease in which water is included, so the water bill price is not an issue. There may be an environmental issue though in regards to conserving water.

2. It would be very easy to setup and take down at the end of the season

3. Because all of the mulch would also be wet down, it would cause the mulch to break down faster adding to the nutrient value of the soil faster.

So ya, in continuing with my goal of gardening in such a way that it mimics nature, I am considering watering from the top down via a sprinkler. The pvc drip irrigation or a drip tape irrigation system would be very cool too...just considering my options and also pondering the philosophical issues at hand in regards to nature's method of watering as well. That being said I know it doesn't rain every day and watering the way that nature does via rain is dictated by the weather patterns. Sometimes gardeners have to step in and help nature out if we choose to grow crops which need a little help sometimes.

In regards to mold or fungi growing I think that if you watered every three days or so and let the top dry out in between that you probably wouldn't have that many problems...although this is just speculation. What do you guys think ? Thanks :D

-Lochlainn

Ezzrider
March 20th, 2012, 08:28 PM
I use the overhead or sprinkler watering systems. I believe in my case the overhead sprinklers are the easiest to install, most cost effective, best working and easy to maintain. I have approximately 3000 square feet of garden space (between 2 gardens) set up this way. I have my sprinklers on timers and water during the night hours. I have adjusted my sprinklers over the past two years to the point I only water within my garden areas unless the wind is blowing which does not happen much at night. I am on a well so I do not pay extra for water. There are a lot of farms I see going to the drip watering systems underneath black plastic. They water and fertilize through those pipes. I believe the drip systems are most likely the thing of the future but for me the old sprinklers will have to suffice and I have had some very successful gardens over the past few years using them. As you said rain comes from the top and is natures way of watering long before we had sprinklers or drip systems. PS Ya can't get a rainbow from a drip system!

Front garden sprinklers
http://i1191.photobucket.com/albums/z466/ezzrider/DSC06419.jpg

Main garden sprinklers
http://i1191.photobucket.com/albums/z466/ezzrider/DSC06398.jpg

RAINBOW!
http://i1191.photobucket.com/albums/z466/ezzrider/DSC06264.jpg

BWArtist
March 20th, 2012, 10:48 PM
I use all types of irrigation. There are pros and cons with all of it.

As far as the soaker hose I only use 1inch diameter hose and I buy it in bulk to get the cost down and I install my own end fittings. You have to regulate your hoses evenly or they will blow holes. I don't use soaker hose with ditch water or any kind water that carries sediment. I don't have the same problem as you describe. I only use clean well water.

Sprinklers work well but I try to restrict use to night time. Even on my pivot sprinklers in the hay fields.Less evaporation. Less damage to foliage(cold water on hot leaves) It does slow them down.

Sprinklers in garden are best installed permanent for the season. I hate tromping in mud. But most crops do better with soaker hose or row ditch.

I'm in CO and I see your in NH. Hot fall weather with cold nights is harder to deal with in a sprinkler system.

If it were me,I wouldn't give up on the soakers and just refine what you have. More regulation. Filter the water source. Buy a 250 ft by 1 inch commercial grade hose and keep their length no more than 50 feet.

But what do I know. Your in a different climate and that decides a lot.

jeffinsgf
March 21st, 2012, 12:07 AM
I would go with drip, but not with PVC. You've already mentioned the reasons, less evap and less over-spray. If you take another look at drip, using black poly line that you can punch fit emitters into is very economical. The line is a third or less the price of hose that you'll have to string to sprinklers. The emitters are cheap and last for years. I have mine on an automatic timer, but that's not necessary. All you really need is a pressure regulator, a filter and a valve. You don't even need tools to put the stuff together -- except this funny little thing that pokes the hole in the poly line for the emitter to push into.

LuvsToPlant
March 21st, 2012, 05:48 AM
Loch...living in the same zone as you, the only thing I can think of....
is... if there is anything you are growing prone to powdery mildew and other fungal
problems...overhead could be a problem.
If there is...just plant in another area that can be hand watered.

Not all plants needs are equal...so take that into consideration.
...as well as not all plants need the same amount of water.
Overhead or drip....
:)

nut4nature
March 21st, 2012, 06:43 AM
We just did this exact transition last weekend. Out with soaker hoses that were not performing efficiently (over watering some places under watering others). We installed the drip irrigation system in our garden areas (containers) and beds. We couldn't be happier. With the selection of sprays and plugs we're able to adjust between 1-10 gallons per hour flow, 45 degree sprayers/misters and adjustable spikes with 90 degree sprayers enabled us to customize for each plant's specific watering needs along the line. On and off values give us control to zone areas. We live in the south and our heat can get brutal, not wasting water to evaporation and enabling the plants to be so targeted with the volume and type of delivery of the water is encouraging!

Tutter
March 21st, 2012, 07:26 AM
I've always used overhead sprinklers, never had problems with all the things people tell me they cause. I do have sandy loam that drains very well though, maybe those with denser "clay" soils might have those troubles, I really don't know.

I irrigate in the morning or evening, they run for about 2 hours (that's how long a tank of gas lasts then they shut off.)

I find it best to give a good soaking if the weather's been dry for a few days, rather than giving them a "sprinkle" daily...kinda like the way nature works...there isn't a 10 minute rain shower every day, so I never understood why folks think plants would want a little bit of shallow watering every day. They need a good, deep watering, but not every day!

bugpicker
March 21st, 2012, 07:40 AM
I use a drip system that sounds just like what jeffinsgf uses. I'm very happy with it with the exception of needing to filter my pond water to prevent everything from clogging up. We have a large filter in the beginning and smaller filters in each line. We have it on a timer.

We had the same experience with soaker hoses but maybe due to the pond water but I think the elements have an effect on their longevity.

Ezzrider
March 21st, 2012, 08:27 AM
I've always used overhead sprinklers, never had problems with all the things people tell me they cause. I do have sandy loam that drains very well though, maybe those with denser "clay" soils might have those troubles, I really don't know.

I irrigate in the morning or evening, they run for about 2 hours (that's how long a tank of gas lasts then they shut off.)

I find it best to give a good soaking if the weather's been dry for a few days, rather than giving them a "sprinkle" daily...kinda like the way nature works...there isn't a 10 minute rain shower every day, so I never understood why folks think plants would want a little bit of shallow watering every day. They need a good, deep watering, but not every day!

I also have sandy soil underneath all the horse manure compost I have tilled in. I run my sprinkers normally for 30 minute durations 3 times a week. I find that puts about 1 1/2" to 2" of water a week. Again as my soil is sandy it drains very well.

jpsmithny
March 21st, 2012, 12:31 PM
I like the drip irrigation the best. I can target specific plants with what they need and I have less problems with fungal diseases.

My system is just like jeffinsgf. It is a little labor intensive setting all the emitters so one thing I am trying this year is drip tape. The emitters are built into the hose. I thing you can get them every 6,9,and 12 inches if you wish.


It's initially a little costly but I can put it on a timer and not worry about it.

garnede
March 21st, 2012, 01:21 PM
I would like to try drip irrigation but it is too expensive for me right now. I overhead water with a lawn sprinkler. I try to do it in the morning so the heat of the day can dry it out. I have found that if you plant too close together you can stay too humid, so be sure you plant accordingly. I also use a homemade drip, 1 gallon jugs with a small hole in the bottom buried 6-8", for water hungry tomatoes. It keeps the water and roots deep and worked well for me last year.

Little Minnie
March 21st, 2012, 09:04 PM
Oh Lochlainn why did you bring this subject up again? People have very strong opinions about it and I am one of them. Soakers would be great if they worked as they should (sort of like Transitions lenses). I used them for years before switching to all good t tape drip lines.

Pros of watering by drip IMO are:
you can work and water at the same time
you save water by not losing it to evaporation
you can water in heavy winds
you water only the plants and not the paths which reduces waste and weeding
you reduce the wetness of plant leaves (nature waters from above but we are trying to control outcomes such as planting tempermental domestic plants and get a good harvest so we are not talking about wild nature)
you lose less nutrients from runoff
you water more slowly which also reduces runoff and gets a better root system
no problem watering tall crops such as sweetcorn

Cons:
expense to start with (my 1/2 acre garden will be about $500)
I found it easy to put together once I got the gist of it but it isn't as easy as putting a sprinkler on a hose
one other con is when you broadcast seed beds you can't water as broadly with drip lines as with overhead. I plan to keep a few sprinklers set up to soak the seeds when needed
the last con is that I have used sprinklers to protect plants from frost by watering overnight. I will do this by, as i just mentioned, having sprinklers set up and ready for whenever needed.

Little Minnie
March 21st, 2012, 09:08 PM
I also want to add that as much problems as soaker lines have been for me, sprinklers were as bad or worse. I have had them fall down and blast rows of onions to death and stop turning when I have them on all day while working. And I always have wind so that sucks. I have gone through dozens of sprinklers in a few years! I use the pulsating kind and even arranged my garden for 3 years in semi circles so I could water evenly but dang that never happened! I always had watering problems and I am finally through with it. Of course this isn't such an issue with a small home garden.

Billy B
March 21st, 2012, 09:19 PM
We use a drip system by DRIP WORKS. We have t-tape for most of the system but do also use verious emitters. They have a starter system that is not to expensive.

idigbeets
March 22nd, 2012, 07:02 AM
I also want to add that as much problems as soaker lines have been for me, sprinklers were as bad or worse. I have had them fall down and blast rows of onions to death and stop turning when I have them on all day while working. And I always have wind so that sucks. I have gone through dozens of sprinklers in a few years! I use the pulsating kind and even arranged my garden for 3 years in semi circles so I could water evenly but dang that never happened! I always had watering problems and I am finally through with it. Of course this isn't such an issue with a small home garden.


that's why I use a tri-pod w/ good feet and a komet gun.. sure the cost is a little pricey however I can irrigate cover crops and most of an acre w/ one gun.

http://www.kometirrigation.com/w3k/index.jsp?k=68&l=2

EmeraldSkye
March 22nd, 2012, 08:24 PM
I use drip lines, PVC, sprinklers, etc! Let me explain. Here s pic of our system going in:

http://img411.imageshack.us/img411/4166/img0731t.jpg

The PVC is going to a faucet that is actually always on and is fed by a valve that is turned on and off by a timer, just like with regular landscape irrigation. The PVC is about a foot below ground and you can see the black riser coming up off of that.

On the riser you can then put the black poly line that you can punch fit emitters into as jeffinsgf talks about, and run drip lines from that. Or you can put this multi-head thingamagig like this one on the riser:

http://img408.imageshack.us/img408/383/img1000g.jpg

You can see it on the right side. From that thing you can put drip lines like you see here if you'd like. I used to do that but, like you, I like no-till and I found that the parts of the bed that stayed dry became hard to work and there was not as much worm activity of course in the drier spots. I thought it would be best for the health of the bed overall if I replaced those single-line emitters with spray heads like these:

http://img826.imageshack.us/img826/4921/img3145g.jpg

My garden, and my learning, are a work in progress but so far this is the system that I like best. I don't have to make a line for each plant. I don't like the in-line-emitter lines much. I like the full-coverage spray of this system because the entire bed gets watered (if overlapped properly), the paths don't get watered, and the watering is low enough to water below the leaves of plants that are sensitive to that (such as tomatoes) and some plants that do get wet don't seem to mind (such as spinach). My watering is on a timer and happens very early in the morning. It's like having a helper in the garden.

EmeraldSkye
March 22nd, 2012, 08:35 PM
Oh, and if you like the spray emitters, I prefer the "fan spray" over the "stream spray". You get full coverage without having to try to aim eight streams at plants.

djonesinNC
March 23rd, 2012, 08:50 AM
I'm now in drip irrigation camp and agree with jeffinsgf. I transitioned to the system last year and found it to be worth the labor for the initial setup. You can run additional lines from the main hose and connect misters or sprinklers with various spray patterns; as well as emitters that drip directly @ the plant base.

delynnr
March 23rd, 2012, 01:02 PM
I use a drip system with most plants having their own emitter (the bigger ones: tomatoes, beans, cucs, squash) and smaller plants having small area spray heads that cover their individual beds. I would NEVER go back. I am in CO - so very dry. Watering the plant at the base saves so much water I can't fathom doing anything else in our dry climate.

It was not cheap to setup, but it is very cheap to maintain. My neighbor uses soaker hoses and I hate them. They get water where you don't want it and not enough where you could use it. I am sure you could use them better, but she can't seem to.

Overhead watering would have all of my plants that are susceptible to mildew down before I could get a crop. I have tried that and it is not worth it to me to waste energy on a plant that will not produce. I guess I figure nature has nothing to do with me wanting to plant all the veggies that I grow in Colorado, so trying to mimic how mother nature works is already moot.

EmeraldSkye
March 23rd, 2012, 01:25 PM
I use a drip system with most plants having their own emitter (the bigger ones: tomatoes, beans, cucs, squash) and smaller plants having small area spray heads that cover their individual beds.

I do agree with this point. There are plants that just work better with the drip emitters rather than the spray head. Squash, for example. It's the best way to get water where the plant needs it, under the leaves, without wetting the whole plant down. And I'll probably use drip on tomatoes until they get big enough to trim up the lower leaves, then consider switching the head to spray if I feel that overall the rest of the bed is staying too dry.

garnede
March 23rd, 2012, 01:51 PM
Cons:
expense to start with (my 1/2 acre garden will be about $500)


Do you mind sharing where you found that price? That seems very reasonable to me. If it was a local business then please share the brand of drip product you bought. Even if it cost $100-150 for my small 2000 sq.ft. garden it would be worth it.



Lochlainn, while overhead watering is nature's way, the way most of us grow tomatoes (my biggest problem with overhead watering) is not natures way. I have to tie up my plants every few days, but the plants want to lay flat on the ground and root along the length of the vine. Also in nature there is more competition for resources making most fruiting plants a little or a lot less productive.

RozieDozie
March 23rd, 2012, 02:11 PM
We are "drippers". :) Have been for years, but that's because it works for us. We don't use the emitters anymore, just the drip line with 'no drip' line to connect so that we don't waste water. We put the line under the mulch. We have automated systems for some things, but you can start out small and just connect to the garden hose. An El Cheapo timer from Lowe's will turn the water off if you forget you're watering.

No doubt in my mind that after the initial set up that drip is cheaper if you're paying for water. There's not much waste and if you combine drip with mulch, there's little evaporation.

Here, people water overhead with seemingly no problem, so I imagine that it's what you prefer and what works best for you. Last year we had a drought and the drip kept our garden green and growing.

Here's where we get ours. They're very reliable, have good products and ship quickly. Never have ordered their kits.

http://www.dripirrigation.com/

Billy B
March 23rd, 2012, 04:35 PM
garnede, Check out Drip Works at www.DripWorks.com They have a row crop kit that has 200 ft of t-tape, 100' of main line, a bunch of fittings, hold downs, a punch, a pressure rgulator, filter. and other stuff for about $75 its a good kit that can be expanded upon. They are very helpful as well while you are getting started. I buy stuff locally as well but think they are a quite a bit cheaper. There are other sorces out there but thats one I know about off the top om my head

Little Minnie
March 23rd, 2012, 06:09 PM
I bought the starter kit last year from Fedco and it came with 0 instructions and didn't even have the parts named. I am getting more footage and barbs this year from Dripworks unless I find it somewhere cheaper. I am ordering it tonight.

Lochlainn
March 23rd, 2012, 08:26 PM
Thanks for all the replies folks! I really appreciate all of the input. That site http://www.dripirrigation.com/ looks amazing...I wish I knew where to start though hehe... so many different options.

garnede
March 23rd, 2012, 10:18 PM
That is a lot cheeper than I thought it would be. I spent more than that buying a hose and overhead sprinkler that wouldn't need replacing after one year.

jeffinsgf
March 23rd, 2012, 11:00 PM
...I buy stuff locally as well but think they are a quite a bit cheaper....


Billy, do you shop at Ewing, or is there someplace I don't know about?

Billy B
March 24th, 2012, 09:27 AM
Jeff I have bought quite a bit from Hummerts but they no longer have irrigation in stock. They will order it but will be higher in cost. For emitters I normally go to lowes if I only need a couple. If I need a bunch of stuff I still use Drip works I tried the Irrigation place in Nixa but fouind them to be way out of line. I have never used Ewing do they mind small buyers/users buying from them, and are their prices in line with mail order?

EmeraldSkye
March 24th, 2012, 02:07 PM
I'm lucky. A few blocks from me is a company called "Lane Irrigation". It's where a lot of the landscapers buy their products and it's better quality than I find in a big box store. So, if you can identify the local source for professional landscapers that might be a good place to start. They can even tell you in person what you need, or help you figure it out.

Little Minnie
March 24th, 2012, 06:10 PM
I ordered from Drip Works this year because their product selection for tape was better. I have the kit from Fedco from last year with some tape, mainline and fittings, and the filter, vac thing and start of the line stuff. So for 7500 feet t tape, 500 ft mainline and enough fittings for 125 lines my total was $365 plus shipping, which is low. I will be using about 6300 feet of tape this season. I got the tape that emits every 4 inches for crops like onions, root vegs, greens, corn and legumes. The cucurbits and tomato type crops wouldn't need that close.

jeffinsgf
March 24th, 2012, 06:42 PM
Jeff I have bought quite a bit from Hummerts but they no longer have irrigation in stock. They will order it but will be higher in cost. For emitters I normally go to lowes if I only need a couple. If I need a bunch of stuff I still use Drip works I tried the Irrigation place in Nixa but fouind them to be way out of line. I have never used Ewing do they mind small buyers/users buying from them, and are their prices in line with mail order?

They've never turned me down, but the first time I walked in, I bought enough stuff to do my whole 3/4 acre yard. The next time, I brought a friend with me and bought enough to do his front yard. They've been pretty tolerant of me buying bits and pieces since then. I think with the economy the way it is, they don't turn away any business. Their prices are right in line with M.O., and no shipping.

LuvsToPlant
March 24th, 2012, 07:40 PM
This is just a corner ...of one field... out of four fields

That use drip emitters

http://idigmygarden.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=13634&d=1315044301

This is the fall garden...with mums.

They do come in handy for the plants that do not like wet foliage/flowers
:)

Lochlainn
March 25th, 2012, 09:24 AM
This is just a corner ...of one field... out of four fields

That use drip emitters

http://idigmygarden.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=13634&d=1315044301

This is the fall garden...with mums.

They do come in handy for the plants that do not like wet foliage/flowers
:)

Hey Luvs, that looks just like our setup at the the garden center I work at. We use the drip emitters for mums as well. :)

thursdaymoon
March 26th, 2012, 01:18 AM
My experience after purchasing a drip tape system is that I wish I hadn't. It was expensive. It was a pain to set up. The critters virtually destroyed it the first season. I have to move it to weed, as well as be otherwise concerned about stepping on it, etc.

I wish I had stuck with overhead watering! (Rather, I will be returning to overhead watering this spring, and trying to decide if I should offer the drip tape to a friend or just throw it away :( )

LuvsToPlant
March 26th, 2012, 06:11 AM
Hey Luvs, that looks just like our setup at the the garden center I work at. We use the drip emitters for mums as well. :)
It really does come in handy and keep the plants healthier on a large scale.
Those mums grow about 18 inches across...proud to say.

Lot easier to feed as well....:)

Here's another corner of the mum field...
http://idigmygarden.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=13635&d=1315044301

We lay them down on landscape fabric...

LAC
March 26th, 2012, 07:55 AM
Has anyone ever tried this?

http://www.providentliving.org.nz/gardening/bottle-drip-irrigation/

Little Minnie
March 26th, 2012, 07:26 PM
I'm having some problems with my Drip Works order and shipping cost. I will update after it is resolved. I have so many shipping problems!

LuvsToPlant
March 26th, 2012, 07:36 PM
Has anyone ever tried this?

http://www.providentliving.org.nz/gardening/bottle-drip-irrigation/

Sure it works! :)

You will have to play with it and get the right drip for yourself.

I have used similar methods for my houseplants
and other things while on a
trip etc..


ps ...I otfen take a gallon jug...fill ....with water cap on
and hang from a tree... leaves camo the jug
...and let drip below into a birth bath
just takes a thumb tack hole.
:)

Little Minnie
March 27th, 2012, 11:48 AM
Ok update. My order was placed with 'wholesale' prices for a savings of a good $150 but it charged me the retail shipping instead of wholesale shipping so that was why it looked like such a great deal. Now they caught it and (sent it before asking) are charging me more for shipping. So my order came to $450.93 total. Yes I am upset that it didn't show the right shipping when I placed the order and that they didn't uphold that price since it was their mistake not mine. However, I will have little irrigation cost after this year.