Last Updated on May 26, 2021 by masudalam
Irrigation systems have become quite popular over the years and can be extremely helpful in providing the proper watering method for your yard or garden. There are many different types of systems, but there are 3 primary options that are considered when choosing the best watering system for a vegetable garden,
which include Drip Irrigation, Soak and Spray.
Drip irrigation has a steady drip within the garden at the top of the root or alongside of the plants, soak irrigation usually includes a soaker hose that consistently saturates the ground of the plant and spray irrigation provides a synthetic rain on top of the plant.
1. Drip irrigation
Drip irrigation is a low pressure, low volume irrigation method that is suitable for any type of garden because it is placed at the base of the plant where the stem ends, and root begins and steadily drips allowing for the plant to stay hydrated.
It keeps roots wet without over-saturating and drowning the plant. Although, drip irrigation works well in all gardens,
it is best to implement in a larger one with long, straight rows. This system works great in a yard or garden with a slope.
This is best for perennials and vegetables, as they need a lot of water, especially if they are summer plants. This is also a great option for trees and shrubs that are generally large enough that they can benefit from a slow yet consistent flow of water.
This is NOT a great system for a yard because it does not provide enough water to a yard of any size with a simple drip. It is one great way to water your shrubs, vegetable garden and hanging plants, or any non-grass areas.
Drip irrigation save you water by only dripping without a consistent flow.
Installation is as simple as connecting the ½ inch tubing to your outside faucet, attaching the emitters that drip the water, and maintaining the hose, and making sure to check it frequently for any ripped or damaged sections.
Drip tape is a flat tubing that must have a pressure reducer in the waterline to function properly. Drip tubing is a thicker, heavy duty plastic and can be purchased with pre-installed emitters or you can manually install them. More detailed installation method is as follows:
- Plan a grid with hoses and the not yet installed emitters showing the plants you want to water and how far apart they are.
- Place an emitter where each plant is at or will be if you have not planted yet.
- Each emitter should be 12 inches apart in sand, 18 inches in loamy type soil and 24 inches in clay dirt.
- Place a piece on the faucet called a backflow preventer to keep any water from rain or watering from getting in your drinking water.
- Place a hose adapter to fit the diameter of the system’s main line.
- Then connect the system’s main line to the backflow preventer, then run it to the garden.
- If your yard is big enough, install T-connectors to split the line in different directions.
- Punch holes with the emitter tool and install emitters.
- If plants are more than 1 foot away from the line, cut 1/8-inch emitter tubing and attach the feeder line to the emitter on the T-branch and then attach an emitter to the end of the feeder line.
- Combine ends of the individual lines with caps and secure with band clamps.
- Clean your system every four to six months by removing the end caps and turning on the water until it runs clear.
Cost of Installation
The cost of this system is very affordable, usually costing no more than $50 for a residential yard.
The cost depends on the size of the yard and quality of the materials, as well as the degree of difficulty the yard requires.
Drip irrigation has several perks including being easy, cost-effective, and appropriate for almost any yard or garden. Working on sloped ground makes it more versatile than other systems. You can control water flow to certain areas while stopping flow to others as well. This system prevents evaporation and works great in green house gardens. Most importantly, this system has a long lifespan.
it can take a long time to install depending on your yard and can become costly if the yard or garden is quite extensive. This can be considered efficient if you are only providing a garden for personal or family use. The drip tape, which is the common tubing used in this system, does not last more than a few seasons, while the drip tubing lasts for a long time.
2. Soaker Hose
A soaker hose is a porous hose, usually of rubber, or BPA-Free Polyurethane, that seeps along its entirety. As the name suggests, soaker hoses are hoses which will soak your plants. Generally made of a porous rubber material, these hoses allow water to seep into your garden slowly which ensures deep saturation instead of a shallow surface watering.
Soak irrigation is typically used for gardens on level ground by being strung along the plant or wrapped around a tree or shrub. They work best on level ground because they do not have a pressure adjustment like a drip system.
There are 2 types of soak irrigation.
One is used with a soaker hose, which is the best irrigation system for a vegetable garden. This provides a constant soaking effect on the base of each plant, keeping it from burning in the sun.
The second type of soak irrigation is cycle and soak. This requires a sprinkler to cycle multiple short bursts of water, which allows the water to soak into the soil before running off like it does when it pools for a longer period.
Soak irrigation installation only requires a soaker hose and a few attachment pieces, or a sprinkler attached to a garden hose for cycle soaking. Then affix to the outdoor faucet. These items can all be purchased at your local gardening center or hardware store. However, to make the hose as efficient as possible, there are some other steps:
- You need to decide how they will get from the faucet to the soaker hose. You can use a garden hose across the bed that needs to be connected. Or build a network of PVC plumbing pipes which will direct the water.
- You will need a tubing adaptor which is usually included in kits. This screws onto the end of the hose or pipe and makes the flow narrow down to the size which will fit into the soaker hose.
- You will also need a set of couplers. Depending on the garden size and shape, you may need T-splitters, corners, or straight pipes.
- With a T-splitter, you can go around a tree or particular plant. It can also be used to create lines that run across a wide bed. Corners direct the water around a corner like a fence or garden edging.
- A soaker hose end cap for the open end of the hose will be necessary, if you have a lot of straight hose extensions.
It is always good to make sure you have a soaker hose pressure regulator in place. This will ensure that the water is slowed down before reaching the soaker hose and prevents the hose from bursting, tearing or quickly deteriorating from over-expansion every time it is in use.
Soaker hose water pressure levels may vary from 10 PSI to much higher. Low pressure hoses need a regulator.
Something else to take into consideration when using a soaker hose is a water filter. This is extremely necessary if you have hard water to prevent water mineral deposits from getting into the hose and clogging the entire system. This can be impossible to detect so the hose will have to be completely replaced.
Multiple hoses require a hose splitter which is added after the pressure regulator is in place and can assist with splitting up your watering pattern into different locations. The splitter lets you to have several hoses running from a single faucet all at once.
The cost of these items ranges from a few dollars to a few hundred depending on the size of the yard being watered or the quality of the sprinkler if you choose to cycle soak.
You can get started for as cheap as $20 if you do not already have any of these supplies.
Next you must identify where your hose will be raised beds, level gardens, uneven areas, trees, shrubs, etc. A soaker hose should not be more than 25 feet in order to be effective. They can work up to 50 feet but the last 25 feet usually has a noticeable reduced water flow.
Hoses should not be placed directly against trees but can be within 6-12 inches around small trees and closer around more mature trees that are 2-3 feet in diameter. A soaker hose for a vegetable garden can have a loop for a few plants to encircle but if you have a lot of plants in rows, straight lines along them is best.
Benefit of using
This system is great for a residential yard or garden.
This system also delivers water to the base of your plant, like a drip system, and keeps water off the foliage, preventing fungus. Another benefit from using a soak irrigation system is weed prevention. While the weeds in a yard or garden will continue to be watered with a sprinkler system, the soaker hose only waters what is within reach of the water slowly soaking the plant roots in the garden.
Therefore, lack of water will kill off many weeds, preventing them from choking out your garden vegetation. You do not have the option to adjust a soaker hose to only water a specific part of the yard or garden, but the hose can be purchased with a timer for just a small increase to the basic hose price. These hoses disintegrate over time from sun damage, but this can be resolved with a light covering of mulch or dirt. Although they are great for small areas, a large piece of property or harvest of vegetables will not be cost effective for this type of irrigation.
Soaker hoses are an easy and efficient watering method for gardens, shrubs, and trees, but if used incorrectly you an end up with an exceptionally large water bill. This system allows enough water to flow through the hose so it will slowly seep out into the soil, therefore if forgotten, or left on too long, the entire hose will have been left seeping water.
3. Spray Irrigation system
This is the most common type of irrigation system.
This works for large and small yards alike. It also is used on most farms and gardens intended for wholesale. Owners of large properties can cover acres of land with this system. This method attaches a hose that produces water flow into a mechanism that sprays water up into the air which replicates rainfall.
Installing this type of system ranges from a small sprinkler in a personal garden or lawn to large agriculture systems that automatically roll across hundreds of acres to water an entire farm.
Farm sprinklers generally work on a pump system and require professional installation.
A sprinkler can be installed by using a garden hose, faucet and attached sprinkler. Some sprinklers move on their own across the yard, whereas some require manually relocating until the whole yard is covered.
Residential sprinkler systems, which are installed by irrigation companies, provide sprinkler heads controlled by a timer that you can set to spray at the best times of the day for the most efficient hydration. This is usually done in the morning and evening. Spray irrigation incorporates soak irrigation when you apply cycle soaking as previously mentioned.
Sprinklers differ in price depending on what you want it to do and how widespread you want the umbrella of water to cover. The benefit of this system is you can control how long and how much water is used which is not always the case with a drip or soak irrigation system.
Professional systems in a residence or on a farm can costs hundreds up to thousands but they are very efficient and well worth the investment. With farming land, the necessary equipment is what keeps the harvest from dehydrating and burning which is why it is so costly.
The profit of the investment covers the cost within one season.
This is possibly the best way to water a vegetable garden because it is not so much an irrigation system as it is an all-inclusive watering method. This system assists a person in watering above the plant for as long or as short of a time frame as you choose rather than standing around with a water hose. Unfortunately, if you have a farm or large property, this is the only option you really have, and it is a major investment to create a future harvest.
Pros and Cons of each System
There are many features with each one of the three primary irrigation systems that make them good and bad in their own way. Each one has affordable options for small residential yards and gardens as well as more costly and detailed options for acreage and farming land. The installation becomes more complex in larger areas and can cost thousands, but you can purchase most equipment for less than $100 dollars in the average yard.
The drip system can be the costliest in either a small yard or large acreage, but it is the only irrigation that provides control over where you water and how much as well as lasting longer than other systems.
This is also the only system you can use in a greenhouse because a sprinkler or soaker hose does not work off the ground, while the drip system can be built for shelving. With the proper equipment for drip irrigation, you should not have to replace it for years to come. It will not deteriorate in the sun or rust.
Spray irrigation and Soak irrigation requires seasonal replacement because of hose damage, sprinkler damage, clogs, and more.
Sprinkler systems will not generally get damaged from the sun, but they can rust if a quality sprinkler is not used.
a sprinkler system works on raised beds, ground level beds, hanging plants, and more. If you can move the sprinkler to reach it, any yard or garden can benefit from this system. Large spray irrigation is the only type of irrigation used in farming and acreage of land because it is the most cost efficient, even though it can be a large initial investment, it pays for itself within the first year of usage.
Soaker hoses have their benefits for gardens and not much else. A soaker hose would take to much water and time to provide for a lawn, small or large, but will keep any garden hydrated. With the constant weeping into the ground around the vegetation, the foliage is protected from fungus, heat, and burning, by being soaked from a sprinkler.
After looking at all the different features of the 3 main irrigation systems,
we can see that they all benefit many different yards and gardens and that they each have UNIQUE features. Rather you are trying to water a small or large area, there is something available for irrigation.
The decision will vary per person, per circumstance.
Some people may even decide to try more than one type of irrigation system just to see what they prefer. If you have several types of areas that need watering like a garden, a lawn, and a greenhouse, you may decide that a soaker, spray, and drip irrigation will all be beneficial. This can become expensive, but you can use:
- a soaker hose in the garden,
- hand water your greenhouse, and
- use a sprinkler in the lawn
to begin until you can install a drip system. Any combination of the three will be a great start for lawn and garden care. When using a sprinkler, make sure to cover your foliage in any nearby garden to prevent them from getting wet and growing fungus or burning. This can be done with trash bags or clear plastic.
The best watering system for a vegetable garden can only be determined by the owner.
Each garden and yard are different. Each person must also decide how much they are willing or able to spend, and how much time they want to dedicate to installation. The best system is what you decide is the best system for you and your yard. All factors combined it still depends on the size of the yard or garden, what type of vegetables you are growing in a garden, if you are producing a large harvest for wholesale, or what type of investment you are willing to make with your time and money.