Drip Irrigation is the most efficient water and nutrient delivery system for growing crops. It delivers water and nutrients directly to the plant’s root zone, in the right amounts, at the right time, so each plant gets exactly what it needs, when it needs it, to grow optimally. It enables farmers to produce higher yields while saving on water as well as fertilizers, energy and even crop protection products.
How does it work?
Water and nutrients are delivered across the field in pipes called ‘dripperlines’ featuring smaller units known as ‘drippers’. Each dripper emits drops containing water and fertilizer, resulting in the uniform application of water and nutrients direct to each plant's root zone, across an entire field.
Sure it saves time and money and we all know it saves water (at least 50% over traditional irrigation methods) but could it save even more? We believe the answer is yes!
Below is a comparison we ran using the three variations of our popular 1/4" Soaker Dripline (DSD).
When considering this product for purchase, most people choose the one with 6" spacing between the emitters. We're Americans; more is better, right? What we discovered is, even in our demo garden, we have been over watering our beds. If you look at the information for the 6" spacing you can see that we were putting down almost 2" of water per hour (enough to cause a flash flood in most areas). Even at the 9" spacing we're looking at over 1 ¼" per hour. The same theory applies for our 1/2" emitter tubing. Of course the condition and type of soil will affect this absorption rate (light soil will absorb water quickly while clay will absorb water slowly), so take that into consideration. If you have doubts about how much water your plants are getting, take the time to probe your soil and see how deep the moisture goes. We think you'll be surprised.
More Ways to Save Water with Drip Irrigation
In your garden, try reducing the duration setting on your timer or irrigation controller by a minute each time you water (if your timer allows). When you see your plants beginning to show signs of stress, you'll know you've reached the bottom limit and can begin adding those minutes back, one at a time, until your plants are happy again.
Watering earlier in the day helps, especially if you apply a layer of mulch to slow down the evaporation. It's also better for warding off opportunistic attacks by powdery mildew and the like.
You might also try watering more often, for shorter durations. Two 5 minute cycles will result in deeper watering than one 10 minute cycle and earlier in the day is better than later. If you're watering your yard for an hour, try reducing the watering cycle by 5 minute increments. When you get near the 1/2 hour mark you may see signs of stress in isolated parts of your landscape. If it's just a plant or two, consider adding a couple more emitters. If it's more than that, it may be time to add more time to the duration.
Remember, some plants take longer to show distress. When adjusting your watering schedule, keep a close watch on things.
Maximize the effects of your water with mulch. I know you've heard this before but by now it should be your mantra.
Other Ways To Save Water
Take a look outside. Is your yard or garden a showcase for exotic plants? If so, consider replacing them with drought-tolerant native species. The plants in your area have survived for millennia under local conditions and will likely flourish with a little attention. If your drip irrigation system is automated, install a rain-sensor on your controller. Not all timers have this feature, but the Galcon Greenhouse Timer does. Pruning plants properly often helps them use water more efficiently. Consult an arborist about the plants in your locality.
If you're gravity feeding your garden with collected water and want to automate your system, check out our Toro Zero Pressure Timer. Direct water from your roof and gutter system to a barrel or water tank. The Clean Rain Advantage Diverter can help collect water while screening out debris.
In the short term, there may be little we can do about the drought. But implementing these water conservation measures now will surely have a huge impact on our resources for the long term.