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Ways to save water in your garden using drip irrigation

The Benefits of Drip Irrigation
Drip irrigation (sometimes referred to as micro irrigation, low-flow irrigation, or trickle irrigation) is an irrigation method in which water is applied slowly and in precise amounts directly to the plant roots using low flow drip emitters. With proper irrigation schedules and selection of the correct drip emitters, along with proper installation methods, drip irrigation can maintain an optimum moisture level in the soil, combining the proper balance of water and air. This will result in less water lost to evaporation, wind and runoff, deeper root zone development and better growth conditions, while minimizing weed growth.

Water Efficiency
Drip irrigation applies water only where it is needed.  Studies using drip irrigation systems have shown results of up to 60% more efficiency over sprinkler systems. See link to a study by the University of Rhode Island.

Landscape Maintenance
Reviewing and upgrading your sprinkler system can lead to better irrigation uniformity, resulting in water savings and a flourishing garden.
Proper maintenance and use of efficient irrigation systems are key principles in reducing irrigation requirements in any landscape area. Maintenance practices such as mulching and the right irrigation system can greatly impact the water efficiency of any landscape, as well as the landscape's ability to survive a dry season.
Research at Texas A&M University has shown that an area of un-mulched soil may lose much more water to evaporation than the same area of mulched soil. Mulch is a layer of material covering the soil surface which impedes water evaporation. Mulches can be organic materials, such as shredded bark, compost, and wood chips, or inorganic materials, such as lava rock, limestone, and woven plastic.

Tips and Practices That Can Save Water

  • Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only the garden area is watered.
  • Water during the early morning hours when cooler temperatures and less wind minimize evaporation.
  • Use automatic irrigation controllers and if you have a sprinkler system, use the controller's watering program to set more than one start time per day to help reduce runoff, allowing better water percolation.
  • Change the controller's watering schedule from every day to every other day or even every 2 to 4 days; this can help the plants develop a deeper root zone.
  • Adding a rain sensor to the controller will eliminate unnecessary watering when it is rainy.
  • Reduce the size of the grass area in the garden and plant native plants. 
  • Use a drip system and water less frequently, creating healthier and stronger landscapes.
  • Cover the drip system and the plant area with mulch. Good mulch preserves soil moisture, prevents soil compaction, keeps soil temperatures more moderate, and reduces weed growth.
  • Use of drip irrigation on trees, shrubs, flowerbeds, and vegetable gardens can help in reducing weed growth, saving water and helping the garden withstand a dry season.

Issues that affect our water

Drought stands alone among the water related disasters. It is caused by too little water, taking place over a relatively long period of time, and it can happen almost anywhere. Drought can be defined as a period of water shortage, mainly due to inadequate rainfall.  When the rainfall becomes relatively scant or infrequent, it can disrupt the normal balance between the processes of precipitation and evaporation, and drought can begin. Drought can also be defined as a moisture deficiency that has serious adverse effects on communities, usually by reducing food production or surface water supplies.
Drought can be highly destructive and it is now thought that climate change may fuel a rise in the intensity and frequency of drought around the world. Drought is sometimes called a "creeping phenomenon" moving slowly but steadily into an entire region and lingering for long periods of time. To deal with drought effectively, it is crucial to determine when it started, how severe it is, and when it is likely to end.

Use Drip Irrigation
If a sprinkler system is used in your yard you may be losing water to runoff, wind and watering of non-plant areas. You may also have poor uniformity due to improper mix of sprinklers, as well as inadequate sprinkler coverage and spacing. Drip irrigation, on the other hand, avoids these problems by installation of drip outlets close to the plant root area, delivering the water directly to plants' root zones.

By reducing the lawn area, upgrading the old sprinkler heads and replacing the sprinklers near tree, shrub, groundcover and flowerbed areas with drip irrigation, the amount of water used can be significantly reduced.

The Basic Components of a Drip Irrigation System:
Filter: Drip systems require a filter to protect the drippers' and micro sprinklers' water passages from clogging.
Pressure Regulator: Pressure regulators reduce the incoming pressure entering a drip system to the recommended operating pressure of the drip or micro sprinkler system.
Drip Emitters: Drip emitters are the key to any successful drip irrigation system. Most drip emitters will have flow rates of .5 to 4 gallons per hour. To have an efficient drip irrigation system use consistent flow rates by selection of .5, 1 or 2 GPH drip emitters on all plants. Add more drippers for larger plants.
1/2" poly tubing: Use as the main line for drip systems into which the drip emitters, micro sprinklers or 1/4" micro tubing are inserted.
1/4" micro tubing:  Serves as the feeder line from the 1/2" poly tubing to the plant area into which the drip emitters and micro sprinklers are connected.
Compression fittings: Used to connect or extend the 1/2" poly tubing using a simple wrist action.  The tubing is "walked" into the fittings for a very tight fit. No tools, glue or clamps are required.
Drip Accessories: Drip systems use different types of accessories, which are important for drip system installation, such as hole punches used to make holes on the poly tubing so you can insert the drip emitters and micro sprinklers, hose ends to close the end of 1/2" drip tubing, goof plugs to plug off unwanted holes and tubing holder stakes to hold the 1/2" drip tubing in place to the ground.

We hope we have helped to clarify the principals of drip irrigation.
Drip irrigation illustration layout