The case for drip irrigation

At this time of year, when summer sun is doing its annual roasting of central Texas, I am often thinking of the best ways to keep all of my lovely plants alive.

As gardeners we must try our hardest to conserve as much of our precious water for our landscapes as possible. Drip irrigation, without question, is the best way to accomplish this. 

The traditional approach has been to use hoses and sprinklers. Then along came the high-tech underground systems with their automatic timers, pop-up sprinklers and rotors.

All of these simply throw water in the air in the hope that some of it might benefit the turf, flowerbeds and plants that it lands on.

Drip irrigation, however, is a focused technique that supplies the right amount of water directly to the plant’s base. Plants love it, and will show their gratitude by flourishing through these hot summer months.

To set up a drip system, connect a soft poly pipe to your water faucet, and run the pipe along the soil surface.  The next step is to punch ‘emitters’ into this pipe at the base of each plant.

Gardeners often use mulch to cover the pipe and emitters to further conserve moisture.

Some other benefits of drip irrigation:

1. You save water (and therefore money) since there’s no evaporative loss to the air. It all goes directly to the plants.

2. Water is added to the soil slowly. This reduces and often eliminates water loss due to run off.

3. Weeds don’t get watered as much.

4. Plant diseases, like powdery mildew, are kept at a minimum because foliage is kept dry.

5. Water can be tailored to individual plant needs. Water loving plants can be given more by adding extra emitters, while xeriscape plants have less.

6. Best of all, drip irrigation is easy to install for both existing flower beds and vegetable gardens. Often there is no trenching and existing automatic systems can be adapted easily.

When we combine drip irrigation with native and adaptive plant species, we can then all make the very best use of water… our most precious resource. Happy Gardening everyone!

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