Drip Irrigation: Use Water Wisely

Drip irrigation means efficient garden water use and results in savings in water, time, and expense. Avoid wasting water.

At a time when water is in increasing demand, it is important to water your garden with conservation in mind if you garden in a region with a deep aquifer.

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” ~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

Conserve Fossil Water

Garden irrigation is a fact of life around the world. Few gardeners are fortunate enough to live where rain provides enough water to raise a crop. The rest of us must rely on irrigation to water our gardens.

When water from a deep well is used for irrigation, the source of the water is fossil water. That is, water from a deep underground aquifer. Here in the Arizona desert, we depend on water from a 650' deep well. It would take many lifetimes to recharge overuse of this water source.

Fossil water is often isolated from rain and surface water by many strata of rock and can take thousands of years to replenish. For all practical purposes, this water is a non-renewable resource and every effort must be made to conserve it.

To prevent unnecessary depletion of the water in our aquifer, we try to use our irrigation water wisely. Through an efficient drip irrigation system design, we can get the most “bang for the buck” out of our irrigation water.

We use drip irrigation exclusively to minimize water loss through evaporation such as is the case with any overhead or sprinkler watering. Water is introduced directly into the soil and does not pass through the air first.

Level beds for even watering

Over the past year or so, we have converted most of our garden to raised beds. One important factor was the equal distribution of water throughout the garden bed. Our land is on a slope and, naturally, so is our garden. We originally bermed our garden beds to retain water, but found that water distribution was unequal. Even with drip irrigation, the up slope plants were thirsty while the down slope plants had wet feet.

With raised and leveled beds, we can provide evenly distributed water for all the plants in the bed. We use less water and avoid either over or under watering.

Container gardening and backyard gardens

For watering container gardens, you will probably be just fine with a sprinkler can or soft spraying hose nozzle. Keep in mind, watering regularly and applying sufficient water is important to your garden, big or small.

Backyard watering systems can be designed simply and efficiently. We suggest attaching a splitter on a backyard spigot to retain access to you garden hose. On one side of the splitter, install a pressure regulator and a connector from pipe thread to black plastic 1/2” hose. From the connector, run your irrigation hose to your garden and distribute to water through 1/4" perforated drip hose.

Remember, there is no one “right way” to design a system. Just keep in mind that the purpose of irrigation is to water your garden. You can create an elaborate, often expensive, system or choose effective and economical irrigating.

The principle is simple. Get sufficient water to your plants in the most efficient way possible. Regular watering is important for good results. Make sure that your watering is deep enough to get to the bottom of the roots.

Note: Over-watering is to be avoided as much as not giving your plants enough water. Few plants thrive in saturated soil. They don’t like “wet feet” any more than you do.

Using water, surface or fossil, is an inescapable part of gardening. Watering is also participating in the consumption of an essential resource.

We can live without oil, but we can’t live without water. Use water wisely.

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