Sure, it’s good to be water conscious. We should be responsible with our water simply because we live in a desert. Many of us use expensive culinary water in the yard and garden, giving added incentive to be water-wise. However, a case for water-wise ornamental and vegetable garden irrigation can be made without any water conservation motive.
Micro-irrigation is a low-pressure type of irrigation that can reduce overwatering a landscape. This form of irrigation slowly delivers water directly where it is needed, preventing runoff and reducing evaporation. Micro-irrigation systems use 20 to 50 percent less water than conventional sprinkler systems. These systems can incorporate micro-spray sprinklers, bubblers and drip emitters. With minor nuances, they all apply water where it’s needed in just the right amount.
Drip irrigation delivers water slowly to plants through tubing and emitters. Water is typically applied at or below the soil surface. The vegetation stays dry while the soil gets wet.
There are many advantages of using drip irrigation. Only areas directly around plant root zones are irrigated. Plants often undergo less stress due to variations in soil moisture because water delivery is near immediate. Systems can be designed for use in all types of terrain and soil conditions. A low, targeted flow allows irrigation water to be distributed to a larger area.
Micro-spray sprinklers and bubblers are like drip irrigation in that they focus water delivery to specific plants and only to the root zone. They differ in that the water is applied more quickly and for a shorter period. Designed correctly either system can provide you with a healthy, reduced maintenance landscape.
One of the biggest benefits from my drip system has been weed reduction. Plants need three things to grow: sun, water and soil. If those three things are present, plants will grow whether we want them to or not. We often provide those elements and then get frustrated when weeds pop up in the spaces between desired plants. One way to combat this is to take water out of the equation. Micro-irrigation will eliminate most of the summer-time weeding needs. Regardless of other benefits, this has been enough for me to make the switch.
Many of our plant diseases can be reduced or eliminated simply by keeping irrigation water off foliage. Powdery mildew, blight and other fungal and bacterial diseases can be significantly reduced by keeping the foliage dry. Blossom end rot in tomatoes can be reduced through more consistent soil moisture. Insect problems are much more variable. Spider mites, for example, are going to be favored by the dryer microclimate created through micro-irrigation.
I’m afraid this year is going to give many of us a crash course in living with limited water. With just a little knowledge and money, anyone can switch to micro-irrigation. This year you may find increased incentive to tighten up your water use. If you make the effort to switch, you will be rewarded with fewer weeds, healthier plants, less pesticide use, AND a lower water bill.