There are many methods when it comes to watering your garden. For larger plants, including trees/shrubs, using drip irrigation or a soaker hose is an excellent way to ensure adequate water for the plants, be thrifty with water usage, and minimize the potential spread of disease. In this tip, we’ll discuss the advantages of drip irrigation and soaker hoses and why you may want to include this as part of your garden.

Drip Irrigation:
Drip irrigation works by laying irrigation tubing from a water source to garden. Along the tubing are emitters where water can drip out slowly over a period of time. Often, emitters are often pre-spaced at regular intervals while other models allow you to punch your own holes and place emitters at the spacing you need them. This allows you to target specific areas of the garden.

drip irrigation emitter
Flickr: Drip Irrigation by Joby Elliott

Soaker Hose:
Soaker hoses are similar to drip irrigation, with the difference being that water gradually seeps out and is emitted throughout the entire length of the hose. Soaker hoses can be buried in the ground or laid flat on the surface of the soil.

soaker hose

Advantages:
Both products work well, gradually soaking the soil and minimizing water runoff or wasted water. Because water never touches the leaves (like overhead sprinklers), it prevents disease by minimizing contact or splashing soil particles onto the leaves. Both methods save time by reducing labour spent manually watering (taking out and setting up the hose/sprinkler) and allow the rows between plants to remain dry. Dry soil in the pathways reduces weed growth and means more efficient use of water. Drip irrigation is considered to be around 90% efficient in terms of water usage while irrigation by sprinklers is often considered to be around 65-75% efficient.

Soaker hoses are relatively inexpensive (ex. $25 for a 100′ soaker hose), but difficult or impossible to repair if it springs a leak or gets damaged. It is difficult to target the exact areas where you want to water since water get emitted throughout the entire line and sometimes the very end of the hose can receive less water if the pressure is insufficient. Careful storage and handling is important and kinking and twisting can cause it to break and leak.

Drip irrigation is easier to fix and repair, can target exact areas, and can save lots of time once installed. Because of the labour savings from minimizing manual watering, and the ability to automate watering with a timer, it is used in many commercial farming operations. It is more expensive to setup, but a great investment for those who are busy, have erratic schedules, or want to be as efficient with watering as possible.

For more information on how you can effectively setup a drip irrigation or soaker hose for your garden, contact us for more details.

Cover Image by Jessica "The Hun" Reeder, used under its Creative Commons license.

[Got a Tip?] If you have a tip to share with your fellow urban farmers, let us know at tips@youngurbanfarmers.comWant More Tips? Browse our Tips Archive for more.