Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Irrigation-Dealing with the Elephant in the Room

If you asked me the most frustrating thing that I could remedy when it comes to gardening, that's irrigation.  This has been the most time consuming, frustrating, and baffling thing to me.  One day I am beating myself up for overwatering only to see the plants bone dry hours later.  Do I have any idea about how much to water?  No!  

In my defense, the weather changes here drastically.  In the last week, we have had an almost 50 degree swing, so I am only held a little to blame..

Last year, I watered for HOURS, DAILY.  You might that think this was too much but my plants would have told you a different story.  Even now, while the temperatures in the low 70s in the day and 50's in the evening, they dry out fast.  Even if you live in my zone 8b, I think that only applies to temperature ranges, it doesn't take into account, humidity, soil conditions, rain fall amounts.   I live on the Alabama coast where the heat reaches over 100 degrees and humidity rises, right with it.  Some people say that our July, is other people's December.  Meaning it is so hostile outside, you have to stay indoors.

So this year I vowed to change this.  I was so burnt out by late fall, that irrigation took the fun out of gardening... This year I think I have decided what to do.  

First I planted perinneals and ornamentals that once established, they would require little care. 

Second, I grouped plants close and with similar water needs...which is a lot.

Now, how to irrigate.

Well, you first choice is's great if you can get it.  We do have torrential downpours which are such a welcome sight.  Watching a downpour, you suddenly realize that you just can't compete with mother nature, you are just babysitting your garden until their "mom" visits again.  

I want to caveat that, I get my water from a well and drought has never been an issue so droughts and water bills are not in this equation****

Pros to rain- it's free, you don't have to do it yourself, and it's a lot, covers a lot of area
Cons- unpredictable, can't order it on demand, sometimes it's too much....

That being said, here are my options.

Manually water them.  This will still be a requirement but not a daily four hour requirement this year.
  • Pros, you can see the plant in question and give it specifically the amount it needs.
  • Cons, very time consuming.  In my case, you have to switch hoses and drag hoses a lot and time wise just inefficient.

When I first started gardening, I used these a lot.  Hauling over acres from the house to the front field on a quarter long mile drive....think that took a while?
  • Pros- well, you plant is getting water and you don't have to deal with a hose
  • Cons- you are limited to the water in the bucket and it's heavy

Container plants can use water globes.
  • Pros- acts as a confined drip system.  Give water throughout the day
  • Cons-still have to watch them, They may not look good in the plant, and kinda pricey.  Limited to amount of water in the globe.  But you still have to water the container plant.

  • Pros...covers a large area, easy to place, provides a lot of water, cheap to buy, no installation
  • Cons- Sprays on leaves which cause black spot, can beat up plant or rose, you are water the weeds, you have to move it, you can hurt plants in moving the hose, hoses running everywhere

Soaker hose
  • Pros....easy to install, good for compact linear beds, doesn't spray water on leaves, realitively inexpensive. 
  • Cons- Pressure isn't real good in long ones, it waters weeds, have to run it a long time, doesn't hit the plant quite right unless its linear

Soaker hose around the hydras and bareroot rose

This is the very large area in question but at least its confined.

Small sprinklers on hose...set of three
  • Pros- It uses a more direct area to spray, versus a wide area.  Mid priced
  • Cons- Not a lot of pressure, not a lot of coverage, didn't care for this.

I use the mister landscaper irrigation system.  You have a couple of options, You can use drip or you can use sprinkler heads or both.  This is an example of one.
  • Pros ...Needs low pressure, can turn off the specific sprinkler  if the area in question doesn't need as much as others on the line, can use different types of sprinkler heads, pretty good about delivering water to the area you choose.  You can, also, shut off individual sprinkler heads.
  • Cons..The little thing costs about 5 dollars just for the stake, it sprays foliage, time consuming to set up, easy to knock over, mow over, or step on.  Still watering weeds

Drip Irrigation on a Mr Landscaper system
  • Pros- needs low pressure so long lines are effective in delivery water, efficient in delivering water, cheaper than the stakes.  Delivers the water to exactly where it's needed, doesn't spray foliage, doesn't water weeds.
  • Cons-made the mistake of attaching to branch which will hurt the plant, you have to frequently check the hoses to make sure they haven't shifted from the plant roots, time consuming to set up, hoses "hide" so easy to miss or run over, etc. Can't turn it off like I can the sprinkler head.

They are attached to a long black hose.

You put them at the roots

I attach a water timer.
So I have decided to go with the drip system.  Specifically because I can run a long tube and still deliver water effectively long distances.  I am opting to intermittently put sprinkler stakes but I'll think about that more.

Would love feedback on this one....


NellJean said...

Water is the most controversial element of the garden. When to water, how to water, how deeply to water, how to conserve and retain the water one uses and how to make it easier are all hard questions.

I am grateful for every drop the heavens pour out.

During weeks of drought, I water as seldom as possible; always deep watering as evidenced by sticking my finger into the soil, or using a little cheap meter with a probe or pulling up some weeds to see if their roots are wet.

Most of my watering equipment other than hoses is improvised in some way, like rainbird type sprinklers on long metal pipes with a metal spike welded on and a hose attachment.

Can you imagine how many hoses I have? LOL.

Besides sprinklers, I use soaker devices that I think I described to you in a previous comment. We have inground faucets in the gardens.

He-who-mows says he wishes he'd just run more pipe and attached to the farm irrigation system so he could just crank up a diesel engine and water several acres around the house at once like a good rainstorm.

Meanwhile I just try to do what works.

Janie Jurkiewicz said...

Funny you mention the piping and I didn't. I am running piping. We have an additional shallow well, and a creek that runs the length of the property. I didn't mention in this post, but I am running underground piping from a dedicated well. I am like you and I can never have too many hoses. But as you probably know, hoses leak and lose pressure. This year I really wanted infrastructure. I don't see my new found hobby going away anytime soon so I wanted to put in investments now before I go along and have to work around things later. The drip irrigation is a pain, but I have found it to be the most efficient method...just have to install it but considering the hours and hours of time watering it saves me, it's worth the I am remind myself before I embark on this chore..