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« Asian Greens for your Fall Garden | Main | Cool Down Your Greenhouse This Summer »

Benefits of Drip Irrigation : A Tale of Two Gardeners

Your morning routine has always been rushed. But during the hot summer months - when your organic garden requires more frequent watering -  the race with the minute hand really gets underway. Between your second cup of coffee and running that blouse from the dryer to the ironing board, you wade through a gauntlet of holly bushes to the nearest spigot, and eventually wrangle water from a perpetually kinked up hose.

And it’s been extra hot this summer, so your garden is thirstier than a Las Vegas golf course. Minutes fly by like your twenties as it it guzzles water. By the time the soil is fully saturated, the sun is soaring high above the tree tops, and text and email alerts from work vibrate your phone right off the back porch. 


Meanwhile, your neighbor never seems to water her garden. And not that you really noticed or anything, but her garden doesn’t just look healthy, it looks like a professionally lighted product photo from a fancy organic gardening catalog. And there she is, sipping coffee on the patio, while writing poetry in her journal.

Perhaps she might dedicate a verse or two to the low pressure drip irrigation system that makes her mornings so pleasant. True, the humble plastic tubing may never ask how your day was, but it can give you more time, which is really better anyway, and improve the success of your organic garden.


Besides the obvious time saving convenience of having an automated watering system, drip irrigation has several big advantages over supplemental watering by hand or with sprinklers 

Drip irrigation tubing buried in the top six inches of soil makes water immediately available right in a plant’s root zone. As water is passes slowly through each drip emitter into the surrounding soil, it moves through the soil in all directions ; downward by the force of gravity, upward and outward by capillary action. This slow delivery of water below the soil surface allows the plant to absorb more available moisture through its roots.


Even when special care is taken to avoid surface evaporation by watering in the morning, a substantial amount of water directed from overhead will still be lost to evaporation. Wind, surface runoff, pressure, and other factors can result in even more wasted water from larger overhead sprinkler systems.


Another advantage drip irrigation has over hand watering and overhead sprinklers is that it keeps plant foliage dry. This helps prevent fungal diseases like powdery mildew, that thrive in conditions with wet foliage and poor air circulation.  


But surely drip irrigation must have its weak spots, right? What if you forget the drip line is there, and accidentally puncture it with a trowel? Or what if the drip emitters get clogged by soil particles or roots grow into them?


Sure, your irrigation system won’t bring in the groceries, or turn the compost pile for you, but the high tech drip emitters are designed not to clog, even when buried several inches below the soil surface. If a line is severed, which can happen, the leak is easy to spot by the puddle that forms above the cut, and the repair is as simple as connecting the severed line with a barbed plastic coupling.


Best of all, a simple low pressure drip irrigation system for your organic garden can be connected to a nearby hose bib, and controlled by a battery powered timer. There’s no need to hire a contractor to install an expensive irrigation system with multiple zones and a complicated control panel.

Just make sure you have plenty of room in your journal, because you’ll want to write a lengthy ode, or perhaps even a love ballad to your new flame - drip irrigation.








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