Gardening Irrigation: What We Learned This Summer

irrigation gardening
Photo by Anthony Rossbach

As always, we learned a few things about our irrigation systems over the summer. There were times when we had to learn things the hard way–as through water restrictions, which are at least always an opportunity to go over our watering habits and see what’s really working. We also know that the end of summer is a big opportunity to go over our irrigation systems and be sure that they’re doing their maximum best for our plants at the end of a season.

Vegetable garden irrigation

One of our bigger projects was to improve on the watering of our vegetable garden. This was the summer that we finally decided to indulge in a soaker hose. It turns out to have been a nice indulgence for the vegetables and flowers, too. We’re talking about the perforated hoses that allow water to flow slowly from the entire length of the hose. We’ve had problems with them before. A soaker hose can blow out pretty easily if you’re not careful with the pressure, or if you have some pests who want do to some casual chewing that makes small holes into big holes.

Not the cheapest irrigation system

This summer went very well, though. The soaker hose kept the water going right down to the roots. We never had water on the leaves. That meant no magnified sun rays to bake our plants, and it also cuts down on diseases. It wasn’t the cheapest irrigation system. The hose has to be left on for a long time–at least, in the case of our soil. We kept digging down to see how long a hose would have to run to go the minimum six inches into the soil. A lot of people can get the job done at less cost with the same kind of hose. We’re also mulling over getting some PVC pipe next year to make our own soakers.

Lawn sprinkler system

As always, September means cultivating a new lawn. We’re bringing in some wisdom from the past few months there, too. We had been using standing sprinklers, which provides great coverage. Unfortunately, we’ve gone through a lot of them as the oscillating systems have broken down on us. This year, we went with a Whirling Nelson Sprinkler. We got the same great even coverage, but the water wasn’t nearly as misty. It felt like genuine rain droplets. We chained a lot of these together for great results. The really good news is that those droplets are perfect for our new lawn. We can tell that they aren’t heavy enough to do any damage to the seedling that we’ll be laying down this week.

Root feeders for scrubs

Finally, we’re going to stay with using root feeders for our shrubbery and a few trees. We’ve fumbled through this a few times, though. It took a while to learn that a root feeder is best positioned away from the trunk of a tree. That’s because the actual roots that take in the most water are out past the dripline. We’re also guilty of putting our root feeders way too deep into the soil. Now we’re going with a minimum of 12″ into the dirt, but never more than 18″. Sadly, we’re still not convinced that we’ve learned everything we need to know about garden’s irrigation, but we sure feel better about our upcoming new lawn–plus our prospects for next summer.