Trickle Irrigation: Using and Conserving Water in the Home Garden
Prepared by Mark Hutchinson, Extension educator
Although Maine normally receives ample annual precipitation, July and August can be very dry. Long periods of dry weather may appreciably reduce the yield of a home garden. The critical time for vegetable production often coincides with our driest weather. Your plants need from one to two inches of water per week during the growing season for best production. Many gardeners help maintain soil moisture by mulching, hand weeding or adding organic matter. During extended dry periods these cultural practices may not be enough, so additional water may be required. Proper watering techniques will conserve water.
Water is typically lost in three ways when applied to home gardens:
By watering the right amount, at the proper time, and in the most effective way, you can conserve water and improve plant health. Trickle or “drip” irrigation is one of the most efficient methods of applying water in the home garden.
What is Trickle Irrigation?
Trickle irrigation, sometimes referred to as drip irrigation, is a low-pressure system that places water slowly and directly in the root zone of the desired plant, increasing the efficiency of the water applied. Trickle irrigation can reduce water usage by 30 to 70 percent compared to more traditional means of irrigation, such as overhead sprinklers or hand watering.
Trickle irrigation systems are operated at pressures between five and 15 pounds per square inch (PSI). Drip tape or trickle tubes are usually laid to the side of the plant row or between two rows.
Water seeps through small emitters that permit water to flow out of the pipe at a very slow rate. Emitters are located every four to 24 inches along the drip tape, depending on the desired wetting pattern and plant spacing.
Benefits of Trickle Irrigation
Disadvantages of Trickle Irrigation
Frequently Asked Questions About Trickle Irrigation
How expensive is a trickle irrigation system?
What can I use as a water source for trickle irrigation?
How do I know when my garden needs to be irrigated?
How do I determine what type of system is best for me?
Irrigation systems can be designed to fit almost every need. Determining the best system for your situation requires knowledge of your site, water requirements, water availability and planning. See the resources below to help you plan your system.
Broner, I. Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens. Colorado State University Cooperative Extension publication 4.702 (1998). Order from Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, 1 Administration Building, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-4040. As of 6/13/03 available at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/04702.html
Drinkwater, W. O. and H.E. Carpenter. Trickle Irrigation for Home Gardens. Rutgers University (reviewed 1994). As of 6/13/03 available at http://www.cce.cornell.edu/suffolk/grownet/home-gardening-general/trickle.html
VanDerZanden, A.M. Conserving Water in the Garden: Designing and Installing a New Landscape. Oregon State University Extension Service publication EC1530 (2001). Order from Publication Orders, Extension and Experiment Station Communications, Oregon State University, 422 Kerr Administration, Corvallis, Oregon, 97331-2119, 1-800-561-6719. Also available online as of 6/13/03 at http://eesc.orst.edu/ agcomwebfile/ edmat/html/ec/ec1530/ ec1530.html
Information in this publication is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.
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