Every new gardener has to answer the question: what garden watering system should I choose? You may be planting a brand new garden, or just wondering if your existing garden can be event more effective.
The system you choose to water your garden depends many factors. As we look at the different garden watering systems we'll consider factors such as water availability, garden size, your budget, and weather.
Hand held hose watering
Hand watering probably isn't what you think of as a watering “system,” but there are times when it makes sense. If you have a small container garden hand watering may be all you ever need. Or, if your climate rarely dries out during the growing season using the garden hose on the rare dry spell could make perfect sense too.
The disadvantage of hand watering is of course the time it will take you. The advantage is you spend almost no money. Grab a hose and (maybe) a sprinkler attachment or a spray nozzle, and you're ready to go!
Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jessicareeder/Soaker hoses are an easier to use variation of hand watering. These hoses have very small holes that let water slowly seep into the ground. Soaker hoses may also be called weeper hoses. They are nearly always black (to blend in with the ground) and usually cost 60-70 cents a foot.
Roll the soaker hose out through the garden in the layout that makes sense for your plants. Often people roll the weeper between planting rows. Another option is to use the hose as an additional source of water near plants that require extra water.
The key advantages of using soaker hoses for your garden watering system are the low price and flexibility of this approach. On the negative side, the water disperses slowly and you'll want to be sure you run it long enough to give the plants what they need.
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Drip watering system
Drip sprinkler systems are an excellent choice if you are trying to conserve water. They use a very low pressure and deliver the water with very little waste or evaporation. Unlike normal sprinkler systems you can easily target drip systems towards specific plants.Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/borderexplorer/
Drip watering works well in raised garden beds and containers, or to target specific plants. If you have a large in-ground garden you could still use a drip system, but it's not the most common choice. Drip lines are narrow flexible tubes and are easily cut. In any garden (small or large) you will want to be careful with the tools you use. You won't want to risk cutting the sprinkler lines.
The primary advantage of drip irrigation is the water savings and selectivity of what you water. The disadvantage is the tubing's fragility and that if you move or pull a plant you'll want to revise the system to match. Picture the impact of pulling a row of carrots.....
Larger gardens or specific plants may be candidates for irrigation channels. Channel watering is not a water-conserving choice though. You'll want to consider the importance of water savings for your needs and budget. Some gardeners plan the channels to form a pleasing shape or design. They will usually also raise the garden beds to ensure adequate drainage. An attractive example is seen at bestgardenguides.com.
Underground sprinklersCredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ciat/
The other choice commonly seen in large garden areas is to install underground sprinkler systems. These systems are equivalent to home yard sprinklers, with similar costs. They are easy to use and (like lawn watering systems) can be tied to zone-based timers. The convenience is pretty hard to beat!
Like irrigation channels, sprinkler systems tend to use more water. Evaporation and overspray will prevent some water from being used by the garden.
Now you should have a better idea of the options for your garden watering system. Consider your budget, garden size, and available time as you make your choice. Then, plan your garden plantings to take the best advantage of the strengths of the system you've chosen.