A beautiful garden or a lush lawn needs regular watering in order to stay healthy all season long. Watering the garden by hand though can become time consuming, especially in the height of summer when the watering demands increase.
Taking the time to set up an irrigation system in the garden can be time saved in the long term, with the added benefit of reducing water wastage since you control where the water specifically goes and how much gets distributed.
There are irrigation options to suit every garden but the abundance of choice can be quite overwhelming when having to decide what kind of irrigation system you need. Deciding when it is best to use sprayers or drippers is an important factor in irrigation success. Here is a quick break down of the differences between sprayers and drippers to help you decide what is best for your garden:
Sprayers are best suited to large areas like lawns or large garden beds and will indiscriminately wet everything in its reach including the soil and the entire plant.
Within the sprayer range you can have control over the area you want watered and even how vigorously you would like that water delivered.
Most sprayers have the option of spraying in a full, half or quarter circle or even in a narrow strip so you can ensure that only the garden or lawn is watered, and paths, walls and fences are left dry.
Sprayers also vary in the type of spray that is given off, from small droplets in a fine mist to a robust sprinkler effect with larger droplets.
The various sprayers also vary in the distance the water is distributed across your garden and also the pressure that is it delivered. There are fixed and adjustable versions available allowing increased flexibility when setting up your irrigation system.
Deciding on which sprayer you need depends on what you are trying to spray. A fine mist or a gentle spray can be great for seeds and tender young seedlings and for plants that enjoy humid conditions such as fern and, of course, delicate plants that can be harmed by vigorous watering. Whereas a sprinkler spray is more suited to a lawn or large garden area.
While there is a wide range of sprayers for every situation there are a few downsides to be considered:
- Watering this way can result in loss of water through evaporation, run off and water being blown away.
- Watering the leaves of the plant can create humid microclimates making the plants susceptible to fungal diseases.
- As everything in range is watered, you can encourage the growth of weeds.
- To ensure even coverage extra effort is required to plan out the ideal irrigation system layout.
- As plants grow, they can interfere with the spray pattern and block water from their neighbours.
Drippers deliver water in a more specific way, as the name suggests, dripping water near individual plants and specific areas. They also come in a range of styles to suit their intended location and water pressure and also include adjustable drippers so you can adjust the area being watered.
Drip irrigation is slower than spray irrigation but delivers the water directly to the soil and the roots so there is much less water loss to evaporation and the plants stay dry, so the risk of fungal disease is greatly reduced. Allowing a good steady drip at the roots for a longer period of time will encourage the roots to grow deeply and become more resilient in dry periods.
As well as for specific plants like shrubs and trees, dripper irrigation is great for container and hanging baskets.
Drip line hoses, with evenly spaced drippers are a great way to water larger areas such as vegetable gardens, annual flower beds and hedges. As an added bonus, drippers work well with low water pressure.
While drippers can be a great choice, they have a few drawbacks.
- They aren’t suitable for large areas such as lawns.
- They can become blocked with dirt, grit and insects and require checking and cleaning from time to time to ensure the system is working well.
Once you have decided which option is the right one for you there are a few more points to consider:
- Ensure your water supply has enough capacity to support your sprays or drippers. Perform a bucket test to determine your water flow rate which will help you determine the number of lines you require.
- Don’t mix drippers and sprinklers/sprays on the same line as they have different flow rates.
- Don’t use too many drippers or sprays on one line as this will reduce performance.
- You might want to consider a “set and forget” approach by adding an electronic tap timer to your system.
Setting up an irrigation system allows you to effortlessly and efficiently target your plants’ specific watering needs. The initial investment in time is paid off with years of hands-free irrigation. Using the Neta DIY irrigation planner and reading through our step-by-step installation article will make the installation process easy.
Make sure to keep in mind these 10 handy hints and tips to make the job even easier.
#1 Take the time to plan
Take ample time to design your irrigation plan using the Neta DIY irrigation planner to ensure you have all the components you need to get the job done and to ensure your irrigation system will water your garden effectively.
#2 Let the sun help out
To remove the curl from new poly pipe, unrolling it and laying it in the sun will help straighten it out. Rigid Pipe Stakes can hold the poly pipe in place as it softens and relaxes.
#3 Heat things up
Heating the end of the poly pipe in hot water for a few minutes will soften it and help when slipping the poly pipe over the barb on the fittings.
#4 A clean cut
Make sure the end of the poly pipe is cut as straight as possible to ensure a good connection with the fittings. The poly pipe is soft enough to be cut with a good pair of scissors.
#5 Ratchet Clips
Rachet Clips are important to help keep fittings in place, especially if you have strong water pressure. Use a pair of pliers to lock the Rachet Clips in place for a strong fit. Make sure the arms of the Rachet Clip are properly aligned when clicking it tightly, if they are at an angle to each other they are at risk of popping open.
#6 The Multi Tool
The Multi Tool serves as a punch spanner and has a hex socket that can be used to push microjets and joiners into place. It’s especially useful for when using Goof Plugs to repair holes in the pipe since they can sometimes be fiddly to handle.
#7 Stay clean
Avoid getting dirt in the pipes or fittings while assembling your system as this can block the drippers and sprayers.
#8 Consider your soil
Your soil type can affect the frequency of watering. A light sandy soil will require watering more often and for longer than a heavy clay soil.
#9 Perform a test
To determine how long to water your garden, run the irrigation in 10 minute increments and wait a couple of hours. Then dig down into the soil to see how far the water has penetrated. If it is still dry below the surface you will need to run your irrigation for longer and if it is soggy you may need to water for less time. This may require adjusting in hotter weather.
#10 Water wisely
To avoid wasting water, try to water early in the morning to avoid loss through evaporation. An electronic tap timer can help with this early morning chore.
Follow these tips and once you have your irrigation system set up and have determined the best routine to suit your soil and plants, all your garden watering needs will be taken care of at the turn of a tap.
Rain gauges play an important part in water conservation. They provide the ability to determine how much extra water an area actually needs to supplement rainfall avoiding over-watering. They measure rainfall in millimetres over a set period (usually 24 hours) which can then be recorded on a rainfall recording chart.
Neta Rain Gauges have large openings to catch a larger surface area of rainfall and have easy-to-read increments. They are available in 150 mm & 250 mm models, are easy to install and include a rainfall recording chart. Each rain gauge suits different budgets and levels of expertise.
Recording your rainfall using the Backyard Rain Gauge
The Backyard Rain Gauge is tapered therefore perfect for the accurate measuring of low rainfall thanks to its wedge-shaped body. It can measure up to 150 mm of rainfall.
A few considerations:
- It is important to record results of the rain gauge at the same time every day.
- Water in the container will produce a curved surface, called a ‘meniscus’. Always take the reading from the base of the meniscus and at eye level.
- For more accurate results, install rain gauges in pairs at six meter spacings and record the average of the gauges. This reduces the effect of strong winds on your results.
- A rainfall chart is included for recording your results and additional copies can be found at netagarden.com if need be.
Recording your rainfall using the Professional Rain Gauge
The Professional Rain Gauge has a large capacity and can measure up to 250 mm of rainfall. It has a small diameter inner cylinder for accuracy and a large outer cylinder for increased capacity. It comes supplied with stainless steel screws and a rainfall chart. It can be removed from its bracket allowing a closer look at the measurements.
A few considerations:
- Again, record results of the rain gauge at the same time every day.
- If you only have rainfall in your inner cylinder, simply measure the water in the rain gauge by removing the inner cylinder and recording it on your rainfall chart.
- Where rainfall has been extra heavy and has overflowed into the outer cylinder, measure the water in the inner cylinder, record the amount on a separate piece of paper and empty the gauge. Then take the rain contained in the outer cylinder and pour into the inner cylinder, measure and add the measurements from the inner and outer tubes together, record the total amount on the rainfall chart.
Installation is extremely easy. Simply attach the Rain Gauge to a post in a safe location where there will be no run-off from trees or roofs. The minimum distance needs to be at least twice the distance away from the tallest structure. For best results, make sure the gauge is straight and vertical, and located as close to the ground as possible.
For more accurate results, install rain gauges in pairs at six meter spacings and record the average of the gauges. This reduces the effect of strong winds on your results.
Looking at nature as a guide, 10 mm of rainfall is considered good for the garden in most areas. Rainfall of 10 mm is equivalent to 10 litres of water spread evenly over a square metre of garden.