Drip irrigation is the most effective way to irrigate

By PAUL GOSNELLMy Nassau Sun logo

Call it drip irrigation or micro-irrigation. Call it what you will, but call it efficient. It is the most efficient method of irrigation.

When finely tuned, your basic sprinkler systems can be as much as 75 to 85 percent efficient. But micro systems are typically 90 percent or higher. Right now, we are not able to micro irrigate lawns, but in the future, we may be able to with a system of soil sensors and computer diagnostics.

Concern over drought and wasted water resources and stricter conservation laws demand good stewardship practices in our gardens. With a good micro-irrigation plan, you can reduce wasted water, deliver water directly to the plants' roots, reduce disease problems associated with high levels of water and, in conjunction with a mulch program, reduce the incidence of weeds.

Micro-irrigation should be an integral part of your garden plan. Just as you select the right plant for the right place, micro-irrigation can be the best defense to beat the heat. This system of drip tubing and tiny sprayers delivers water right at the base of the plant.

You don't need a sophisticated irrigation network to micro-irrigate - a spigot (hose bib) will do. Setting up the system to feed a backyard's worth of plants and shrubs and trees takes just a little planning and forethought and a couple of hours to execute. Using a spigot will require a timer, backflow preventer, pressure regulator, filter and adapter for your tubing.

Most of micro-irrigation is drip tubing, that 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch tiny plastic "nubs" (emitters) that allow water to drip out at a regulated pace without clogging. The tubing snakes around and among plants and trees to get water into the soil at the roots. You can also purchase a laser-cut 1/4-inch tubing that weeps water into the soil. That is the type you'll find in the Nassau County Demonstration Garden.

All manufacturers have accessories that are specialized for different types of plants - sprays for ground cover, foggers for hanging containers and single emitters for reaching a specific plant away from the grid. Emitters come marked with flow rates so you can select the one for your specific plant. There is even a micro-irrigation for dummies kit. You still need to sit down and draw a plan for your garden to determine how much tubing and accessories are necessary.

Now that you have your plan, you've laid out your tubing, and selected your emitters, it is time to put mulch over the irrigation system.

Oh, and start planning how you are going to integrate your rain barrel into your plan and save even more water.

Paul Gosnell is an active Master Gardener volunteer with the Nassau County Extension Service.



Knock Out Double Rose


For a close look at a micro-irrigation installation, visit the UF/IFAS Nassau County Demonstration Garden at the James S. Page Governmental Complex in Yulee. Micro-irrigation is installed in the Demonstration Garden, the Palm Garden, the Herb Garden and the medians and islands in the parking lot.