Vegetation depends on a combination of factors to thrive, one of which is moisture. Since it’s not always wet, it’s essential to irrigate your fields for your plants to thrive.

Irrigation is the application of water to the soil by humans to facilitate crop cultivation. It’s useful during the dry season or in areas that receive inadequate rainfall.

Sources of irrigation water include rivers, lakes, wells, surface water, groundwater, recycled water, and so on. You must devise a mechanism to deliver the water to the fields. Below, we shall discuss the main types of residential irrigation systems you can utilize.

Drip Irrigation

Sprinkler shooting water The drip or trickle system is a modern technique of watering plants. Its popularity grew in the 1960s after achieving high success in irrigating water-stressed areas in Israel.

The method is highly economical on water, and it’s suitable for an array of crops like vegetables, flowers, and fruits. It’s also ideal for extensive landscaping where watering one plant at a time is challenging.

Most drip irrigation systems convey water through plastic tubings of 12 to 16 mm diameter fed from bigger pipes. Typically, the system supplies water via drippers (or emitters) near the base of the plant.  Some versions wet the soil from below.

In this irrigation system, there is minimal evaporation since the watering point is often under the crop’s shade. Furthermore, drippers emit little drops that you can regulate depending on the plant’s water requirements. It’s an excellent irrigation method for windy areas because the wind does not divert water.

You may need to run frequent irrigation cycles to maintain optimum soil moisture. You can automate the irrigation system to water specific sections at specified times.

Pros of Drip Irrigation

  • Reduces evaporation due to localized application
  • There is a possibility to supply soluble fertilizer with the water
  • Minimal pollution when using non-potable water
  • Controllable water distribution
  • Reduced labor
  • Field topography does not count
  • Lessened soil erosion

Shortcomings of Drip Irrigation

  • The initial cost can be substantial
  • It may not be the best for top-dressed fertilizers
  • Subsurface irrigation reduces your ability to estimate soil moisture

Sprinkler Irrigation

This watering technique mimics the rainfall. The system sprinkles water through the air so that it lands on the ground surface like the rain. For the system to create a spray, a pump generates pressure that forces water through small nozzles or orifices.

The user must adjust the system for the water supplied to match the infiltration rate of the soil and refill the crop root zone uniformly. You should be careful when selecting nozzle sizes and defining sprinkler spacing and operating pressure.

Sprinkler systems are excellent for watering the lawn. If you own a garden, you can use sprinklers to grow vegetables, flowering plants, dry crops, and orchards. The method is also suitable for plantations.

If you have an uneven garden, you can use sprinkler irrigation effectively without having to level it. It’s useful in hilly or rising and falling ground where landscaping is expensive or not practicable.

It’s also appropriate for shallow soils. For coarse sandy terrains with high percolation rates that don’t retain water, sprinkler irrigation is ideal.

Types of Sprinkler Systems

The main criteria used to categorize sprinklers is their mode of distributing water. Below are the main categories of sprinkler systems available today.

  1. Spray Heads

Also referred to as fixed spray heads, the system sprays a fan-shaped pattern of water through small heads. Most of them are compatible with different nozzle sizes to regulate the irrigation pattern and throw radius.

Common watering patterns are the full and the half-circle. There are also specialty nozzles for long throws in narrow areas. If you have an expansive lawn or garden, you can space the heads up to 18 feet apart.

  1. Rotors

Rotor sprinkling systems operate by rotating streams of water in circles or back and forth over the landscape. The impact rotor is probably the most popular rotor sprinkler, which fires bursts of water back and forth.

Gear-driven rotors are slowly overtaking impact rotors for several reasons. They are smaller, silent, and require minimal maintenance. Such systems water a field with one or more streams.

  1. Rotary Nozzles and Rotators

These rotors are typically the same size as the average nozzle on a spray sprinkler. You can fit them on the less expensive spray head bodies. Water conservation agencies recommend them since they produce less mist than traditional spray heads, making them more efficient.

Pros of Sprinkler Irrigation

  • Suitable for most soil types
  • More control in water application
  • The system is quite mobile
  • It creates a conducive microclimate for crops
  • Less clogging of the system
  • Applicable in difficult terrain
  • Reduced soil erosion

Shortcomings of Sprinkler Irrigation

  • The initial cost of implementation can be significant
  • High energy requirement due to constant pumping
  • Inefficient water use in high wind
  • Saline water can destroy the crops
  • Not economical for freshly prepared land

Surface Irrigation

The most widespread type of irrigation across the world is surface irrigation. It’s the method most people use to water their yards and small gardens.

The principle is basic straightforward; you water the ground surface and allow the water to seep. If you use a watering can or hosepipe to spray your plants, you practice surface irrigation.

This watering method, however, can be demanding and wasteful. Some plants can be receiving too much water while others in hard to reach areas aren’t getting enough. Due to such inefficiencies, plants like shrubs and trees may not receive the amount of water needed to develop the root structure required for proper growth and support.

Pros of Surface Irrigation

  • Inexpensive deployment and maintenance
  • Wind doesn’t affect its effectiveness

Shortcomings of Surface Irrigation

  • Inefficient water use
  • Standing water can destroy some plants
  • Possibility of soil erosion

Blended Irrigation

When it comes to irrigation, the objective of every gardener is watering the fields most efficiently. The watering method is not as crucial as the outcome. Since every irrigation method has its shortcomings, innovators have come with ways to combine different systems to form blended irrigation systems.

For instance, you can have a sizeable field and plant a range of vegetables and orchard crops. If you use sprinklers, the fruit trees can prevent the water from reaching some areas. A drip irrigation system may be a challenge when your plants are close together.

Furthermore, plants have different levels of water requirements. One irrigation system may not suit a mix of crops.

One solution can be using sprinkling rotors to deliver water over expansive areas and targeting specific plants with a low-drip irrigation system. Advanced blended irrigation systems include programmable controllers to monitor the weather and manage different zones and watering durations.

Pros and Challenges of Blended Irrigation Systems

The benefits and shortcomings of these systems will depend on the complexity of the system. Typically, blended systems are more effective than any irrigation method used in isolation. If you install an automated system, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and labor, but they are costly.

Summing Up

There are many considerations to make before settling for a given residential irrigation system. You have to factor the size of the field, topography, soil type, weather conditions, crop types, and so on.

You may also want to choose the most efficient irrigation method in terms of water and energy consumption. However, you can only install what’s within your budget. Think through your needs and the amount you can spend and pick the most suitable irrigation system for your home. Contact us for more information.