University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener –
Microirrigation

Summer is our rainy season, but the dry fall months will be here before we know it. So plan now to install a microirrigation system in your garden.

Also known as low-volume irrigation, microirrigation is a watering system that carries water to plants under low pressure. When microirrigation is installed and used correctly, water use is reduced because water is delivered directly to the plants' roots instead of sprayed through sprinklers. Disease problems can be reduced because plant foliage stays drier. Unlike sprinkler irrigation, microirrigation exceeds 90 percent efficiency.

This type of irrigation system can be installed above, on, or below the surface of the soil. It can be used in various landscape and garden situation including vegetables, trees, shrubs, containers, and flower beds. Microirrigation is easily installed, and kits and components are readily available.

Originally designed for commercial agriculture, microirrigation has become very popular in home gardens. This system does require adequate maintenance, but it is relatively easy to manage.

There are three main types of microirrigations:

In-line drip tubing:  Placed on or below the soil surface or mulch, drip tubing is ideal for vegetable gardens where plants are in rows. The flexible tubing can also be easily wound through a plant bed.

Drip emitters: Used where plants are spaced farther apart or used for potted plants and hanging baskets. The emitters can be punched directly into the "header" tubing-and/or attached to "spaghetti tubes" that lead to plants.

Micro-sprayers: Used just above the surface, micro-sprayers wet a larger portion of the ground and emit more water than other types of microirrigation systems.

Microirrigation systems can be attached to a hose or outdoor faucet and controlled manually or with a battery-operated timer. They can also be “hard-piped” into an existing in ground system and automatic irrigation controller.

Some drip and spray emitters can be adjusted to control the amount of water emitted. The system needs to be regularly monitored for problems. The most common issues are emitters plugging, and punctures to the tubing.

Your plants should also be monitored for signs of too little or too much water and the system should be adjusted accordingly.

Whether you are trying to reduce water use or increase your garden quality, drip irrigation is a beneficial option.

 

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