Spray or Drip Irrigation: Which Offers the Most Value?
Mar 3rd 2023
We can all agree that plants need water to survive. We also know that survival for many growing things usually includes some form of irrigation for dry periods.
There is less agreement on whether drip or spray irrigation is best for growing. DripWorks is here to help you sort out the facts of drip vs. spray irrigation so you can make the wisest decision for your situation.
Because the choice can have a big effect on your wallet and your success, spray or drip is a question worth asking. You should think about several variables when choosing the best product for your situation. These include soil type (sandy, clay or loam), aspect (north slope vs. south facing) and the type of plantings. You also need to consider water pressure, scarcity and expense of water, and the weather in your area.
For either drip or spray, watering at the right time of day is very important. Using mulch is always a good idea. For situations where there is no mulch and in a hot, arid climate, watering at sunrise and a few hours before sunset is best.
Sprayers are the best choice if:
- Top-dressing the ground around your plants with fertilizer is your preference.
A high-volume sprayer can be very effective, and the Down Spray Sprinkler is an excellent choice. It is mounted at about 18 inches on a support assembly and delivers a full circle downward spray. These types of sprayers work well in raised beds or containers for plants such as tomatoes or pumpkins. They are also good for rows of berries. In the cannabis industry, these sprayers are very popular when planting in Smart Pots, in a greenhouse or directly outside in the ground.
- You need to elevate the sprayers on a stake because of tall flowering plantings.
Adjustable and non-adjustable sprayers that cover large or small areas are available. The Micro-Jet Sprayer has an easy-to-adjust valve with your choice of spray patterns (full circle, half-circle and quarter-circle) with a maximum spray radius of seven to eight feet at 30 psi. The full-circle Ein Dor Mini Sprinkler has a flat spray pattern for even distribution of droplets and a maximum coverage of a 13-foot diameter. For total coverage of your large, glorious flower beds or landscaped areas, these sprayers are effective and very clog resistant.
- You need low-profile sprayers that can go directly into the mainline tubing.
This type of sprayer gives the spray a fighting chance to be delivered where needed in windy areas or for ground cover. The very popular Mini-Jet Sprayers work well at pressures as low as five psi. They come in various spray patterns, providing you maximum flexibility and adaptability for your needs.
- You have large setups like orchards, long property fence lines and windrows.
These can be challenging, as can situations where you need to water hilly terrain or the landscape around your yard. There is a good solution, however. The Supernet PC Sprinkler is an excellent pressure-compensating sprayer. It very effectively delivers water evenly regardless of row length or elevation changes. These clog-resistant and self-flushing sprayers are ideal for orchards or new plantings.
Drip is the best choice if:
- You live in an arid area where evaporation is a major concern.
Drip leaves only a small ring of moisture on the surface of the soil. It spreads out below ground as it is absorbed, resulting in very little evaporation. Because you can target your watering very accurately with drip irrigation, your plants' roots will benefit rather than the weeds. Drip is easily the environmentally best way to water in hot, dry climates, in areas where water is scarce, where water is expensive and where you want to water a large garden or landscape without wasting water.
- You are growing row crops or in long raised beds.
Aqua Traxx Drip Tape provides uniform distribution of water over long distances. Offering superb watering efficiency and uniformity, drip tape is ideal above ground, mulched or buried. It is great for low-pressure systems. Using drip tape is the least expensive drip method.
- You need to water round containers, window boxes, smaller wooden raised beds, and gravity-fed systems.
Soaker Dripline is ideal. This 1/4-inch dripline is flexible, easy to use and economical. There are emitters pre-installed at six-, nine- and 12-inch intervals to suit the type of soil and plants you may wish to water. Another advantage is this dripline works well if you have very low water pressure, down to two psi. Here at www.DripWorks.com, we use Soaker Dripline in most of our display garden beds for low maintenance and great results.
- Your plants are spread out and you don't want to wastewater between plants.
Individual drip emitters are a good choice. The emitters need to be inserted into the mainline tubing by using one of the many hole punches available. The Miracle Punch is the "ultimate punch" that works like a staple gun: slip the punch over the tubing and squeeze the handle to easily make a hole for the emitter. Some emitters are pressure-compensating for even flow, like the popular Woodpecker emitter used all over the wine regions of California, Oregon and Washington. Other emitters are time-tested, like the very reliable Take-Apart emitter.
- You have an orchard or property fence line, and you want a long-term setup and even flow throughout.
The very popular Emitter Tubing is the best product. This 1/2-inch diameter tubing is pressure-compensating, giving you an even flow over long distances or on uneven terrain.
When it comes to drip irrigation vs. spray heads, making the right choice can save you money, time and hassles. Although I have highlighted quite a few sprayers and drippers, many more choices are available at DripWorks.com. Look at the illustration below to see how different kinds of soil absorb the water.
In lighter soil like sandy types, a sprayer might be your best choice. In clay type soil, drip emitters work well because the water naturally spreads out from the point of origin.
When looking at the style of planting, like row crops, it becomes obvious that an inexpensive (per foot) choice like drip tape is best. Whatever your planting and however your garden is laid out, the perfect irrigation product is available for every situation.
The right watering system will help ensure success with whatever you choose to grow. Go to DripWorks.com for a quality selection and information to guide you.