No landscape design is complete without some sort of irrigation plan. It is a costly mistake to plant gardens and lawns if you won't have a working system from day one to keep it all alive and thriving. If you choose your plants wisely, the irrigation system shouldn't be difficult to manage, particularly if you consider plants with similar water needs. Irrigation can be a time consuming part of your planning process, but it is crucial to the success of your landscape.
A drip irrigation system is a good choice for plant and flower beds, vegetable gardens, and beds with trees and ornamentals. Drip emitters put small amounts of water right where it's needed -- at the root system -- delivering a slow, steady trickle of water that sinks deep into the soil. Emitters should be placed according to each plants' needs. Drought-resistant and drought-tolerant plants should have emitters placed away from the root system to avoid shock.
Sprinklers toss water into the air, treating vegetation to a rain shower. Sprinkler systems should come on only in the early morning. A lot of the water is lost through evaporation, particularly if the system is delivering water in the afternoon when the sun is at its peak. Drip systems are best for deep-rooted plants, while lawns need sprinklers. Most yards benefit from a combination of the two.
Soaker hoses are a form of drip irrigation, without automation. You connect them to a water source and they “weep” water from tiny holes along the length of the hose, usually with a 2- to 3-inch watering width. You can place them on the ground or bury them under mulch. Several hoses can be connected to one another to run an extensive line of irrigation. A soaker hose can also be made more permanent by cutting it to your garden's dimensions and placing end caps or hose fittings where needed, before burying.
Al alternative to water wells and city water systems is rainwater harvesting. You collect rainwater in barrels or large underground cisterns and use it to water the yard. The trick to rainwater harvesting is to prevent evaporation by maintaining a closed system. Large above-ground ornamental cisterns have been used for centuries for garden irrigation as well as a drinking supply. Harvesting rainwater is practical where water is at a premium and it's not possible to run electricity to the area that needs watering. Hoses can be attached at the spigot or output device and directed where needed.