Drip water irrigation
A sprinkler is usually much better than drip water irrigation

I've talked about the problems of drip water irrigation before and today I'll talk about what you should use instead.

Why Does Everyone Say to Use Drip Water Irrigation?

It is rare to find criticisms of drip water irrigation other than that they are expensive or that they clog up.

Even most of the “Save the Water” non-profits and government organizations push drip irrigation quite heavily.

Saving water is a very serious issue and I don’t make light of that at all. It’s become quite hip as part of the whole green and organic gardening movements, which is a good thing.

The problem is that these organizations are focusing on their own problem without thinking about the whole system, kind of a scientific reductionism. Water conservation is important, but it must be done in the context of everything else.

Is Drip Water Irrigation Ever Appropriate?

Drip water irrigation can be used for certain things.

1. Containers. It can be used to water containers, which often need water every day. This saves time, but not necessarily water because enough water has to go out to water the thirstiest plants in the hottest locations in your organic garden, while other plants will get overwatered. That means you really have to plan well and use different lines where you have plants with different needs.

2. Vegetable Garden. It can be useful in a vegetable garden if it's not too big.

If you have a big garden, drip irrigation uses a lot of hose if done properly, because it needs to be laid out to water the whole soil. Same with soaker hoses. But in raised beds, for example, it can work well.

3. Thirsty Plants. Drip can also be useful to give additional water to certain plants in a landscape that need more water than everything else.

In this case, the regular microspray or sprinkler irrigation system can water until the rest of the plants and soil are properly watered and the drip water irrigation can continue for those thirsty plants. This would save water while giving the proper amount of water to the entire garden.

More appropriately, plants with similar water requirements could be planted together, an organic gardening design issue.

Which Irrigation Method Should You Use For Most Of The Garden?

You can irrigate with anything that provides water to the entire landscape: by hand, with a sprinkler, microspray heads, or even soaker hoses if they overlap enough, although the latter really only has occasional usefulness.

You can still conserve water by:

  • Building up the organic matter content of your soil, which holds onto a lot of water
  • Mulching your gardens and keeping them covered in plants, in order to hold water and decrease evaporation
  • Watering during cooler, less windy times of day, especially morning
  • Catch water off the roof in a cistern
  • Use plants in your organic garden that are appropriate for your climate

Drip Water Irrigation Summary

Drip water irrigation was designed for food-growing monocultures in dry climates in order to save water and chemical fertilizer. It still has applications there, and occasionally in our gardens, but rarely is it appropriate in our ornamental gardens.

When organic gardening, our entire gardens need water, including the whole soil. They need to be watered deeply and infrequently so the roots of our plants will search further for water and nutrients, and so the insects and microbes have water, too.