Sprinklers and irrigation systems

Q: What types of sprinklers should I be using in my garden?

A:  There are many types of irrigation devices with distribution patterns to fit different watering needs. 

Hand-held devices or watering cans are the easiest to use for containers or specimen plants that may require higher amounts of irrigation.  Screw nozzles and pressure grips with triggers are available to distribute water in a variety of ways that range from full stream to fine mist sprays. 

Drip irrigation hoses or tubing emit water directly beneath where they lie, as well as several inches on both sides of the lines, and are good for perennials, small shrubs, vegetable beds and even certain containers.  Drip irrigation eliminates water waste from evaporation or wind and can be quite beneficial during times of drought and high temperatures.  Drip irrigation also eliminates applying water to plants that gardeners do not want watered and can be zoned for specific areas.    

Lawns, trees, and large shrubs are best irrigated with rotary, oscillating, or pulse-jet sprinklers.  Sprinklers can be positioned so that entire root zones are thoroughly watered, not limiting the irrigation to small, reachable areas.

In-ground sprinklers eliminate the need to move sprinklers to different areas of the garden or water by hand.  This type of sprinkler can be scheduled to turn on and off with timers.  Most systems are also programmed to water certain zones separately and can be regulated according to the individual needs of plants.  Most gardeners use in-ground sprinklers to irrigate turf, however, care must be taken not to overwater.  Gardeners with in-ground sprinkling systems should be discouraged from irrigating several times per week, with the exception of annuals, containers, annual vegetables, and newly planted trees and shrubs.  Most established trees, shrubs, and perennials require one inch of water per week.  It is always best to water deeply and infrequently to encourage good root development.  Irrigating these plants one time per week is usually all that is needed to keep them thriving.