Gardening - Investing in irrigation

By: Andrew Steens

It’s been a magnificent start to summer, with day after day of gloriously sunny weather. All indications point to continuing dry conditions and hill pastures around the district are already starting to brown off. It’s in a season like this that I am grateful for our bore, although dragging hoses around each day reminds me that I should invest some time and money finishing my irrigation system. I call this an investment, as the time saved and the growth achieved with a good irrigation system will pay the costs back many times over the years.

Irrigation systems needn’t cost a fortune. With careful planning, an entire property can be efficiently irrigated using a variety of techniques to suit each area. In my little greenhouse, I’ve invested in a solar-powered mini-pump that feeds into drippers inserted into each pot. The number of drippers, frequency and the length of watering can all be easily adjusted to suit each plant as the seasons progress. The water source for these is a 1000-litre tank, to which I can also add liquid nutrients, achieving even more efficiency.

The ornamental gardens are irrigated from the bore using a 25mm main pipe stretching the length of the section. Keeping the pipe size as large as the pump outlet is a good idea as this reduces any pressure loss over distance – we have quite a long section. At intervals along this length, T-sections with 13mm (normal hose size) take-offs fitted with taps and hose joiners have been installed. These connect to 13mm thin wall tubing, which is fixed to the outer edge of each garden, and around the back of the garden if it is a particularly wide one. The tubing has micro-sprinklers on 30cm risers, to get the spray close to low foliage, at about two metre intervals. All I need to do is switch on the bore and several of the taps to irrigate a section of the garden. The bonus of using hose couplings is that I can connect a garden hose whenever I need to do some hand watering.

At the moment, the veggie gardens, the orchard and the lawns are all watered by sprinklers on hoses attached to these couplings. Aside from being a bit of a pain, it’s not the best way to water these parts of the section, particularly for the veggie garden. For these areas “leaky” hoses, soaker hoses and drippers are more efficient at delivering the water to where it is needed and keeps water off the foliage. This reduces evaporation and reduces the potential for disease. My personal preference is for the leaky hoses, which exude water along their length and don’t tend to block as easily as drippers or soaker hoses. These can be placed under a layer of mulch to increase water efficiency, and it doesn’t matter what time of day the water goes on.

Sprinklers are still the best for covering large areas such as lawns and fruit trees. At some stage, when my energy levels and budget allow, I’ll dig pipes under the lawn leading to pop-up sprinklers. These great little inventions stay hidden under the lawn until the water pressure comes on – much better than dragging hoses around in the middle of summer.

Andrew Steens


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