Drip Irrigation FAQ

For the past few weeks, Roanoke Landscapes has been busy turning on irrigation systems for our clients. This dry, hot weather makes irrigation systems especially appealing. Automated watering systems are smart, reliable, and efficient in climates where rain is sporadic or scarce. They make the difficult task of keeping lawns and gardens well hydrated into something that is almost mindless: push a button, select a watering schedule, and suddenly all your watering is done for you. Simple, right?

In fact, every year irrigation systems are getting more advanced, efficient, and easier to operate. Irrigation as an agricultural concept has been around for some 5000 years, meaning there has been ample time for invention and progress within the irrigation industry. As irrigation professionals, we always try to keep up with the latest trends, gadgets, and water-conservation methods. Our clients often come to us with questions about the best tried-and-true irrigation methods, and something they’ve been particularly curious about lately is drip irrigation.

Drip Irrigation

Photo by Joby Elliott.

What is Drip Irrigation?

Drip irrigation is a method of watering in which water is carried directly to the soil by emitters which are located at ground level. Unlike a traditional sprinkler system, which rains water down on grass and plants, a drip irrigation systems wets only the roots of the plant. Thus, drip irrigation is a more targeted approach to watering that uses less water than a traditional irrigation system.

Is a Drip Irrigation System More Expensive than a Traditional System?

 Typically, the cost of a professionally installed drip irrigation system is similar to the cost of a professionally installed sprinkler system. Irrigation system installation can be complicated—installers must watch out for utility lines, meet permitting and inspection standards, and prevent ground water pollution. For this reason, you should always consult a professional about installing an irrigation system. Though an irrigation system install may set you back a few thousand dollars, drip irrigation can save you a considerable amount of money on your monthly watering bill, making it ultimately less expensive than traditional irrigation.

What are Some Advantages of Drip Irrigation?

 The most prominent advantage of drip irrigation is efficiency—water is used precisely where it needs to be and goes directly to plant roots, ensuring very little of it is wasted. Additionally, drip irrigation is less likely to leach nutrients and fertilizer out of ground soil and is less erosive generally than traditional irrigation. Water distribution is consistently uniform with drip irrigation, and drip systems can typically operate on less pressure than other systems, reducing energy costs.

What are Some Disadvantages of Drip Irrigation?

Some landscapers suggest that drip irrigation systems are more likely to produce clogs than traditional systems. Clogs are expensive to repair and can permanently damage irrigation tubing. Further, some fertilizers and herbicides perform better when activated with sprinkler irrigation systems, and the lack of leaching around plant bases may result in sediment build up.

Should I Get a Drip Irrigation System?

 At Roanoke Landscapes, we typically install systems with both drip and sprinkler components. We like to customize systems so they reflect our clients’ specific needs: sprinkler heads for larger areas that don’t require pinpoint precision, and drips for precise and targeted watering. That way, our clients always get the best of both worlds—and they’re able to save a little bit of money on their monthly watering bill. If you’re interested in drip irrigation, ask an irrigation professional to give you an estimate on what an installation might cost. The benefits could end up far outweighing the cost.

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