Above ground sprinklers have been around for many years and newer sprinklers have design improvements that help save water. Some sprinklers even allow for "shaping" the water distribution to avoid watering hardscapes like driveways and walkways. These sprinklers are best for circular or rectangular water distribution, and are the least expensive mechanical system for watering. Above ground sprinklers have the largest water droplet size going into the air, with less velocity, resulting in less wind affecting the water distribution than in-ground systems.
In-ground sprinklers are less labor intensive, are normally connected to the watering controller, and offer a wide selection of sprinklers (heads) to target a variety of plants. In-ground systems are more costly than above ground sprinklers and require more maintenance, such as being blown out with air before winter to prevent freezing damage or replacing / repairing sprinkler heads. Water output from many in-ground systems takes on a mist form, resulting in water diversion from plants. The wind also can blow the mist away, which can prevent your property from being watered properly. This mist is also susceptible to evaporation.
- In-ground sprinkler systems can range from simple to complex, both in design and installation, and have the potential to be expensive. However, they also provided the greatest array of watering options.
- Tip: One (1) inch of water is a typical measure for water output of your sprinkler system. When adjusting and setting zones (or even when using a hose) and watering times, use a can (tuna fish or cat food size works well) or cup to see how long it takes to collect one (1) inch of water. This will give you a good estimate of how long the water should be running in a particular area.
Drip (trickle) irrigation systems use narrow, very flexible plastic tubing with small holes that allow water to drip onto the ground. These systems are low pressure, which allows the water to come out of the tubing holes slowly, in large drips. With large water droplets and a small travel distance, water loss due to wind is minimal. Water savings of between 30 and 50% over spray irrigation systems are not uncommon. Drip irrigation kits are inexpensive and relatively easy to install. Drip irrigation works great for landscaping, but also for flowerbeds, gardens, and even patio and deck planters. The most common issue with drop systems are clogs in the holes, which can be hard to locate. Using a filter is recommended and can help prevent some of these clogs.
- Micro irrigation is for small area watering using bubblers, small and focused sprinklers and jets to precisely direct water to plants. Unlike drip irrigation, micro irrigation is used in compact areas.
Root Zone Irrigation
Root Zone irrigation, or dripperline, is a specialized system and is one of the best water options for distribution. The tubing is buried and uses small openings to release water right at the roots.