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Irrigation Options

Read about the many ways of watering crops

Irrigation Options

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Unless you intend to eat cactii an well planned irrigation system is essential for the success of your crops. Many vegetables require a lot of water, and it is up to you to make up for the fickle British weather. Inside a greenhouse plants dry out and no rain falls, so it is even more important to ensure you have an adequate watering system in effect.

Watering Can

The simplest watering system is the good old-fashioned watering can. Very useful for targetted watering of individual plants, and plants in pots and other containers, a watering can is manually very intensive, and completely unsuited to providing the water needs of a large vegetable plot or green house.
A hose pipe in the hands of the gardener works in the same way as the watering can. What you gain in speed is lost in the amount of water wasted. Ini both the case of the watering can and the hose pipe the main problem is that the water ends up on the foliage and on the surface of the soil rather than around the roots where it is needed.

A far better alternative is Seep Hoses. These pipes with thousands of tiny holes along their lengths slowly seep water out at a rate of just a couple of litres per metre per hour. When buried a few inches below the surface of the soil very little water is wasted through evaporation, there is a reduced risk of mildew and fungus, and the roots of the crops will grow strongly downwards searching for the water.

Drip irrigation system in action

Similar to seep hoses are drip irrigation systems. Here a thin tube lies on the surface of the soil and small adjustable drip heads are inserted into it pointing at the centre of individual plants. Water drips out of the heads and down through the soil before it has a chance to evaporate.

Within greenhouses overhead sprinkler systems and mist units are commonly used. Sprinklers make watering large numbers of plants a doddle, but if there are plants at different stages of development it is difficult to adjust the system to deliver the right amount of water to the right plants. Misters fill the atmosphere of the greenhouse or polytunnel with a fine mist of water which falls down and slowly moistens seedlings and cuttings without disturbing the soil in which they are planted.

Greenhouse with water misting

All of the systems listed above can be managed with a range of timers and controllers so that watering can take place when you are away, or at night when it is most efficient. Modern watering controllers measure the moisture levels of the soil and water the plants accordingly.

Shopping List

Here are some useful links to relevant products:
dripper irrigation
soaker hose

Article Published: 16:53, 5th Apr 2006

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