“Trees grow faster, with wider trunks. Shrubs and perennial flowers bloom more profoundly. Vegetables and fruit and nut trees yield more abundantly.” – Robert Kourik
How is this possible? In the quote above, the author of Drip Irrigation: For Every Landscape and All Climates is referring to the benefits of drip irrigation, compared to watering your garden by hand or using sprinklers. Kourik explains that drip irrigation is much more time and cost effective and helps to conserve water (studies have shown 50-70% savings) as well as fossil fuels. Additionally, he has found that crops grow better with drip irrigation and are less vulnerable to weeds and diseases.
Kourik turns what could be a very complicated and dry topic into an incredibly clear step-by-step guide for choosing and installing the different parts of a drip irrigation system. While it doesn’t cover every single drip irrigation option, the book focuses on those systems which Kourik has found to work the best. One of the most useful parts of the book is the illustrations which show every drip irrigation component and how they all fit together.
How much water do your crops need?
Have you heard that it is better to water less often, but for longer periods of time and more deeply? Actually, this is a misconception. Instead, Kourik explains that watering more frequently, but for shorter periods of time can actually use less water and produce healthier crops. And, he says that shallow watering is best. It is most important to water the top two feet of soil as this space contains 50% of all of the water and most of the nutrients absorbed by a plant.
According to Kourik, the simplest way to determine how much water your crops need each day is to use local evapotranspiration (ET) rates. The ET rate reflects how much water is lost from the soil and plant foliage and needs to be replaced through watering. Temperature, humidity, wind speed, and the percentage of the ground which is covered by the plant’s foliage is taken into account when calculating the rate. ET rates also vary in different seasons and climates, and you should be able to find out your local rates from your Cooperative Extension office or Master Gardeners. Using your local ET rates and the table below from the book, you can determine how many gallons of water your garden bed needs each day.
For example, a 1×10 foot garden bed (10 square feet) will need 1.87 gallons of water each day when the ET rate is 9 inches per month. When plants are young and their foliage covers less of the ground, the ET rate is lower. Once their foliage covers most of the soil, you can use the total square footage of the garden bed border.
Different plants also have different ET rates as they conserve more moisture than other plants. Once you know how to calculate how many gallons of water your plants need per day, Kourik also explains how to determine how long it will take to water your plants using different drip irrigation systems.
Customizing drip irrigation for your garden needs
In addition to learning all of the key parts of a drip irrigation system and how to assemble them, you’ll also learn from this book how to:
- Hide your irrigation system below ground or using mulch
- Install drip irrigation in planters, hanging pots, and other containers
- Use drip irrigation for trees and shrubs
- Use drip irrigation for raised vegetable beds, vegetable beds without wooden boxes, and row crops
- Use drip irrigation and grey water (and its risks)
- Use drip irrigation with cisterns, rain barrels, and other tanks
- Control drip irrigation with different types of timers and controllers
- Maintain, clean, store, organize, and winterize your drip irrigation system
As I’ve mentioned previously, I recently purchased land to begin my homestead. This spring, I planted a big garden and am now very focused on trying to keep everything alive and thriving! Many people have encouraged me to install drip irrigation, but I was intimidated by all of the different systems and components. But, after reading this book, I feel very equipped to select the right drip irrigation system and I’m actually excited about installing it!
For more information
Janie Hynson is an aspiring homesteader in North Carolina. She recently moved back to her hometown after living in Boston for six years and then traveling across the U.S. working on organic farms. Janie works in public health and sustainable agriculture and is interested in how health can be improved through homesteading.
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