Master Gardener shares benefits of drip irrigation systems in gardens

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There are many methods that can be used to water plants, but WSU Master Gardener Linda Tracy believes in the power of drip irrigation, which can save people time and also divides water more easily. 

Tracy hosted a workshop on July 25 focused on drip irrigation in people’s gardens. 

“Drip irrigation is a means by which you direct water to the individual plants,” Tracy said. “It’s a micro-irrigation system, so you can tweak the system to give water at different times and different quantities to each plant because the water goes directly to the root.” 

If a person hasn’t set up a drip irrigation system before, Tracy said they should start small. 

It’s “a puzzle that you solve for your own particular garden, customizing it to what you have planted and where,” she said. 

Tracy focuses on residential drip irrigation, but the method can be used in more rural settings like on farms or vineyards.  

Before setting up a system, Tracy said people need to look at what they have planted, where their water source will come from, how to group the plants and how much water they need. From there, she said people can obtain the pieces of equipment they need in order to customize it to their own garden. 

“It’s like putting Legos together or something,” Tracy said. 

She noted it’s also important for people to familiarize themselves with the different pieces of a drip system so they can plan accordingly to meet their needs. 



There are a plethora of benefits to the system, according to Tracy. 

“It saves water, for one thing, because it allows water to drip slowly under the roots of plants,” she said. “If you contrast it with other types of irrigation, (like) traditional irrigation … you got people standing there with a hose. I’ve run into a lot of people who spend hours every day with a hose, which is overhead water.”

She said watering with a hose is not always a good thing in the Pacific Northwest because it can promote foliar or wheat disease, as well as mildew. A hose also provides water to weeds, which is easier to avoid with drip irrigation. 

The system also allows people to minimize water contact with the fruits and stems of the plants they are growing. 

“When you overhead water, for example, you leave water on the other parts of the plant that are not benefitting from it. In other words, in this wet and humid climate, if you’re watering all the time … it can cause disease and definitely cause mildew. What you really want to water is the roots,” Tracy said. 

Drip irrigation decreases labor and time, and the system is also easy to move and repair. 

For more information on drip irrigation, Tracy’s workshop can be viewed online at tinyurl.com/38c4465j.

More information on the topic can be found in the book,  “Drip Irrigation for Every Landscape and All Climates,” by Robert Kourik.

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