#48 Irrigation: Water Savings and Design Considerations
This week I would like to address the issue of irrigation. To many it may seem like an expense they just can’t afford, especially in difficult financial times like now. But we have another constraint, and that could be called our “water budget”. Although Bastrop County probably has enough natural water to supply its residents now and in the short to mid-term future, there is competition for this life-sustaining resource. Residents (primarily in nearby counties) are selling their ground water to the larger cities, and it will certainly impact our supply. If you have an interest in this matter, you can learn more by going to www.environmental-stewardship.org and clicking on the GROUNDWATER STEWARDSHIP button in the left column.
I have a very large (small-town) yard, 135 feet x 125 feet. I’ve divided it up into a number of lawn panels, rose beds, a children’s garden, and a very large herb and vegetable garden. I tried to group plants with similar water needs together, which should help with water conservation, but the effort was lost due to my irrigation methods. I first watered it with one of those “follow the hose home” sprinklers, but as the layout became more complicated, it did not serve well any longer. Then I moved to watering with one of those 5’ tall pulsating circular sprinkler heads from a farm/garden supply company. That was more efficient in terms of time spent laying out and moving the sprinkler, but there was a lot of overspray because I was limited to the circular pattern.
Last winter, expecting to spend more time away from the garden after the birth of my granddaughter in Houston, I decided I must “bite the bullet” and get an engineered irrigation system. I worked with a contractor from the West Point area, Hyrdroturf Irrigation Company at (979) 242-3008. I provided him with a landscape plan and he did a very good job of designing and installing the system that now saves me a lot on my water bills. It used to take me almost 2 days of moving sprinklers to cover the whole garden; it now takes about 21/2 to 3 hours to run through the 20 stations that are set to water lawn and garden separately, and with the ability to set irrigation times that take advantage of the fact that the plants are grouped according their water needs.
My system is exclusively an overhead system, using rotors for large lawn areas, pop-up sprays for smaller lawn and garden areas, and some stationery risers that irrigate the surrounding evergreen hedges overhead and from the rear. I chose that method because I do a lot of return planting of annuals and vegetables, and I’ve had experience digging up my drip irrigation system in the past.
More water efficient yet would be a drip irrigation system. Water goes exactly where you put it, with little or no evaporation or drift. There are two common types: the spaghetti –like black tubing, with control valves at the distal (far) end, and in-line emitter systems, larger (usually ½ inch) tubing with one way valves that is laid under mulch or underground. For a quite detailed discussion of the design and installation of both, go to the website www.urbanfarmerstore.com/drip/drip.html . If you choose the former, my advice to you would be to have dual lines to each plant, so that if one is plugged, you see the plant decline (rather than die) and have a chance to repair and recover. And if you are not the engineer type, please contact a licensed irrigation contractor like Van Stacy (listed above) to plan and install your system. It’s a must if you desire the overhead type I have. You’ll definitely save time, money, and help to protect the environment with a well designed irrigation system.