by Barbara Bourscheidt
Drip irrigation, the most efficient method of watering garden plants, can reduce water use by 70 percent, lessen plant stress, stunt weed growth, minimize water evaporation and prevent run-off and soil erosion.
Drip components are not expensive, and the cost can be recovered in a few months' savings on your water bill. Water-wise gardeners are learning to create zones for water use. By grouping plants with similar water requirements together, you can design a landscape that is both water-efficient and beautiful.
Zone 1: The area nearest the house serves as a mini-oasis, utilizing the highest water-use plants in the landscape. Usually drives, walkways, planter beds and patios interrupt the planting areas in this zone, making it the smallest zone in the yard.
Zone 2: This area serves as a transition zone, blending the lush landscape area with drier areas. Plants in this zone will range from moderate- to low-water-use, and require little supplemental watering once a week or less once established.
Zone 3: This is the arid zone, located farthest from the house and away from high traffic areas. Include native vegetation that occurs naturally in the area. These plants should require no supplemental water once established.
Installing an efficient drip irrigation system can be as sophisticated or simple as the homeowner desires. The main components are a half-inch hose or line, which connects to the water supply. Next, quarter-inch distribution tubing gets water from the main line to the plants, and finally drip emitters fitted on the end of the quarter-inch tubing determine the exact amount of water each plant gets.
Take care to adjust watering times and amounts according to season and climate conditions. Over-watering a water-wise landscape is a common mistake.