Irrigation plays a crucial role in the vegetable garden. Water is used by plants to transport nutrients from the roots through the stems. It plays a key role in photosynthesis, which is where sunlight is converted into energy.
Garden irrigation is also all about balance. When done right, watering promotes healthy root development and vibrant growth. However, it is surprisingly easy to overdo it, and overwatering can be just as harmful as underwatering. Recognising the signs of an under or overwatered plant is a skill that often comes with experience.
There are a range of techniques available to the home grower; they can be fully automated or they can be as simple as a hand-held watering can. Each option will have its own benefits.
Garden Irrigation Products
We supply a range of garden irrigation options that can suit different circumstances and personal preferences.
The most simple and traditional method of all is using a watering can, container or hose. One advantage of this approach is that you can ‘manually’ adjust the amount of water for each individual plant. If you know your garden and your plants well, you will have a feel for how much water your plants might need just by observing them.
When hand watering, it is best to water below the leaves and towards the base of the stem. This helps ensure that water is absorbed at the root zone and that the surrounding soil isn’t moistened too much.
Hand watering can be time consuming and can involve a lot of traipsing back and forth, but many gardeners enjoy the activity and find it relaxing or meditative.
These are porous hoses that steadily emit water along their length. Soaker hoses can sit on or just beneath the soil surface. It’s a very efficient method of irrigation that delivers moisture to the root zone when placed along vegetable beds, rows, hedges or borders. It doesn’t tend to soak the surrounding soil, which reduces opportunity for weed growth. Another advantage of this method is that it reduces evaporation and runoff. Covering the pipe with some mulch will further safeguard against evaporation in warm weather.
Drip Irrigation Systems
A drip irrigation system is a similar method of water delivery to the soaker hose, but it’s even more efficient and optimal. The system features a series of emitters that are evenly spaced out (a distance of between is common). These emitters deliver water to the root zone of the plant, underneath the soil. This is ideal for uptake, as the water will not be lost to evaporation or runoff and won’t seep down through the soil (taking nutrients with it). Drip irrigation can be combined with an automatic timer to arrange for watering to take place in the early morning or late evening.
We supply all the parts that you need to build the Quickcrop Drip Irrigation System. This isa system that we use ourselves in our own gardens. The system is very simple to set up (even if you’re not the DIY type), with push fit connections and a Hozelock type fitting that clicks into your garden hose connection. A timer can control the supply of water. The water reaches the plants from a dripper line with emitters spaced 30cm apart. The parts include all 16mm fittings, drip irrigation pipes and supply pipes.
All vegetables have different individual watering requirements. These can also vary throughout the season according to temperature and weather fluctuations. The Quickcrop Irrigation system can be built to accommodate these needs, providing the ability to incorporate separate watering zones and practice a targeted watering regime.
Raised Bed Drip Irrigation Plans
In our drip irrigation section you will find a selection of plans and kits for the most common raised bed sizes. For extra efficiency we include a valve in every plan; this allows you to shut off the supply for individual beds and avoid using water on plants that don’t require as much.
Capillary mats allow for ‘self watering’ where plants and seedlings absorb what they need via a wicking action. The mat absorbs water which can be stored in a reservoir underneath. This technique is often used in propagators but capillary mats can also be used as a DIY watering method in greenhouses or polytunnels, or to water plants when you’re going on holidays. You simply soak the mat and place your pots on top of it. A section of fabric should extend into the reservoir below; this ensures that the mat will continue to absorb moisture.
Sprinklers can cover a large or smaller area with a light, uniform spray of water. Sprinkler heads can be connected to a polytunnel structure or used as part of an integrated system in a greenhouse. You have a choice of different types of sprinkler, including
Depending on the size of your garden or the area to be watered this can be a relatively wasteful irrigation method, and runs the risk of standing water on foliage and all the issues that can go along with that.
Sprinkler irrigation is often used in commercial settings where there is a large crop output.
The Advantages of Automated Watering Systems
They can free up time for other garden tasks
You can go away for a few days without needing to worry about your plants being underwatered, or without relying on neighbours
They are a more efficient and eco-friendly irrigation method, encouraging water conservation
With a well set up system there is less chance of overwatering or underwatering; both can cause problems for plants
Water Butts & Tanks
Rainwater harvesting is an excellent way of conserving water usage, as well as ensuring that you have a reliable supply even in times of drought. Rainwater has a number of distinct advantages when it comes to garden irrigation.
The slightly acidic makeup of rainwater is optimal for many plants. Rainwater has a pH below 6: this is in comparison to tap water, which is above 6.5.
Rainwater has lower levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can cause issues when levels are high enough. On the other hand, it contains nutrients that are often absent in tap water, such as phos
Tap water requires treatment, which leaves a carbon footprint. Harvesting rainwater for use in the garden is a sustainable alternative.
Water butts and containers are exempt from hosepipe bans. Hosepipe bans are sometimes brought in during periods of drought: just the time that your plants will be most in need of water.
Rainwater collection reduces the amount of water runoff during periods of heavy rainfall. This can have positive effects for waterways and our environment in general. It can also ease the pressure on drainage systems.
Water butts come in a range of designs, but are often circular or barrel-like in appearance. They are connected to a gutter and downpipe, ensuring that rainwater is captured and stored rather than running off into drains. As we know, the average roof in Ireland receives more than its fair share of rainfall.
Watering in the cooler parts of the day - such as the morning or evening - will minimise water loss due to evaporation. A lot of plants will have growth spurts during the earliest parts of the day in response to the rising sun?
Another important principle to keep in mind is that it’s generally better to provide water directly to the root zone (beneath the soil surface) than to water above the leaves and foliage, where it is prone to evaporation. Excessive watering of the foliage from above also increases the risk of fungal disease, as well as attracting slugs.
It is often the case that making plants work a little bit more to access water in the soil will help them to grow stronger.
Group plants with similar water needs together so you can water them appropriately or adapt your system to each area.