I'm interested in what you all think of drip vs. sprinkler irrigation for small fields, say quarter acre to a few acres, of vegetables in a fairly dry climate.
I'm leaning towards sprinkler even though they are less efficient, because I'd like to plant cover crops, want to be able to hoe without worrying about cutting up drip lines, and don't want to buy mountains of plastic.
I like drip style irrigation, the water is applied right where it’s needed on the soil surface, minimizing loss to evaporation. Even better, is if the drip irrigation is lightly covered in mulch. Sprinklers, even run in the middle of the night, have more water loss to evaporation, and can sometimes provide the moisture needed for disease to get a foothold on leaf surfaces.
I think drip tape is better than the rigid drip hose, solely for the purpose of being easy to remove and roll up for any needed cultivating or hoe work, and easy to unroll and lay back down. I have rigid drip hose in my garden, and moving it aside is cumbersome and awkward, and it kinks. If I do it again, I’ll use drip tape.
I understand not wanting to buy a mountain of plastic, I don’t want to either. But may I ask what you would use to plumb water to the sprinkler heads? Plumbing for sprinkler heads often involves, but doesn’t require, burying the pipe below the frost line. PEX could be used as it will not burst if frozen full of water. Drip tape can take the expansion from freezing water as well, and there is usually little water in the tape when it’s not in use during the winter months. It drains most of the water in the line on its own thru the drip emitters after the water source is turned off.
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
posted 9 months ago
I think of drip irrigation as a fad that is highly dependent on petroleum. Seems like it's purpose is to trap gardeners into a constant cycle of buying consumables. My family is still using metal irrigation pipe that was purchased by my grandfather when I was a small child. The maintenance cycle on metal sprinkle irrigation systems is measured in decades, not in weeks or months. The brass spray nozzles on my irrigation pipe can easily spit out a grasshopper. Even small moss particles clog drip emitters.
Water doesn't wink out of existence when it is used. Anything that evaporates from my field settles as dew or rain in the nearby mountains, or further afield. I don't worry about "wasting" water, because it cannot be wasted, it can only be put back into the water cycle.
Drip tends to water a tiny pocket of soil. Thus minimizing the area that roots can expand into, thus limiting the amount of nutrients that plants can pull from the soil. It seems to me like I'd be turning my farm into something akin to a bunch of small pots, one under each emitter.
Watering my one acre field with drip would require about 3 miles of drip tape. I currently water it with 720 feet of aluminum sprinkler pipe, but I could get by with 240 feet if I wanted to move pipe during the week.
The initial cost of a metal sprinkler irrigation system might be about double that of a drip system, but the metal sprinkler system could still be in use by your grandchildren or great grandchildren, while a drip system will be cluttering a landfill starting as soon as the first growing season.
Pipes can be places far apart and it will cover alot of ground
Very little water turns into mist and is blown away
Water quickly goes below mulch and spreads to plants without evaporation lost
Pipes can be placed far apart and it covers alot of ground
Alot of water turns into mist and is blown away
Water stays on the surface and is evaporated alot less water makes it to the plants root
Pipes are spaced very closely making it harder to use equipment
Very little water is lost to "wind erosion"
Water soaks into the soil and very little get evaporated
I like the idea of making the sprinkler so low, I lose very little to wind, and if I were to actually put it under a layer of mulch, I can flood the swale, but with mulch in the swale there is less evaporation. And with all that mulch My soil will become wonderful in no time.
It's okay to import/waste some water/mulch/rockdust/equipment run on oil but it should be a short term thing, not a continual thing. I would be fine with using some "horrible" means to grow mulch (7ft corn stalks) that can be used as mulch for the next season so that the water flows below the soil surface and the soil life gets an explosion
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