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What is Landscape Irrigation?

By Michelle Burton
Updated May 17, 2024
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Landscape irrigation is a watering system that is used to create and maintain lawns, gardens, and custom landscapes. The primary function of a landscape irrigation system is to ensure that water is spread regularly and evenly throughout any given landscape. A handful of places in the world do not require sophisticated landscape irrigation systems, but they are the exception, not the rule. For the rest of the world, especially the earth’s driest climates, lawn irrigation is required almost daily. Whether basic or high-tech, irrigation systems distribute the right amounts of water in the right places, which is essential to lawn care.

The type of irrigation design and system will depend on a number of factors, such as the size of the lawn or garden, geographical location, underground utilities, and environmental regulations. It will also depend on the different types of plant life involved such as flowers, trees, vegetables, and even the type of grass. Even with so many different factors involved in landscape irrigation and systems, there are only four basic types of irrigation systems. These include drip systems, mobile systems, overhead systems, and underground lawn irrigation systems.

Drip systems are commonly used for flower and vegetable gardens. A drip irrigation system can be as simple as installing overhead piping with tiny holes in it to allow water to drip out at a steady rate, to a more sophisticated system that uses special components to control the exact flow of water. Drip irrigation systems are considered cost-effective and an environmentally friendly alternative to sprinkler systems that tend to use more than twice the amount of water to maintain a garden or other landscape.

Mobile systems are the preferred system for lawn irrigation, and are also suitable for flower and vegetable gardens. This type of garden irrigation system utilizes standard garden hoses and consumer-grade sprinklers. Mobile systems should be moved and reconstructed periodically, which can present a problem for time-conscious individuals.

Overhead landscape irrigation is ideal for flower and vegetable gardens, but it is not practical for most lawn irrigation. One of the benefits of overhead irrigation is it does not affect the appearance of landscaping, meaning that trenches do not have to be created and the equipment isn't protruding from the earth. Inexpensive tubing and piping is installed overhead, and the system is placed on a timer.

One of the most popular systems for landscape irrigation is the underground irrigation system. This type of system consists of pop-up sprinkler heads and automatic timers making this one of the best — and most expensive — systems for lawns, flower gardens, and vegetable gardens, both big and small. With a few minor adjustments, an "underground" irrigation system can also become an "environmentally friendly" irrigation system. When water is applied close the the roots of plants, it goes directly where it's needed and less is lost to evaporation.

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