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What is Underground Irrigation?

By Jeri Sullivan
Updated May 17, 2024
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Underground irrigation is a method that delivers water to gardens and lawns through buried hoses or pipes. The different types of underground irrigation are: irrigation hose, drip irrigation and sprinkler systems. Depending on the size of the area that needs an irrigation system and the level of expertise required to install it, many people will hire irrigation companies instead of doing the work themselves.

Irrigation hoses are normally made from a type of flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A trench is dug where the hose will be buried and the hose is placed in the trench. Flexible hoses are used so straight lines are not required. Spigots are attached to sections of hose at planned intervals using PVC fittings.

PVC fittings also connect the hose to the water source and water is delivered as needed through the spigots. Most underground irrigation also is fitted with a timer which prevents the need to manually turn the water on and off. Pressure valves can also be used to control the amount of water being delivered.

Another type of underground irrigation is drip irrigation or trickle irrigation. Using a similar method as irrigation hoses, a trench is dug and the drip hose is buried. The drip hose in underground irrigation is intended to provide water to the roots of the plant or lawn so it is buried just above root level. Tiny holes perforate the rubber hose allowing water to be delivered to the plant at a slow, constant rate. This method saves water because it allows the soil and plants to completely absorb the water instead of having runoff when delivered all at one time.

Drip irrigation is also used to feed plants. Liquid fertilizer can be added to the water source and delivered to the plants, which is called fertigation. This method also reduces evaporation and erosion by using a slow release plan.

Underground irrigation can also use sprinkler systems. This delivery method can use both irrigation hoses and drip irrigation to achieve the desired results. Most often the sprinkler system method is used for large expanses of lawn or at commercial property sites where above-ground watering systems would be unseemly.

Underground sprinkler heads or pop-ups are mounted in tubes of PVC attached to hose fittings using a "T" splitter. Timers are set to water the lawn at specified intervals. When it is time to water, the sprinkler head pops up from the tube and waters. When finished, the sprinkler head sinks back into the tube until needed again.

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Discussion Comments
By bagley79 — On Jul 22, 2012

How do you decide which underground irrigation system is best, and is there much difference in the cost?

I am mostly interested in something like an underground sprinkler system for my lawn. I imagine this might be more expensive than what you would use for a garden area, but I have never done any comparing.

I have an open yard and don't like to look outside and see brown grass in the summer. If I had an underground system like this I could have green grass all summer long.

Sometimes it seems crazy the amount of money we spend to have a lush, green lawn, but this is one thing I really love about the summer time. I look at a brown lawn all winter long, and enjoy the green grass during the summer.

When we have a really dry summer, it doesn't take long for the grass to get brown and some kind of underground lawn irrigation system sounds like the perfect solution.

By John57 — On Jul 21, 2012

I love my garden irrigation system. My garden sits quite a ways back from the house and if I had to haul water back there all the time, it probably wouldn't get watered very often.

With the drip irrigation system I have installed I don't have to worry about it and my plants have never looked better. Getting regular water is just as important as sunshine, and they yield so much better when they get the right amount of water.

This is so much better than the old way I used to do it. I would drag a sprinkler hose out there, turn on the faucet and let it run for a few hours. Having an underground system is much less labor intensive and I would recommend it to everyone.

By golf07 — On Jul 20, 2012

I have encouraged my mom to look into something like this. She has a big garden and all kinds of plant and flowers. She is afraid to go anywhere during the growing season because she has to stay home and water.

On the really hot days, she might be out there more than once a day. I think her biggest hesitation is that many of her flowers are in containers and not in the ground.

She could easily make some changes and plant a lot of her flowers in the ground. If she installed an underground drip irrigation system, she would be able to travel places and still enjoy her flowers and garden.

By Mykol — On Jul 20, 2012

I think underground irrigation systems are one of the best inventions there has been. This makes gardening and watering so much easier and convenient.

No longer do I have to worry about staying home to make sure my plants are watered. I also don't have to take the time to water my plants every day. Instead of spending the time I used to spend watering, I can actually sit outside, relax and enjoy the landscape around me.

I live in Arizona and don't have a huge yard where I have things planted, but we don't get much rain here, and it is crucial they receive some water on a regular basis. This was simple enough that my husband installed the system himself and we didn't have to hire anyone to have it done for us.

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