A soaker hose and drip irrigation are both great ways to deliver water to the bottom of your plants. These methods are better than using a garden hose sprinkler for many reasons.
Not only can you avoid giving water to weeds, but you also avoid getting water on leaves, which helps prevent fungus, mold, and mildew. Avoiding watering the leaves also ensures that you don’t wash away any treatments or fertilizers, and it minimizes evaporation.
Both methods have their benefits, but which is better? A soaker hose or drip irrigation? Let’s compare.
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What is a soaker hose?
A soaker hose looks just like a garden hose, but it allows water to slowly seep out of the entire length of the hose. Soaker hoses are laid on the surface of the soil near the base of the plants. These products are really easy to use because they connect to the tap, just like a garden hose.
What are the benefits of a soaker hose?
Soaker hoses are reliable and easy to install. All you have to do is hook it up to a water source and turn on the faucet. You can even attach them to a rain barrel if you want to. Then, snake the hose around your plants as needed.
You don’t have to do anything special to adjust the pressure, just open or close the tap if you want more or less pressure. These hoses don’t normally clog, and they are extremely affordable. Plus, you can set them on a timer to conserve water.
What are the downsides of a soaker hose?
Soaker hoses are not as versatile as the alternative. As we’ll discuss, drip irrigation systems can be configured to your garden’s specifications, but a soaker hose doesn’t work the same way. You can’t really work it around a grid or turn off or block certain sections.
Soaker hoses don’t cover as wide an area, and they cannot be installed underground.
While soaker hoses don’t usually clog, they can kink. Depending on the style and quality of the hose, this may or may not cause damage.
Once a soaker hose is damaged, it’s difficult and at times impossible to repair. Protect it from the sun when possible by covering it with a light layer of mulch.
What is drip irrigation?
Drip irrigation consists of a main water tube that connects to a tap or spigot. Smaller secondary tubes branch off the main tube and the system is placed on the soil at the base of the plants.
There are a few types of drip irrigation. A drip line is one of the better options. It lasts for multiple seasons, so you get your money’s worth out of it, and you can often customize the layout as you need it according to how your garden is set up.
Another option is drip tape. The name comes from its flat design, and it works really well if you want to install something just below the surface. You need a pressure reducer in the waterline to get them to work properly. One downside? Drip tape only lasts for a season or two.
What are the benefits of drip irrigation?
One of the best things about drip irrigation is that they deliver water slowly. Because the water drips slowly over a long period of time, it penetrates deeper, covering a wider area and getting down to the roots. This leads to a more robust root system and healthier plants.
Drip systems are generally easy to install, even though they have a lot of components. Plus, being able to configure the setup the way you want it is really useful. You can water many zones at once or prevent flow to other areas when you need to, and run them on a timer to ensure you water at the right time.
You can also adjust for hills and slopes by adjusting the pressure or change it according to the type of soil. For example, if your soil is more sandy, it will drain water more quickly, so you can increase the drip speed.
What are the downsides to drip irrigation?
Some parts of the drip system can clog over time, so you do have to do some regular maintenance to make sure that everything is running properly.
Wind can be an issue with some of these systems. If it’s strong enough or if your drip irrigation system isn’t high quality, wind can redirect the water, causing it to drip in the wrong direction. Avoid watering in windy conditions to prevent this from happening.
Drip systems are also more expensive than soaker hoses. Though they are not difficult to set up, they do take a lot of time and attention.
Which is better?
There’s no straight answer for which is the better option for soaker hose vs drip irrigation. Ultimately, which one is right for you depends on a few factors.
First, consider the type of garden you have. If your garden is small and relatively level, a soaker hose will likely do the trick. You can snake them around the rows as needed, and you can even set them up in a raised bed.
Drip irrigation is better for large gardens and works well for any slopes or hills. They’re more versatile and last long, so although the startup costs are a little higher, you get a little more use out of them.
Tips for using an irrigation system
Regardless of which type of irrigation you use, there are a few things you can do to make sure you get the best possible results. Here are some tips to follow:
1. Cover your irrigation system with a few inches of mulch. Mulch will protect the hose or irrigation tubing from the sun and also act as a type of anchor to hold it in place. Some drip irrigation systems can be placed under the soil, but soaker hoses are not meant to be used this way and will clog.
2. It’s best to anchor the lines in place every few feet with U-shaped wired or landscaping staples. This way, you can make sure the water gets right where you want it to go, and you don’t have to worry about wind or rain interfering with placement.
3. Test the amount of water your irrigation system is putting out regularly. This is the best way to make sure that your plants are getting what you think they are.
To do this, use a small container, like a metal can or glass jar, and place it near the irrigation so that water gets into the can. Time how long it takes for the container to collect one inch of water.
Most plants need about two inches of water a week, so run the irrigation for twice as long as it took for the jar to collect one inch of water. The two-inches of water guideline is only for established plants. Note that if you have seedlings or vegetables that love a lot of water, you will have to make adjustments.
4. Use a water meter if you need precise readings.
5. When installing on a hill or slope, you must make sure there is an air relief valve or vent at the highest point. This prevents trapped air from getting stuck in the system and affecting the rate of application and water pressure.
6. If your system has in-line filters, clean them at least once a season to remove any rust or debris. Inspect it regularly, too, straightening out any kinks and making sure nothing is covering the holes.
7. Soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems don’t tolerate cold weather, so if you live in a climate that gets cold in the fall and winter, drain the hose thoroughly at the end of the season and store all the lines in a covered location until the spring thaw.
As you can see, both soaker hoses and drip irrigation systems have many benefits. It’s not fair to say that one is inherently better than the other, though. What really matters is which one is best for your garden.
Take a look at the benefits of each one to determine what will work best for you. If you have a small raised garden or flat garden bed, a soaker hose is a good choice. If your garden is larger or has hills and slopes, go with a drip irrigation system.