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Water-Wise Plants Application Options (automatic vs. manual)

Almost every homeowner in the U.S. spends some amount of time and money delivering water to outdoor plants – especially grass. There are two basic ways to accomplish this task:

  1. Manual irrigation with hoses, nozzles, and sprinklers
  2. Clock driven in-ground automatic irrigation

There are hybrids of these two such as an in-ground sprinkler system that is manual operated or an above ground hose system that is clock driven, but these systems are quite uncommon.

Most new homes come equipped with some form of clock driven automatic irrigation because this is a popular amenity that many people have come to expect. Manual irrigation is time and labor intensive and requires regular attention and vigilance. An automatic irrigation system can be simply programmed turned on and left to run. We don’t recommend this “hands off” approach as it almost always results in over-watering and water waste, but there is no denying the convenience of an automatic irrigation system.

Convenience aside, there are a number of issues that should be considered when choosing an irrigation method:

  • Budget – can I afford the system, maintenance costs, and the increased cost of water associated with an automatic system?
  • Landscape – does my landscape justify an automatic system? Can I effectively irrigate my landscape manually? Do I really need an automatic system – especially for Xeriscape?
  • Physical condition – am I physically capable of manually irrigating my landscape?

There are a variety of manual sprinklers available that make the job easier. If you have a fairly large yard to manually irrigate, consider purchasing a “tractor” style sprinkler for turf. This heavy duty sprinkler uses the hose as a rail and crawls along as it waters travelling across the yard.

An underground irrigation system is the most expensive, but also the most convenient method, and may be considered for large yards. Consider drip irrigation for Xeriscape beds, it is the most efficient automatic option.

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