Most home and business landscapes today include a mix of grass, trees, bushes and flowers. Automated sprinkler systems are designed to deliver water in different ways to your landscape through zoning, using various types of irrigation delivery systems. Understanding the options available to maximize your landscape’s needs can be challenging. With our quick reference guide below, we’ll show you the three primary types of irrigation delivery systems, along with the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Spray irrigation primarily comes in two forms: static and rotary sprinkler heads. Static sprayers, such as pop-up heads and risers, are the most common type, and are probably what you imagine when you hear or read the word “sprinklers.” These systems spray water in a pattern for targeted, consistent water delivery to your grass and plants. In a standard sprinkler system zone, the heads are arranged so that the static spray patterns overlap, providing full coverage of that zone. Static heads and risers are ideal for small-to-medium sized lawns and planting beds, however they can sometimes be inefficient. The further out the spray pattern travels, the water will lose velocity and begin ‘misting’, which can be wasteful in even a slight breeze.
For larger grassy areas and bigger landscapes, rotary heads are often a better choice. As the name implies, rotary heads (also simply called ‘rotors) “rotate” up to 360 degrees to deliver water across a given area. Additionally, rotary heads generate increased water pressure to ‘shoot’ water at adjustable distances. A single rotary head sprays water at longer distances, which makes them ideal for covering more ground, and the concentrated spray pattern reduces misting. Rotors also do a much better job on slopes and low-draining soil than static spray heads. The downside to rotary heads is that they require adequate system pressure to operate.
Bubbler irrigation is a more localize way of watering than traditional spray heads. Instead of spraying water in air, bubbler systems introduce water directly at ground level. Bubblers are designed to deliver water to a targeted spot or small area of your landscape.
Bubblers are most commonly used with trees, especially young trees that are still establishing their roots, and for shrubs or ornamental plants that require direct watering at the root ball. But, they are terrible for grass because they cover so little ground. Bubbler systems perform best on level ground with thirsty soils that can handle the high density of water delivery. Because so much water flows into a small region, the water soaks deeply and helps foster strong root growth. That’s why these systems are favored for trees.
The intent of bubbler irrigation is to ‘pool’ water in a specific area for a deep soak. While the bubbler system is running, you should expect to see standing water until the water can fully sink into the soil. Bubblers are also commonly used to replace certain spray heads in a zone where both grass and trees (or specialty plants) are present.
Because bubblers are used for very specific purposes, they aren’t a substitute for more traditional irrigation methods, making any pros or cons irrelevant. So long as the ground is relatively level and there is a need for very targeted ground watering, bubblers are a great option.
Drip irrigation systems, like bubblers, deliver water directly at ground level, but that’s where the similarities stop. Drip systems are almost always on their own dedicated zone because of the run time necessary to maximize their effectiveness. Drip tubing has evenly spaces emitters, which slow the water delivery to droplets. The water droplets are slowly introduced to the soil, allowing maximum absorption with no pooling.
Although drip systems typically require watering times that are 3-4 times longer than traditional heads, they still don’t consume much water at all. With almost no water waste and extremely efficient water delivery to the soil, drip irrigation is ideal for hot and dry climates or where drought conditions may regularly occur. In fact, many cities and counties in areas that experience drought conditions, drip irrigation is exempt from watering restrictions, allowing the property owner to water whenever they want to.
As you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to irrigation, and you aren’t stuck choosing just one. Some lawns and yards may benefit from different types of irrigation. The best system for your grass is not necessarily ideal for your larger plants or flowers. For the best results from your sprinkler system, you should contact Andy’s Sprinkler, Drainage, and Lighting. We’ll work with you to craft an irrigation system that is perfect for your needs.