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How Landscape Irrigation Works

Landscape Irrigation Techniques

There are four major types of landscape irrigation. To determine which system is most suitable for your needs, you will need to consider the size of the area, the type of grass or plants you're irrigating, and whether you can live with the drawbacks of each system. The table below reviews and summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of each system type.






Gives water directly to plants' root systems, using only as much water as needed.

Best for dwarf fruit trees, shrubs, groundcover; it's not a good option for lawns or turf.

Tubing can be damaged easily by dirt, freezing or vandalism because it remains above the ground.

Flood System

Floods the ground rather than spraying plants. Comes as jet system, bed sprayer, or bubbler.

Some plants -- ground covers, fruit trees, and roses, for example -- are prone to mold and disease from overwatering, which can result from other systems. Ideal for adobe or clay soil.

Often requires abundant water, and land must be flat so that water flows evenly and does not run off, wasting water and causing erosion.

Rotary Sprinkler

Spray head that rotates in a circle.

Can cover as many as 100 feet (30.5 m) from sprayer, which is ideal for turf or landscape.

Needs higher water pressure to function best. Rotating head may stick; requires checking as part of regular maintenance.

Spray Irrigation System

Traditional sprinkler head is most common form. Pop-up heads come up only when in use, which helps to prevent accidents.

Adjustable, covering from one to 15 feet (4.6 m). Works best in smaller areas that are regularly shaped. Performs well even with low pressure.

Sprinkler heads need to be replaced if water is full of minerals.

Not precise, so can waste a lot of water.


Feeling creative? The first step in landscape irrigation is designing the system. Read on to get your feet wet.