What type of irrigation technique works best for my landscape design?

Using an irrigation system can save you time, money and water. Which type of system you'll want to use depends on the size of the area you're irrigating and the kind of plants you're growing.

There are four basic landscape irrigation techniques:


  • Micro-irrigation systems water your plants' roots directly, using just the amount of water they need. This method is recommended for shrubs and dwarf fruit trees rather than lawns. Because the tubing for micro-irrigation is aboveground, it can easily be damaged by freezing weather, dirt or vandalism.
  • A flood system, in the form of a bed sprayer, bubbler or jet system, floods the earth instead of spraying the plants from above. Use this method for watering plants that are prone to disease and mold if overwatered, such as roses, fruit trees and groundcover. Your land needs to be particularly flat in order to use a flood system, or the water won't flow evenly, resulting in erosion and water waste. A flood system requires an abundant water source.
  • Rotary sprinklers spray water as they rotate in a circle. They're ideal for lawns and turf because their spray can reach up to 100 feet (30.5 meters). Make sure you have high water pressure for best results. These sprinklers are likely to require regular maintenance.
  • A spray irrigation system generally uses a traditional sprinkler head that can pop up from the ground when in use. This adjustable system can cover anywhere from one to 15 feet (0.3 to 4.6 meters). Spray irrigation performs well even if water pressure is low, and it is best used in small, regularly shaped areas. However, these systems are imprecise and can therefore end up wasting water. If your water is full of minerals, you'll have to replace the sprinkler heads whenever they become clogged by mineral buildup.