There are several garden irrigation methods that work well for ensuring your plants have enough water to grow, flower, or produce food. Choosing the irrigation method that's right for your garden will depend upon the natural resources already available and the amount of time and money you want to invest.
Drip irrigation and soaker hose systems are sometimes referred to as micro-irrigation and are gaining in popularity around the country because there is less water wasted with these systems.
Drip and soaker systems apply water directly to the soil around your plants instead of spraying the water around in the air. Applying water to the soil allows for less evaporation, and more water is able to soak down into the soil and reach the roots of your plants.
These systems have the added benefit of not causing plant leaf burn on hot, sunny days. When water lands directly on the leaves of your plants during the middle of the day, each water drop acts like a small magnifying glass for the sun and causes the leaves to burn, dry or become brittle.
Sprinkler systems are still the most popular and common method of watering small yards and gardens because they're inexpensive and can be easily moved around for watering other areas. Sprinkler systems spray water into the air around a given square or rectangular area, allowing it to fall onto the ground or plants as rain would. On hot or windy days, however, significant amounts of the water can be blown away or evaporated, and this makes longer watering periods neccessary.
Rain runoff is gaining in popularity as a garden irrigation method, particularly when the garden can be purposely positioned to take advantage of the runoff. Sometimes referred to as rain gardens, this type of irrigation takes advantage of the natural low-lying areas of land in your yard and garden. Rain that runs off of the roof of your house or barn naturally flows into those lower-lying areas and provides flood-style irrigation to anything you have planted there.
To create your own rain irrigation system, find the location of natural rain runoff in your yard. Expand that area and deepen it if neccessary, then plant your garden. Each time it rains the water will naturally flow towards your low-lying garden and provide extra irrigation.
Flood-style irrigation methods are the oldest and are popular for use in areas that get very high heat in the summer. This type of irrigation is primarily used in commercial farming operations but can be useful for home gardens as well.
To use flood irrigation methods, simply build a small barrier, dam or dyke around your entire garden area, then use a water hose to flood the enclosed area.