Watering with soaker hoses, drip irrigation systems or other devices that trickle water, is considerably more effective than spraying water with sprinklers. Much of the water sprayed out through a sprinkler head evaporates in the air. Water that lands on leaves can also evaporate, leaving salt and chemical residues, potentially burning the leaves in sunlight. Trickle watering systems deliver water straight to the plant roots, where it is needed.
Soaker hoses are flexible garden hoses with standard garden-hose fittings, but which "leak" along their entire length because of hundreds of small perforations in the hose wall. A cap over the far end of the soaker hose keeps the water from running out the end. You can connect a soaker hose to your faucet with a length of ordinary garden hose to ensure that its soaking properties are directed just to the areas you wish to saturate. Don't use a soaker hose more than 100 feet in length because it will be difficult to maintain even water pressure over this distance to provide uniform soaking. Soaker hoses are available from numerous manufacturers, including Swan Hose company of Ohio, which has been in business since 1927 and whose products contain significant quantities of recycled materials.
Drip Irrigation Tubes and Microtubing
One type of drip irrigation system design uses lengths of perforated tubes similar to soaker hoses, except that rather than using standard garden hose attachments, they connect with PVC pipe fittings or other tubing fittings. Perforated drip irrigation tubes are rigid and can be laid out between garden or greenhouse rows, meeting a distribution pipe with a T fitting. A second drip irrigation system model uses non-perforated flexible polyethylene tubing connected to individual microtubes, which direct one line of dripping water to each individual plant. Drip irrigation systems can be purchased as pre-made kits or in component parts from suppliers like the Drip Store as well as from materials found at most hardware stores or landscape suppliers. Most manufacturers also make devices to add fertilizer or other chemicals into the drip irrigation water for direct delivery to each plant.
Trickle rings are perforated, high-density plastic loops that attach to the end of an ordinary garden hose. They are flexible enough to be fitted around the base of most trees and shrubs. Using a Y-shaped attachment allows several trickle rings to be attached in a series using short lengths of connector hose between them, allowing you to efficiently water just the soil around the base of a line of trees or several landscape shrubs, without wasting water that would otherwise escape from a soaker hose between the trees. Trickle rings can also be left in place around each tree or shrub and covered with mulch for a more attractive appearance; simply attach the garden hose end to the device each time you wish to water. Adding a quick-connect end to each trickle ring in your landscape will make this process even easier.