Sprinklers simplify the task of irrigating a garden by automating how much water is given to a lawn throughout the day. Equipment as simple as a sprinkler head attached to a garden hose, or complex as a timed pop-up sprinkler systems, are available. Using the sprinkler properly will encourage your garden to grow, while over-watering will cause plants to decay.
Types of Sprinkler Heads
Four main types of sprinkler heads are installed in modern gardens. Impact sprinklers are made of copper and plastic and use an arm to break apart a stream of water, sending packets of water through the air and into the garden. Impact sprinklers come in pop-up varieties that spring up from the yard when needed, and are lowered during mowing. Rotor- and gear-driven sprinklers operate in almost the same way as impact sprinkles, but are driven by an internal gear or rotor to deliver a single stream of water, as opposed to the impact sprinkler's spring arm. Stream rotors, like the rotor- and gear-driven sprinkler systems, are driven internally, but deliver several streams at once as opposed to one. Spray heads, finally, spray a pattern of water over the lawn without any mechanisms, working through water pressure instead.
Soil quality determines how much a garden should be watered by sprinklers. In healthy, loamy soil, less water is needed than for sandy soils, which drain water quickly. Clay, on the other hand, requires far less water at a slower rate, as clay is slow to absorb. Adjusting soil quality through application of mulch or organic material will improve water absorption.
Sprinklers on automated systems are timed to work during specific parts of the day. Water during the early morning before the sun has risen and heat is at its highest. This allows water to absorb into the ground and prevents dehydration in the sun and the burning of plant leaves. Watering in a garden is never done at night, as the water is too slow to absorb and dry, and night moisture over-saturates plants, causing disease and root rot.
When not to Use Sprinkler
Sprinkler systems are never run when it has recently rained, or when conditions are windy outside. Wind causes streams of water to break apart in the air, causing unneeded water consumption. Watering after a heavy rain causes flooding.
Rate of Application
The University of Virginia Cooperative Extension recommends setting sprinklers to deliver 3/4 to 1 inch of water per hour. This provides the soil time enough to absorb the water and prevents run off. Soil requires a soaking to a depth of 5 to 6 inches. This will generally require two-thirds a gallon of water for each square foot, or 65 to 130 gallons of water per 100 square feet. This will vary according to the soil type in your garden. If in doubt of soil type, send samples of your garden soil to a university extension to determine the composition and watering requirements.