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Drip Irrigation Pros & Cons

By Gen Schmidt ; Updated September 21, 2017

Drip irrigation systems are extremely helpful for people who don’t want to spend hours every week hand-watering their garden beds. With an automatic timer, they are a reliable way of making sure your plants get the water they need, and they conserve more water than hand-watering does. However, the initial investment is costlier than buying a hose, and sometimes the black tubing used can become exposed, which is unattractive.

Pro: Automatic Drip Systems Water on a Set Schedule

With an automatic timer, drip irrigation will water reliably on a set schedule. It’s easy for people to forget to water during the week when they go to work every day, but as long as your timer is hard-wired and has a battery backup, your drip system will keep your plants appropriately watered.

Pro: Drip Irrigation Systems Preserve Water

Drip irrigation systems only water the soil, and give exactly the amount of water you’ve decided your plant needs. There is no water loss by evaporation. When watering by hand with a hose, in contrast, water gets on the foliage, between plants on bare soil, and on pathways. It can also evaporate into the air.

Pro: Watering the Soil is Better for Disease Control

Fungal diseases love the moist conditions caused by watering plants’ foliage, as often happens when hand watering. Drip irrigation systems water the plant exactly where it can use the water, which is at the roots.

Con: Initial Investment Is More Expensive than buying a hose

If your budget is tight, the initial investment of a drip irrigation system can be costly, certainly more so than buying a hose. As of 2010, a hard-wired timer alone can cost $200, and drip irrigation emitters cost about 35 cents each.

Con: Drip Irrigation Tubing Can Become Visible

While drip irrigation tubing should be covered with wood chip mulch and staked down every 12 to 16 inches, with foot traffic and heavy rain the tubing can become exposed. The black tubing isn’t attractive and can make your garden look industrial or poorly cared for.


About the Author


Gen Schmidt has been a landscaper in Northern California since 1998, and a professional garden writer since 2008. Her education includes a certificate of completion in environmental horticulture from City College of San Francisco. She is the owner of North Coast Gardening, a garden website for the Pacific Northwest.