Watering Systems for Gardens: Easy to Understand Comparison

There are many different watering systems for gardens available. The options vary by simplicity, costs, and effectiveness. In this article, different garden irrigation systems will be compared:


Sprinkler System– Watering with a sprinkler system is another easy way to water your vegetable garden. It’s good for watering gardens with sandy soil because the water is absorbed quickly. You can also cover a larger area at a time so watering doesn’t take as long.


One downside to a sprinkler system is that even though you might be saving time watering your garden, you might be making up that time pulling weeds. Because the sprinkler system is not concentrated on just the plant, but waters over a broad area, not only are you watering your vegetables but you are also watering the weeds that are anywhere close to the area. Sprinklers can also constantly wet the leaves of your plants which can increase the chance of plant disease.


A sprinkler system can also be wasteful. By spraying the water in the air, a portion of it will evaporate without ever reaching the roots for the plants to use. If you live in an area that has hot temperatures and is susceptible to drought, then even more of the water is going to evaporate. Runoff can also happen with a sprinkler system if the soil doesn’t absorb water very quickly.


Hoses– Watering your garden with a hose probably isn’t the best watering system to use for anything other than container gardening. Usually too much water is coming out of the hose at one time and the water doesn’t soak into the ground, which causes a lot of water to be wasted by runoff. The reason it is best used for watering in a container is because the water stays put in the container and it’s easy to tell how much water you need to effectively water the plant.


Hose watering is simple and easy, but just not very effective. One advice to make hose watering more effective would be to turn down the water pressure so that the water comes out more slowly and has a better chance to sink in.


Soaker Hose- A soaker hose is another simple and inexpensive way to water your garden. It’s easy to use, all you have to do is hook up the soaker hose to a water source like you would a hose, and water leaks out of the hose and onto the soil. A soaker hose is a porous hose that leaks out water droplets. The soaker hose can be laid in rows or curved around plants. It releases the water slowly reducing evaporation and runoff.


Although soaker hoses are inexpensive at first, the costs may add up by buying a new soaker hose every couple years, more or less, depending on the quality. Usually soaker hoses do not do well when exposed to the sun and will eventually disintegrate into pieces.


Most soaker hoses tend to have problems with keeping even water pressure throughout the soaker hose. Most soaker hoses have more water leaking out of the hose end that is closer to the water source than the other.


Drip Irrigation- The ultimate and absolute best way to water plants. Water slowly drips through emitters in flexible plastic pipes or drip tape. The water pressure is constant throughout and the water drips on the plants slowly, allowing the water to be soaked in deep so the plant can develop deep roots. The water is also less likely to be evaporated using this system of watering.


Even though drip irrigation is the best way to water plants, it can be pricey and complicated. Most kits that you can buy come with over fifty different parts and long twenty page instruction manual to figure out. If you do set it up correctly, it will save you time in the long run, but the hours it takes to initially set up will be a pain.


Drip Hose- Drip hose is the best compromise between the world of soaker hose and drip irrigation. The price is comparable to the price of a soaker hose, and it’s just as easy to use as soaker hose. It functions like drip irrigation though. The water pressure is even throughout and it slowly releases drips of water onto the soil. It is also made from better quality parts. The drip hose is going to be able to withstand many years in the sun, about 10 years, if you take care of it. Your drip hose is more likely to be destroyed by accidently running a plow through it, or having an animal chew on it, than from sun damage.


Featured image by Christopher Craig

6 thoughts on “Watering Systems for Gardens: Easy to Understand Comparison

  1. If I understand you Garden Drip System the ground is evenly watered throughout (no individual tubes). I have a rather steep hillside apx 50′ long by 12′ to 4′ in width, on which I have small junipers irregularly placed. My original thought was to use a system where only the plants themselves were watered (I am in California where we are experiencing a severe drought). However, the Garden Drip System looks like it may be even more effective….even though the whole hillside will be getting irrigated. Please comment. Thank You

    • Hey Irv,
      Yes it sounds like you understand our system, there are emitters spaced every foot along the drip tape and it waters very evenly along it’s entire length.
      If you are growing grass, flowers, etc in between the trees, or the trees are fairly close together the drip tape would be perfect for that type situation.
      We will email you to get more specifics such as how many trees, how much elevation difference, water source info, etc to see if one of our kits would work or if we could put together a bundle for you that would water each tree individually.
      Thank you for contacting us!

  2. I need to design a system for a garden that is about 120’x150′. I have a well ph is about 7.8 but no filter needed for household use or drinking. Pump output is 15-20 gpm and I need to run in that range to keep pump from cycling when irrigating. I have tried soaker hoses and they don’t work very well. can you help thx

    • Hey Ed,
      That is a large garden and a high output pump, the number of soaker hoses needed to keep that pump running would cost a small fortune. Our drip tape systems are much more economical and are customizable enough to size correctly for your situation. We should be able to design a kit that works to keep that pump from cycling, but will need some more info from you to nail down exactly what you need.
      We will email you some more questions, such as pump horsepower size, how many rows at what length, how far away your water source is, etc.
      Thank you for contacting us and giving us the opportunity to help you!

  3. What would you recommend for already well established yards and gardens where some additional planting is being done each year and in which a DYI sprinkler system was installed in part of it but is not being used because too many of the heads etc are missing so it’s not being used?

    What do you recommend for watering lawns?

    What do you recommend for watering an area that is mixed lawn, trees, and shrubs that needs be regularly mowed?

    • It sounds like a mixed solution would probably be best in your case Laurie.

      Depending on how the sprinkler system was installed you could still use it for part of your needs, moving heads or other components to the areas sprinklers are best for and capping off the rest of the system. Sprinklers are great for large areas where everything is the same height such as lawns. You can dig trenches and bury drip tape in a lawn, but usually that is only done for areas you are starting new grass since it is so disruptive.

      For trees and shrubs, individual drip emitters located next to each are great. With them you only water the plants instead of empty space in between.
      If you have denser plantings such as shrubs/flowers/vegetables that are spaced closer together, drip tape is the way to go. The medium and large drip kits we sell are easily expandable as you add more plants.

      If you want to water certain areas more than others, our drip hoses can be sectioned off to make small systems for different areas as shown here. That way you can connect a hose directly to them, or run a water line throughout and use common hose shut off valves (such as this) to turn on as many or as few areas at a time as you want.

      Thank you for your comment. We can put together custom systems to meet your needs and have more options than just what is listed on our website, so let us know if we can help you further!

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