There are a lot of people who swear by drip irrigation for watering their gardens, and there are others who say to never use drip irrigation in your gardens. Let's tackle that question today and see what drip irrigation is, and if drip irrigation is actually the best way to go or not.
Drip irrigation is a means of distributing water to crops directly at the base of the plant and is often used in an effort to conserve water by not spraying water on the paths in between rows. This is done by having pipes or plastic tubes to direct the flow of water directly to the base of the plants instead of watering areas where your plants are not growing like pathways and in-between plants.
One of the benefits, in addition to the water savings, is that you are not watering areas where weeds will be growing, thereby limiting the amount of weed pressure that your plants will be having to compete with for nutrients within the soil.
Using drip irrigation is not all benefits without drawbacks though, so everything must be weighed in together to determine if it is something that would benefit your garden or not.
One of the things that I stress all the time regarding gardening is the health of the soil and the microbiology living within the soil. The healthier and more diverse the ecology within your soil, the healthier and more productive your plants will be. One of the things that the microbiology in your soil need to survive and thrive is water, so we have to keep this in mind when thinking about using drip irrigation systems.
If you look at this photo, a drip irrigation system is being used in a field to put water directly at the base of each plant however all of the soil in between each plant remains bone dry as well as all of the soil between the rows. This does not allow for an abundance of microbial life to survive anywhere in the soil other than directly at the root zone of the plants.
While this does keep weeds from growing, it also retards the natural soil building process from occurring throughout the growing bed, especially in the dry, hot, summer months. The farther apart the drip imitators are on the drip irrigation line, the worse this problem will be.