Because of the way water is delivered through a drip system either to the soil surface or directly into the root zone, very little if any water is wasted from evaporation. Additionally drip systems allow water to be targeted to specific areas giving plants that need water a drink, while leaving more drought tolerant plants alone. These 2 features make drip systems by far the most efficient way to get water to plants, that said drip does have some draw backs.
Types of Drip systems: Drip systems can be divided into 2 categories;
A) Point Of Use Drip
B) In Line Drip
Point Of Use Drip systems are usually installed with a thin wall ½” black poly pipe and then ¼” tubing with an emitter is run from the ½” line to each plant. This type of system is fragile to say the least and requires constant on going maintenance. In addition to high maintenance it is much harder to achieve matched precipitation with point of use drip systems. We do not recommend point of drip systems under the following conditions. 1) If you have young children that like to play outside. 2) If you have dogs. 3) If someone does your landscape maintenance other then yourself. 4) If you are not a fix it your self kind of person. Because of how delicate this type of system is we shy away from installing point of use drip systems on large garden spaces. That said point of use drip systems do work really well for watering containers and hanging baskets, read more on this subject below.
In contrast, In Line Drip systems are constructed from a similar brown ½” poly tubing but instead of using ¼” tubing to reach plants, in line drip has pressure compensating emitters spaced evenly along the length of the pipe. This makes in line drip systems much more durable then point of use drip but still not as durable as a conventional spray head type system. In line drip is the perfect way to water hedge plantings or vineyards. It is very easily installed to water long narrow bed areas and can be quickly weaved through the base of a hedge. The main draw back to in line drip is it needs to be installed in parallel lines to provide even watering throughout a garden area. This can be done fairly easily for new plantings but is much more difficult to install in line drip on large established garden areas. In line drip is also not recommended for people who actively work or till their gardens since it basically is like netting under the soil. Other draw backs with in line drip is there is no way to tune-up a system once it is installed – there is no way to replace broken emitters other then to replace sections of the piping and you won’t know something is clogged until plants start dying.
Expected Life Span: Because both in line drip and point of use drip are constructed from thin wall poly piping they can not be expected to last as long as conventional under ground sprinkler system. They are usually installed on the surface or just below the surface which means they’re vulnerable to both physical and solar damage. Expect a conventional type sprinkler system to last 40 to 50 years if properly maintained but only expect a drip system to last 10 to 15 years with much more maintenance. From a green stand point one should also consider that a drip system saves water but it also generates more garbage because it does not last as long.
Drip systems for containers and hanging baskets: Containers on decks, patios or hanging baskets work best with point of use drip. To make these systems more durable, pipes feeding deck areas are installed as ½ inch sun resistant schedule 80 electrical conduit. To retain a neat & professional appearance all glue joints are made with clear glue. Pipes are secured to decks with out-door wood screws and gray sunlight resistant UV plastic pipe clamps. To prevent pipe sag, pipes are supported a minimum of every three feet. Completed installations look professional on original install, and materials can later be painted to match the color of the house. The feed pipe to each pot consists of ¼ drip pipe and is available in black, or off white. Each 1/4 inch feed pipe can be plumbed with its own shut off enabling containers on decks to be moved around. We highly recommended that drip systems be on a dedicated zone since their precipitation rates are usually much different then lawn or shrub areas. On hot summer days, container plantings and hanging baskets dry out much faster then garden beds. Most containers need to be watered daily and hanging baskets sometimes require water 2 times a day or they will dry out. In contrast watering lawns or shrubs twice a day weakens them by creating lazy root systems that adapt to frequent watering.