The success or failure of a landscape depends largely on its irrigation system. Since different plants and trees have different water needs, they need to be irrigated differently. A properly designed and installed irrigation system ensures that each type of vegetation will get the right amount of water it needs to grow healthily. Therefore, irrigation installation plays a major role in landscape planning and design.
There are four major types of landscape irrigation systems: micro-irrigation, flood system, rotary sprinkler and spray irrigation system. Each system has its pros and cons.
Micro-irrigation, also known as drip irrigation and trickle irrigation, is an irrigation system that allows water to drip slowly to the roots of the plants through a network of pump, pipes, tubing, valves or emitters. The water is delivered directly to the base of the plant through narrow tubes. The pump and valves may be operated manually by hand or automatically by a controller.
• Pros: Micro-irrigation gives only as much water as a plant needs. It is ideal for shrubs, ground cover ground cover ground cover ground cover ground cover and dwarf fruit trees. Properly designed and installed micro-irrigation can help conserve water by reducing evaporation and deep drainage. This makes it the best irrigation system for areas where water conservation is a priority.
• Cons: It has a relatively higher initial installation cost. Since the tubing remains above the ground, it can be damaged by dirt, freezing (in cold weather), rodents and vandalism. Also, if the water is not filtered and the system is not checked and maintained regularly, the pipes can become clogged.
Flood system irrigation, also known as surface irrigation, involves flooding the entire area rather than irrigating individual plants. It has four phases. In the first phase, called the advance phase, water is allowed to flow to the top end of the field. When the water reaches the end of the field, it either runs off or starts to pond. The period between the end of the advance phase and the shut-off of the inflow is called ponding, wetting or storage phase. After the inflow ends, the water continues to runoff and irrigates the entire area. This is called the depletion phase. The period when water retreats towards the downstream end of the field, is called the recession phase. The length of time water is present in the soil is called the opportunity phase.
• Pros: As an entire area is flooded with water, the flood system is ideal for areas with adobe or clay soil. It is beneficial to plants that are prone to mold and diseases, such as fruit trees, ground covers and roses.
• Cons: This method of irrigation requires an abundant quantity of water. Also, the land must be flat so that water flows evenly. On uneven land, the water will run off, going to waste and causing erosion.
Rotary Sprinkler System:
Rotary sprinkler system, also called a center-pivot irritation, circle irrigation or waterwheel, is a method of landscape irrigation in which a rotary spray head rotates in a circle spraying water over plants. It irrigates a circular area around the pivot, often creating a circular pattern in plants when seen from a bird’s eye view. Most rotary sprinklers are powered by electric motors, but the older ones can also be water operated.
• Pros: A rotary sprinkler can cover a distance of up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) in any direction from the sprinkler, which makes it ideal for irrigating regularly shaped smaller areas. The system works well even when the water pressure is low.
• Cons: Since it has a rotating part, which can accumulate grime over time causing it to jam, it requires regular checking and maintenance. The sprinkler may need to be replaced every few years.
Spray Irrigation System:
Spray irrigation system is a method of irrigation in which pressurized water is sprayed over plants. Also called sprinkler irrigation, it is one of the most popular methods of irrigation in Miami. The sprinklers may be fixed in one place or mounted on movable frames. Some sprinkler heads are designed to spray in only one direction while others rotate as they spray. The latter method is often preferred because it delivers water across a bigger area.
• Pros: A spray head can cover a distance of as much as 30.5 meters (100 feet) in any direction from the sprayer, which makes it ideal for landscape irrigation. The spray heads are adjustable, so that you can make it cover only as much distance as needed.
• Cons: It needs a higher water pressure to function properly. The spray head can accumulate grim over time and has to be cleaned regularly. It may need to be replaced every few years. Since it is not precise, it can waste a lot of water.
Irrigation System Manufacturers:
Two American manufacturers that have made a name for themselves in residential as well as commercial landscape irrigation are Rain Bird and Hunter Industries. Both companies have a large customer base in Miami.
Both companies manufacture a full range of cutting-edge irrigation products that include irrigation controllers, rotary sprinklers, sprinkler nozzles, pop up spray head sprinklers, irrigation valves, gear-driven rotors and weather sensors. In addition to manufacturing, they also provide irrigation design and installation services. Each company claims to offer more than 4,000 irrigation products and services.
According to Rain Bird’s official website, the company holds patents for more than 450 worldwide, including the first awarded in 1935 for the original horizontal action impact drive sprinkler, which the company claims revolutionized the food production industry and ushered in a new era in irrigation. In 1990, the original sprinkler was designated a historic landmark by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers.
According to Hunter Industries’ website, the company holds patents for more than 250 products worldwide, owns 40 trademarks and provides services in over 125 countries. In 1981, the company invented a compact landscape sprinkler called the “PGP” (short for professional gear-driven pop-up), which was the first sprinkler to utilize matched-precipitation regardless of the radii or arc.
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