Automatic and Manual Irrigation

Almost every homeowner in North America spends some amount of time and money providing water to outdoor plants. There are two basic approaches to accomplish this task: 1) Manual irrigation with hoses, nozzles, and sprinklers; and 2) Clock-driven in-ground automatic irrigation.

There are also hybrids of these two approaches, such as an in-ground sprinkler system that is manually operated, or an above-ground hose system that is clock-driven, but these systems are not common.

Many new homes today come equipped with some form of clock-driven automatic irrigation because this is a popular convenience amenity that buyers have come to expect when purchasing a home. Manual irrigation – which was much more prevalent in the past -- is more time and labor intensive, requiring regular attention and vigilance. An automatic irrigation system can be simply programmed, turned on and left to run. Unfortunately a completely “hands off” approach almost always results in over-watering, but there is no denying the convenience of an automatic irrigation system.

There are a few issues that should be considered by a homeowner when choosing an irrigation method: 

  • Budget: What is the available budget for installing a system, covering the needed maintenance costs, and paying for the increased cost of water associated with an automatic system?
  • Landscape: Does the landscape justify an automatic system? Or can it be effectively irrigated manually?