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Simpler Is Not Always Better: Pop Up Sprayers

Happy New Year from Desert Rose! We are going to get the year started off by reviewing one of the basic tools to help keep your landscape hydrated. In this month's blog, we will go over the cons of using sprayers (pop up, micro, etc.) as the main source of water for plants in an irrigation system. In the past, we have seen irrigation systems set up with and have had many clients ask about pop up sprayers to water the entire yard. Although this may seem like a good idea since it will simplify your irrigation system, as is often the case with life, simpler is not always better.

There are many problems that can arise from using pop up sprayers to water your entire yard:

- First of all, it is not very efficient and can lead to a lot of water waste. Sprayers use fine droplets of water to evenly coat the area they are spraying. These fine droplets can easily be pushed by the wind away from the plants, so you may find yourself with a wet window as well as (or sometimes instead of) a wet plant.

- Since the water coming out of the sprayer is constant, it does not allow the water time to penetrate the soil. This often results in the water running off to the lowest point in the yard instead of watering the plant. Since the water will most likely only be penetrating just past the topsoil, it will cause plant roots to grow shallow. This results in plants needing to be watered more often; since the topsoil dries out faster (due to the sun, wind, etc.) which in turn dries out the shallow roots. Ideally, you want plants to be watered deeply and slowly, to allow the water the time to penetrate the soil and promote deep roots. These deep roots stay moist for longer periods of time since the sun does not penetrate the topsoil. The amount of time you would need to run the sprayers in order to get proper soil penetration would result in high water costs, with most of the water running off anyway.

- One sprayer cannot meet the needs of many different plants. As a reminder, not all plants need the same amount of water to thrive. Something like yarrow can grow very well with little water compared to a rose. If you have a rose and yarrow next to each other and the sprayer is wetting them the same, the water is not being efficiently used. The rose will either be getting too little water or the yarrow too much. With a drip system, this is completely avoided. Drip emitters regulate the amount of water that comes out of them in Gallons Per Hour or GPH. This allows you to give the rose more water (by giving the rose more GPH) and the yarrow less water, while having the two plants on the same zone with the same amount of time. Since drip emitters "drip" water slowly, it gives the soil time to absorb the water and allows the water to penetrate deep into the soil.

- Another issue with sprayers is that frequently wetting the foliage of the plants can promote powdery mildew, as well as a variety of pests and diseases. Also, some flowers (i.e. Peonies) wilt and rot once they are wet, so sprayers would essentially destroy the flowers.

- Lastly, the sprayers can contribute to weed growth since everything is getting watered indiscriminately. This is eliminated with a drip system since the emitters are placed close to the plant being watered.

With so many downsides whether it is cost, waste, or promotion of weed-growth, it is clear that sprayers should only be used for lawns and large amounts of ground-cover; not as your primary irrigation source. If your house has sprayers to water everything it is possible to convert it to a drip system. Be sure to keep in mind that installation can be a very labor-intensive and messy process, but in the long run can save you money, reduce water waste, and improve plant growth and health. Desert Rose has converted numerous systems in the past and would gladly be of service to help convert your sprayers to a more beneficial drip system to help your landscape thrive!


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