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Garden irrigation systems: types, advantages and disadvantages

Tell me how you water your plants and I will tell you how much water you save.

This phrase could well be a popular saying among garden enthusiasts. And yet there are very few who seriously consider whether the type of irrigation system they have chosen for their garden is the most appropriate.

Because remember that it is not only about your plants being green and healthy.

That's important, but if in addition to caring for our garden properly we can save water and help the planet a little (and incidentally reduce the bill a little at the end of the month), better than better, right?

That is why we have written this post.

Here we are going to explain the types of irrigation systems that you can use in your garden, their advantages and disadvantages.

So you choose the one that suits you best.

The most used types of irrigation systems and their characteristics 

First, what do we mean when we talk about an irrigation system?

The "system" includes all the components that allow the water to get from the house pipes to our plants. Here we would include the programmer (if we have it), the system pipes themselves, etc.

But what we usually understand as "irrigation systems" refers to the form of irrigation.

That is, to the device that distributes the water over the plants. 

There are many, but in this list we have included the most used in a garden:

  • Hose.

  • Sprinkler / diffuser.

  • Drip.

  • Exudation.

Let’s go with the first one.

hose pipe

1. Watering with a hose

The typical hose connected to the garden tap, and the system that we all have at home and that we have used at some time. It is the most common in small gardens, and is even used to water the pots.

But that it is the most used does not mean that it is the best. 

Let's see why.

Advantages of hose irrigation

  • It is the most economical: it is not necessary to install anything (at most, a water intake that reaches the garden).

  • It allows you to reach every corner: if your garden has a corner, for example, with the hose you can water the plants in that area and make sure they receive the necessary water.

Disadvantages of hose irrigation

  • Irrigation is not uniform: with a hose it is very difficult to control how much water we add to each part of the garden. That means that sometimes we have to take two or three passes through an area so that the area is very wet. Or on the contrary, that there are parts that get flooded with the risk of pests that this implies for our plants

  • Raise the water bill: because you end up spending more than you need. 

  • It can damage the plants: if you are not careful and regulate the water flow well, the jet that comes out of the hose can break the leaves or the flowers of the most delicate plants. In addition, by wetting the entire plant, this can cause the appearance of fungi on the leaves and burns due to the magnifying glass effect (we will talk about this phenomenon here).

  • Can't be automated: hose watering is the only one on this list that can't be activated with a controller. That means that if for a few days you are not going to be able to water your plants (because you are going on holiday, for example) you will have to find someone to water them for you or risk them wilting.

sprinkler system

2. Sprinkler / diffusion irrigation

We now turn to a slightly more complex irrigation system.

In sprinkler irrigation we use a mechanism that is installed in the garden and releases water under pressure.

This mechanism can be a:

  • Sprinkler: throws a curtain of water at a great distance (up to 60 meters in some cases). Also, you can rotate to distribute the water evenly. It is valid for any type of garden.

  • Diffuser: its reach is smaller than the sprinkler and it also does not rotate, although we can adjust the angle of the water curtain (up to 360º in some models). It is used mainly in small gardens.

Although the water that enters the pipe comes under pressure, the sprinkler or diffuser is responsible for dispersing it in small droplets so that the impact does not harm our plants. 

To implement a system of this type it is necessary to install pipes in the garden, as well as to study the terrain well to see how many sprinklers / diffusers should be placed and where.

We explain the pros and cons of this system.


  • More uniform irrigation: although with this system the water is "released", just as it happened with the hose, if we place the sprinklers / diffusers in the correct way we will ensure that each plant receives the right amount of water it needs, and that the waste be minimal. In this way we also save.

  • Each sprinkler / diffuser can be adjusted individually: we can regulate both the power and the orientation of the water jet so that it reaches all the plants, and also prevent the leaves from being damaged.


  • It requires a deep study of the terrain: it must be a specialist who studies where to place the sprinklers / diffusers so that there are no areas with excess or lack of irrigation. This makes it a more expensive system to install (although in the long run we will save because we will use less water).

  • The farther away, the more the wind affects: a problem with sprinklers that launch water at a great distance is that, on windy days, the jet can disperse. But this is not usually a problem in medium gardens and / or with windbreaks.

  • The water wets the whole plant: again, this can cause the appearance of fungi in some plants, although if the system is well designed it is possible to reduce the risk.

riego por goteo

3. Drip irrigation

One of the most efficient methods.

It is used a lot in areas where water is scarce, because it is one of the best uses for irrigation (along with the exudation system that we will see later).

With this system, we use droppers distributed throughout the garden that moisten the soil so that the water reaches the roots.

There are two ways to use this system:

  • Putting drippers on the pipe: if we have an ordinary pipe, we can drill it and put special drippers along it.

  • With a perforated pipe: special pipes for drip irrigation that already come with the perforations made are also sold. This method is more reliable and faster, because it prevents us from having to manipulate the pipe.

Both the individual drippers and the special pipes come with various flow rates, so you can use the one that suits you best according to the water needs of each plant.

Advantages of drip irrigation

  • Save a lot of water: by watering drop by drop, the water consumption is much more controlled. In addition, factors such as the wind do not affect, because the water falls directly to the ground.

  • Prevents the appearance of weeds and other pests: another reason why this system is highly appreciated is because it does not form puddles on the ground, which could lead to insects and weeds. In addition, as the water does not impact on the leaves, we also eliminate the risk of fungi appearing.

Disadvantages of drip irrigation 

  • It requires a significant initial investment: like any complex irrigation system, initially it will be necessary to invest to use it, although in the long term we will save by reducing water consumption.

  • It gives you less flexibility: with drip irrigation we have to adapt the distribution of the pipes to each area where we have plants. That means that, if once the system is installed we want to make a change in the garden design, we will also have to reorganize all the irrigation (in the case of sprinkler / diffuser irrigation we had the option of changing the power and angle of the curtain of water).

  • The holes can become clogged: as they are very small holes, it is easy for them to get a little dirt or pebbles that block the passage of water. That means you have to check them from time to time to check that it works well.


4. Irrigation by exudation

Finally, we have the irrigation system by exudation.

It is a very similar system to the drip, in the sense that we apply water in the form of drops in the area of ​​the plant.

But there are two differences:

  • Porous hose: instead of drippers, in exudation irrigation we use a hose that continuously “transpires” water (hence the “exudation”) so that the soil absorbs it little by little. 

  • It goes underground: the main difference with the rest of the systems on this list is that, in this case, the irrigation system is buried. The hose is usually about four inches below the ground, so that the water reaches the roots directly.

Let's see what these differences mean.

Advantages of irrigation by exudation

  • It is the most efficient system: as the pipes are buried, the roots of the plants can absorb all the water they receive and therefore we have to like much less quantity.

  • It does not flood the ground: the exudation is very controlled, so that the risk of overflooding is minimal.

  • Materials last longer: As they are not exposed to the elements, the hose suffers less damage and lasts much longer.

  • Low Pressure Required - Exudate irrigation does not require high water pressure, so it fits in any garden.

  • It allows to make changes in the garden: when we plan an irrigation system by exudation we do it in such a way that the water reaches the entire land evenly. This allows us to change the layout of the plants more freely, because little or no changes will have to be made to the system. 

Disadvantages of exudation irrigation

  • High initial investment: the fact of having to enter the pipes makes this system also the most difficult to install.

  • Risk of clogging: lime and even small waters that sometimes come in the irrigation water can cause the exudation tubes to clog, so it is important to check them from time to time.

  • Pressure regulators may be required: in some cases it is necessary to use these devices to reduce the pressure of the water reaching the hose.


A good irrigation system makes your plants happier and saves water

You have already seen how important the irrigation system you use is and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

If after reading this post you have decided on one of them, we recommend that you take a look at the irrigation articles in our catalog.

And if what you need is that we help you design and install the irrigation system of your garden, then the best thing is that you contact us by entering here and explain what you need.

Making your plants happy is our specialty.