Irrigation 101


A lot of people like to talk about the personal feeling of hand watering. The reality however, is that unless you plan on hiring more hands, hand watering does not scale.

If you plan on expanding your grow, or if your schedule doesn’t allow you to hand feed your plants consistently, you’ll want to look into drip irrigation. Done right, having this modern watering system in your grow can be extremely cost effective and efficient.

What Is Irrigation?

An irrigation system consists of a series of small tubes and droppers that connect your hydroponic water reservoir to each of the plants in your grow. The amount of solution and frequency that it is given to your plants is controlled by a timer that allows for exact feeding for an exact period of time.

One of the major benefits of this system is its scalability. It doesn’t matter if you have a small grow and just want exact feedings on a schedule for less work, or you’re trying to expand to a commercial setting. Since the whole setup is just tubing and droppers, it can be expanded almost indefinitely, as long as your pumps can handle it.

Benefits of Irrigation

Drip irrigation has a lot of benefits for the home grower or the commercial grower. It can save a lot of time in the grow by removing the need for hand-watering. The timers also allow for perfect feeding schedules, which takes the stress out of making sure you have the right amount of nutrients going to each plant.

As mentioned before, another big benefit is the ability to scale your system. This makes expanding much easier for the home grower that maybe just wants to add a few more plants but can’t hand feed consistently. It also removes a lot of the human error in a large scale setting when it comes to feeding.

Lastly, is the cost effectiveness. Hand watering might seem cheap early on, but overfeeding is a much higher risk with hand watering, and that can add costs. Underfeeding is just as much a problem. While the initial costs of setting up an irrigation system might scare most off, in the long run it will save a lot of time and effort in the grow.

Negatives of Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems are cost effective and essential to any large scale operation, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. For many people, the cost alone will push them away from buying an irrigation system. For others, it’s the setup.

It can be a lengthy and frustrating process laying tubing and hoses all around your grow, and it only gets more difficult when you scale. All it takes is one tube not being properly connected to another without you noticing, and the impact could be detrimental. 

Even if your irrigation system is set up flawlessly, there is still the maintenance. Clogs, mildew and other issues plague irrigation system regularly. It’s recommended to flush irrigation systems on a monthly basis to ensure there are no clogs or stagnated nutrients that are beginning to mold.

Should your irrigation clog when you aren’t there to fix it, or your power goes out resulting your timer shutting off, the results could be the loss of your plants. You could lose a couple, or all of them. With all your plants dependent on a singular feeding source, losing that source can be detrimental.

Many people who use irrigation systems still have a friend check on their plants if they are on vacation, or set up remotely accessible cameras in the room to check on the plants regularly, just to make sure the above scenarios are avoided.

Finally, the costs that have been mentioned. Irrigation is not cheap. Hand watering is just a water bucket mixed with nutrients. An irrigation system is a complex, automated feeding system. Just that should help you see where that cost comes from.

Should I Irrigate?

A better question might be, “Can you irrigate?”. 

Can you afford the initial set up of an irrigation system? Can you successfully set up your system? Can you maintain and consistently monitor your system? These are just a few questions to ask yourself, in addition to whether or not you even need irrigation.

It isn’t for everybody, and not everyone will get the most out of their irrigation system. Hand feeding is not a bad option if your a small grower just maintaining a few plants at home, and have no issue taking care of them consistently. 

But if you know you can’t provide for your plants consistently, or just don’t want to, irrigation might be your answer.