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Ask Burton : Q: I have a new home this year, with new landscaping. The builder installed drip irrigation with our new plantings, but I still had plants burn up this summer despite running my system for fifteen minutes a station every day. Do I need to install spray heads before replacing them?

Posted on November, 16

A: Although it’s possible your irrigation system has a break or other reason to not function properly, there’s a more likely reason you’re having a difficult time. Let us explain.

Drip systems are efficient. They’re a great way to water established landscaping, allowing you to really get the maximum benefit from each gallon of water. When used on established plantings, they’ll keep your landscape in good health without a wasteful water bill. But…

They’re generally inadequate for newly planted trees and shrubs, particularly the first summer.

Each drip hole on a typical, 1/2″ drip watering tube puts out around one gallon per hour the system’s left on. Fifteen minutes per station (a common setting) means that each drip hole puts out roughly a quart of water per cycle. That’s not much forĀ  newly planted and thirsty 3-gallon shrubs, much less larger plantings in the landscape! Leave the system on but give your new plantings supplemental watering with the hose, particularly the first hot summer.

Once your landscape is established, drip irrigation is an excellent way to use water wisely. You just need to be clear on what drip irrigation will, and won’t, do well. It’ll help you get through the first hot summer in ground. It’s rarely enough to keep your new plants watered, without you.