Very few additions to your property can increase its value as immediately and as dramatically as landscaping. A well designed landscape adds visual appeal, can improve privacy and safety and can even reduce energy usage in a home. However, unlike most other home improvements, landscaping is a long-term commitment.
When planning your landscaping project, taking into account how you plan to maintain your lawns and gardens is just as important as the actual physical features your wish to incorporate into your design. Remember, it is much easier and cheaper to install an irrigation system beforehand than to do so after the fact.
Underground sprinkler systems have long been the standard in automated irrigation. They offer homeowners a means of maintaining their valuable investment without having to devote an inordinate amount of time to the task. However, automated sprinkler systems do tend to use more water than other irrigation systems.
Even with recent advances in technology that have made such systems more efficient, this option may not be best for those concerned with minimizing water usage. This is especially true in areas where water usage is routinely restricted by local authorities.
Above Ground Systems
Above ground drip irrigation can be a more cost effective means of automated watering. These systems generally use less water and can irrigate soil more deeply, losing less moisture to evaporation. However, these systems lack the inconspicuousness of underground systems, and can cause conflicts with other aspects of lawn maintenance, such as mowing.
Hand Delivery Systems
No means of water delivery has every surpassed the good old-fashioned water hose, portable sprinkler or soaker hose for complete control of irrigation by the owner. These means of irrigation allow the owner to have complete control over the amount of water being used. Though more time consuming than automatic systems, taking this hands-on approach is without doubt the most water efficient.
Picking the Right System for You
Determining your needs before establishing your lawns and gardens is always the best course of action. Granted, hose and portable systems can be implemented anywhere and anytime. An automated system, however, requires trenching out large segments of your property to install subterranean water lines. Thus, such systems are better installed before you begin your project rather than undoing your hard work after the fact.
When deciding what kind of system is best for you, there are two aspects to consider. First consider your own time constraints. If you don't have the time to devote to maintaining your investment, then an automated system will probably be your safest bet. If you do have time to water your lawns and gardens yourself then using portable systems and soaker hoses will help you maintain your property at a lower cost.
Secondly, consider the needs of your plants. If you have used a lot of native plants or xerophytes, then you may be able to rely on rainfall for most of your needs, and skip the expense of an elaborate watering system. An automated system may also be overkill if you only have a small area or a few sporadic plants to care for.