Drip Irrigation - The Wrong Choice


My recent Dallas Morning News column raised eyebrows, so it’s time to address drip irrigation in more detail.

Recent question on drip irrigation and my answer:

Q: I have about 60 privacy type trees lining my property that are one to two years old. I am getting ready to set up a drip irrigation system complete with timers. Can I run a Garrett Juice / THRIVE mixture through the drip lines? Or is it better to use a garden sprayer.

A: You can run the organic materials through it, but I'm not a big fan of drip irrigation on landscaping. Above ground sprayers would be better. If you use the Garrett Juice formula at every watering, cut the mixture to at the most a 30% concentration or a 70% reduction from the normal concentration.

Q: Not a fan of drip irrigation? Why? I am confused. I was under the impression that it was the most efficient watering method.

A: In my opinion, drip irrigation works in one situation – row crops where there are emitters at the bases of plants. Even there the system isn’t perfect. You can’t see where the water is going and the maintenance is high. Water seeks the path of least resistance and it’s impossible to avoid dry spots and supersaturated spots. Rodents love to eat holes in the tapes and tubes. Again – wet spots and dry spots. In landscape, especially in groundcover beds, drip is a poor choice at best, and a disaster in most cases. The photos show an all too common result.


Two separate projects where groundcover is a complete failure under drip irrigation.


Above ground spray systems are better. You can see where the water is going and there is better coverage. Plants like to be watered from above – like when it rains. Don’t buy into the argument that sprinklers and moisture on the foliage lead to more disease issues. That’s just not the case – especially when organic techniques and products have your properly selected plants in a healthy condition. Drip systems might save some water, but if the plants die, what have you accomplished? Several cities are now dictating that drip irrigation is used. These policies should be changed. An alternate policy of requiring organic landscape management would save a great deal of water – 40 - 50%. It would also reduce air, soil and water pollution. Landscape projects would also look better and be easier to maintain.

Naturally yours,

Howard Garrett 



P.S. If you have any questions about this newsletter or any other topic, join me this weekend for my Green Living and Dirt Doctor Radio showsShop at the Green Living Store for all the products I recommend in the Organic Program. 

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