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7 Irrigation System Types

7 Irrigation System Types

The secret behind every successful gardener is proper watering of plants.

Before you even begin to plant, you should have a clear idea of the right irrigation system to use.

While there are many irrigation systems out there, not all are effective for gardening. This is because gardening considers cost and efficiency, whereby you’re able to water your plants without breaking the bank.

The right irrigation system type sets you apart from other gardeners.

If you own an indoor garden and wonder how you’ll water your plants, worry no more as there are appropriate irrigation system types for all types of gardening.

With this article, you’ll learn the various irrigation systems you can use for your indoor or outdoor garden.

Primary Methods

Primary Methods

Before we dive into the various irrigation system types, it’s vital to first learn about two primary irrigation methods: manual and automatic.

Manual irrigation

If you want a handy and straightforward approach, consider the manual irrigation method for your garden. It’s the best approach for someone who loves caring for their plants to establish a garden that makes them proud.

Skip the complex connection of hoses and other equipment by going manual. Manual methods of irrigation systems offer simple and efficient watering of your plants.

On the upper side, you’ll spend less money on irrigation while maintaining appropriate watering for your garden.

However, one downside of manual methods is that it’s labor-intensive. You must be ready to spend several hours watering the garden, although this activity can be highly therapeutic.

Automatic irrigation

Automatic irrigation is effortless and ensures efficient watering of your garden by connecting several pipes–no-fuss, just efficient watering without wasting time to get your garden in peak form.

Many contemporary gardeners use automatic irrigation methods to water their plants.

Automated irrigation systems are designed for watering specific areas in the garden. However, at times you’ll need to connect multiple systems or relocate the system’s position for overall irrigation.

More information on the different irrigation systems is discussed later in this article.

1. Water Can Irrigation

Water Can Irrigation

A manual irrigation system is one of the cheapest and most efficient forms of irrigation. You fill up the watering can ensure that the small openings of the water outlet are open and start watering from plant to plant.

I’ve personally used this irrigation system for my small garden, and it is magical.

Yes, I end up exhausted, but the results are worth the work. Waking up early and heading to my garden to start watering my plants is satisfying and relaxing and sets my mood for the day.

However, this irrigation system type is limited to primarily small gardens and container plants. If you don’t yet have an automatic irrigation system, a watering can does the job, and you can find great products to help you water small areas.

Here is just one example of the perfect watering can for small gardens or container  

With that said, explore the specific pros and cons of this irrigation system type.


  • Efficient and precise watering of plants.
  • It is easy to use.
  • You don’t need a lot of water.
  • You’re in complete control of how much water you give the plants.
  • Does not erode the soil.


  • Labor intensive
  • Takes away most of your time.
  • It cannot be used for extensive gardens

2. Direct Hose Irrigation

Direct Hose Irrigation

This is also a manual irrigation system type where you connect a hosepipe to a water outlet and move around watering from plant to plant.

Most gardeners use this irrigation system type especially for their lawns, trees, and indoor gardens.

This type of irrigation system requires someone who knows what they are doing. Sometimes you’ll see gardeners ruining their plants by using excess water. Unfortunately, excess water does more damage to your plants than good.

The many benefits of this irrigation system type make it ideal for most container gardens, rooftop gardens, and indoor gardens.

If you are passionate about urban gardening, you can simply connect the hose pipe to your nearest water outlet and start watering plants on the balcony. Use the same approach for an indoor garden.

When done right, this irrigation system type delivers outstanding results, enhancing your plants’ healthy and robust growth. Consider using a standard gardening hose pipe just in case you need to connect a sprinkler later for outdoor gardens.


  • Affordable: You’ll only spend a few dollars for a standard garden hose.
  • Efficient and convenient to use.
  • Allows full control of the amount of water you distribute to various plants.


  • High risk of soil erosion due to water pressure.
  • High risks of using excess water.
  • You cannot use this method for massive gardens.

3. Mini Sprinkler Irrigation Systems

Mini Sprinkler Irrigation Systems

Mini sprinklers are common automated irrigation system types. When you have a moderate size garden or lawn, choose this irrigation system for efficient results.

They are a good option if you want to quickly water a large area of your garden thanks to its coverage radius of about 16 feet.

One feature I enjoy most about mini sprinklers is that they disperse water in large droplets. This feature reduces the chances of evaporation, especially in hot weather.

This irrigation system type is incredibly convenient when you use it on large lawns or flower beds, greenhouses, outdoor gardens, and nurseries.

But, of course, you can’t go wrong with mini sprinklers as they have a decent range and save on water use.

You need a reliable water outlet for the sprinkler to have sufficient pressure for adequate watering. Low-pressure water outlets will definitely not give you the results that you need.


  • Quick and easy installation.
  • Waters a large area.
  • Multiple-use: You can use it for indoor (greenhouse) or outdoor gardens.
  • It can be connected to a standard hose pipe.
  • High distribution uniformity.
  • There are inverted models for overhead installations in greenhouses.
  • You can use vari-flow mini sprinklers to control the coverage area.


  • Large water droplets can cause splash erosion.
  • It cannot be used for container plants.

4. Drip Line Irrigation System

Drip Line Irrigation System

This irrigation system releases water to your plants by explicitly targeting the root area. Unlike most of the systems designed earlier, you do not need to move around the garden to water your plants with this type of system.

Drip lines have to be laid strategically along the planting beds. If you want to grow plants in your garden, installing the drip line before you start planting is better.

There are two techniques for installing drip lines depending on the size of your planting beds. 

For large planting beds, two drip lines are laid parallel to one another. Small planting beds require just one drip line above the planting area. Planting gardens with drip lines must be strategic. Plant your crops where there are drip emitters. Misalignment causes the roots of your plants to lack water.

If you have an already planted garden, you can still install drip lines but with caution so that your plants get sufficient water. Install the drip lines right at the base of your plants for efficient watering and to establish a mass flow.

Drip emitters release water slowly, so ensure that you prolong the irrigation period for optimal watering.

Although drip irrigation does not require your presence in the garden when watering, you should do regular checks to determine that the system is working correctly and there are no blockages.

Sometimes drip emitters clog due to soil backsplash and existing particles in the water. Constant investigation of the drip lines helps you uncover and unclog drip emitters.

This irrigation method is standard for vegetable patches, greenhouses, flower beds, plant containers, and hanging baskets.

You can ideally use this method for every type of garden. For container plants or hanging baskets, install drip lines right above the containers with the emitters directed to the base of your plants.


  • Reduces water wastage.
  • Does not cause any form of soil erosion.
  • It can be used for all types of plants.
  • Does not consume your time.
  • Efficient for large and small gardens.


  • Initial installation is capital and skill-intensive depending on the size of your garden.

5. Pop-Up Sprinklers

Pop-Up Sprinklers

Just as the name suggests, they pop up and start watering your plants. This irrigation system type is the ultimate in automatic irrigation. Gardeners around the world embrace this type of system because it is convenient to use.

It’s a popular choice of automatic irrigation systems for gardeners because it translates into a low-maintenance type of watering system.

Among the most beneficial aspects of this irrigation system type is the fact that all pipes and sprinklers are buried in the ground. So unless you are using it for watering, you won’t even notice that they exist.

Once the system is active, sprinklers pop up from the ground and start watering your plants.

They project water into the air, which then drops down on the plants or grass in a rain-like manner. Pop-up sprinklers retract back into the ground after you deactivate the system.

Installation is everything for the efficiency of this irrigation system type.

As mentioned before, this is an underground system meaning that you are better off installing it before planting your lawn or garden. Strategic installation before planting is typically more appropriate to ensure desirable coverage of your plants.

Pop-up irrigation systems are standard for garden irrigation, watering of grass areas, and flower beds. With pop-up sprinklers, there’s a guarantee that plants in the coverage area will receive sufficient water.

I always recommend these irrigation system types for someone who loves classy design and style in their garden or lawn.

That “pop-up†action is attractive and makes watering an enjoyable experience. As an example of this type of product, you can look at this pop-up irrigation system for an idea of what to expect.


  • Saves water: Spreading a little amount over a large area saves water while still ensuring that your plants receive sufficient water.
  • Not time-consuming.
  • Affordable: They are cost-effective to install and use.
  • Precise watering: Correct installation ensures that water goes where you want it to–the roots of your plants.


  • Initial installation requires expertise.
  • Not portable: This system is relatively permanent, so you’ll need to leave it in place if you sell your property.

6. Soaker Hose Irrigation

Soaker Hose Irrigation

This irrigation system type is very similar to the drip irrigation method. However, its design allows a slow and steady release of water along the entire length of the pipe.

Soaker hose irrigation is common in many indoor gardens. Their water efficiency promotes usage by many urban gardeners who want to save money, time, and water.

Flexible pipes run along the garden and slowly release water to the surface of your plants. Choose the soaker home irrigation system to improve the watering of vegetables and ensure that the plants are always hydrated.

This irrigation type is ideal for vegetable patches, flower borders, and hedgerows. You can also use this system for container plants, thanks to the 4mm diameter of the hose.


  • Simple to install and use.
  • Saves water.
  • Cost-efficient.


  • Not recommended for water-thirsty plants.
  • Water running along the entire length may lead to wastage when used for container plants.

7. Jet and spray systems

 Jet and spray systems

Jet and spray irrigation systems are my favorite methods for watering my garden. They are prevalent for lawns and gardens because they provide such a broad range of watering capabilities.

This irrigation system type has micro jets that spray water into the air over a large area, which falls on your plants like rain.

They have a circular top making it omni-directional to water all the plants in a radius of 20 feet. Thus, the microjets spray water uniformly over the entire garden or lawn.

This irrigation system is ideal for outdoor gardens and lawns. At times they may be suitable for use in massive greenhouses.


  • Efficient watering in all directions.
  • Saves water.
  • Does not consume your time.
  • Quick and easy installation.


  • It cannot be used for most indoor gardens and container plants.
  • Assembling components can be difficult for beginners.

You may be wondering how the methods such as drip, soak hose, jet and spray, mini sprinklers, and pop-up sprinklers are automatic?

Well, they are automated by using irrigation water timers. Timers do all the work for you, and you don’t have to be present for irrigation to take place. Just set the water timers and carry on with your busy schedule.


Choosing the appropriate irrigation system type is the best thing you can do for your garden. Sufficient moisture in the soil not only enhances the growth of your plants but also protects them from conditions such as blossom end rot.

When using timers, ensure that you set only the standard irrigation time to avoid overwatering. The traditional watering for most gardens and lawns takes about 20 minutes at least three times a week (if you’re using sprinklers).

For drip and soak irrigation, watering can take up to one hour, depending on the size of your garden.

Always ensure that if you’re using sprinklers, the pressure level of the water is sufficient for water to reach the desired coverage areas.