Deep watering that is infrequent saturates the entire root zone and minimizes the total loss of water due to evaporation. By watering only about once a week even as the surface area dries moisture is still available more deeply, where roots will grow in search of available moisture. By watering infrequently, roots are encouraged to grow down to find water.
The most critical phase of a plant or tree survival is when it is becoming established. Getting sufficient water to the roots is critical. Having a way to deliver that water slowly enough to soak deeply into the soil is essential. Using the right drip irrigation method is a great way to assure that happens, no matter where your plants are located. Another issue is growth ring for roots... they tend to match the diameter/perimeter of the limbs and trees above so if you water, try to water just outside the perimeter of the tree growth area to encourage the tree to extend its roots wider away from the center of the trunk.
Methods of Irrigation
Manual - Bucket/Spray, gutter redirects and sprinklers:
These are the most common and any DIYer can use various forms of water collection systems to aid in their efforts to collect and sometimes redirect water around the yard or into containers or planters. Manual is slow and not very convenient unless you borrow your kid's John Deere Jeep and have them lug around the water from plant to plant... hoping they don't run over your newly planted Black Eyed Susans.
Buckets and Garbage Cans:
Some people trap water in large 50-gallon rain barrels or another tip is to use a 30-gallon plastic trash can or barrel drill a few small drainage holes, fill with water and let the water slowly drain out - this of course is a bit unsightly, unless you like a black, 30-gallon trash barrel near your Weeping Willow Tree... some folks use the inexpensive 5-gallon paint buckets with small holes drilled in or with drip/soaker hoses jury-rigged to the bottom to allow for slow drainage. It is possible to camouflage or hide your large rain bucket within wooden boxes or fences - be sure to use a screen to keep out mosquitoes.
Automated irrigation systems:
These are fantastic but are difficult to DIY, can get pretty fancy and quite costly. Some cities are planning to add surcharges to homeowners that use these systems or have them installed in new/existing homes. Sprinklers are great, direct or indirect misting and can easily be placed anywhere you want to target spots that need attention. Downside with sprinklers can be wastage and evaporation - there's nothing quite like watering your sidewalk or driveway.
For beds and containers, the best way to keep plants hydrated right at the root zone is with drip irrigation. The water is delivered through a supply line that typically is flexible: plastic tubing. Along the supply line small holes are punctured into it where needed, allowing water to drip out at those points. Flexible tubing can also be tapped into the line, directing water precisely to the base of any plants or containers. The rate at which water drips from the end of the tubing is controlled by a plastic tip called an emitter. They come in different sizes depending on your desired flow rate. Drip irrigation kits and supplies can be purchased at garden centers and home improvement stores. They're easy to install. Add an automatic timer and you'll have a worry-free way to water effectively... Some downsides include clogged drip connectors, costly, works best for small individual plants and can get cumbersome running various lengths of hose that you have to hide or bury.
Portable drip irrigation in a bag:
There comes a point where it becomes impractical to extend a drip irrigation line too far into your yard or to a remote setting of your landscape. That can create a problem, forcing you to consider ever more efficient ways to water trees and shrubs. Treegator is a product that addresses that very issue. It's essentially a portable drip irrigation system in a bag. The "bag" is a leak-proof bladder that has tiny pinholes in the bottom. Wrap the Treegator around the trunk, fill it with water and, during the next six to 12 hours water is released slowly into the soil.
There are currently two models. One is a cone-shaped style that holds 20 gallons of water. The second has a lower profile and holds 14 gallons. They are an ideal solution for watering trees and shrubs in a way that allows the water to slowly soak the area around the roots. More information and ordering information is available at www.treegator.com. Downsides include, odd green pyramid on every tree in your yard, can be a bit costly.
Step 1: Ingredients
The DIY TreeGator Water Bag can be made from a 34-gallon, 45-gallon or 55-gallon garbage bag, a quick release water connector and a few PVC connector parts from Home Depot or Lowes....
1 Garden Hose Shut Off Connector Valve (~$1.50, more if you splurge for a brass one)
1 Garden Hose Quick Disconnect (~$0.44, or more if you splurge for brass one)
1 PVC Threaded reducer adapter (~$0.50)
- this is optional depending on the size of your quick disconnect and your compression adapter... this allows you to go from 3/4" pipe to 1" threaded connector, if you are lucky all your parts fit together and you won't need this... or if you decide to go to a larger pipe diameter you will need one of these to get back down to the standard garden hose
1 PVC (male) compression adapter (~$1.50 - $4.50, depending on size you select)
1 6" Garden Hose extension (male to female) (~$1.50 - $3.00)
- This is optional, only use if you want to be able to run your connection point a bit further outside the planting area or flower bed.
Garbage Bags - 34-gallon or larger in size (~$3.50 for 50 bags)
- Note: There are biodegradable garbage bags available. Some biodegradable garbage bags are for general purpose and medical use, usually taking on a bit of water will suffice and over time it breaks down into the corn based material it started at... it is susceptible to temperatures above 110F, where it starts to degrade... so, this may still be useful in the hot summer garden under mulch or in the shade.
Teflon Tape (~$0.25, get two...)
- This is used to seal the threads on each connector to prevent water leakage. You want the water to leak out of the bag, not at the connector points. They are pretty cheap - get two... Every homeowner knows you will eventually need one to fix that annoying dripping/leaking faucet.
- How to article: http://www.acmehowto.com/howto/homemaintenance/plumbing/general/teflon.php
Step 2: Construction
We made 4 DIY TreeGator Water Bags for the cost of one TreeGator.
1. Use teflon tape to wrap the threads at the connector points, one or two wraps should suffice.
2. Connect all the points together tightly
3. Disassemble PVC coupling and don't lose the rubber seal ring. Thread garbage bag through the opening, up and around the interior connector hose and back through the hole. This can get a little tricky as the bag may want to bunch up. You won't need to add any teflon tape because the seal ring and the garbage bag work great to expand and block the water diverting it through the main hole.
Note: It's possible to obtain more water in the bag and an easier fitting if you have access to a sealer or sewing machine that can close the square/rectangular garbage bag on one end. Then you can utilize the corners as the main connector point for the PVC coupling. See diagram. You would be best to borrow your wife or neighbors sewing machine and invert the bag, sew it twice on the open end. Then pick one of the other corners to trim off and flip the bag inside out... then proceed to use the PVC compression clamp like you would with the rest of the instructions. I've also read about people fusing trash bags together using a hot iron although I'm not sure about the strength of the fuse...
4. Connect your garden hose with a quick connect - don't forget to apply a bit of teflon tape here as well...
5. Set your DIY TreeGator Water Bag where you want it located.
6. Make sure your garden hose shut-off that is connected to your DIY TreeGator Water Bag is actually open and connect it to your garden hose and water supply.
Step 3: Feed the Gator...
7. Fill the DIY TreeGator Water Bag.
8. It's your choice on how far you want to fill the bag. At some point it will fill to capacity and possibly rupture. When it's full prick the surface of the lower edges with a pushpin or needle. We put in about five holes on each side on the lower bottom. More holes and/or larger holes will vary your water flow out of the bag... trial and error works best here depending on size, amount of water used and amount you want released over time...
9. Cover bag with mulch.
When it's empty, just reconnect your hose from the house to the bag using the quick connect/disconnects, turn the valve to open the connector and refill... be sure to close the valve before disconnecting from the primary hose.