Irrigation- what’s the best system for berries?

Which way to water. I have been wanting to expand my berry interests for some time now. The berries I grow are doing alright and I hope to continue to improve my patch every year as I learn new and better ways to prune, water, fertilize, and implement different ways to prevent weeds taking over the berries. For the purposes of personal research, I will be doing a small overview of the different ways to irrigate berries and the potential pros and cons involved in choosing which system I will eventually install in my own berry projects.
I obviously cannot list every type of irrigation system possible as that would extend this simple blog into an extensive report that nobody would have the time or desire to read. I will simply list the systems that interest me most and add a few links to other more involved descriptions of the other options.
1. Overhead spraying- Consists of elevated sprinklers which are attached together by a series of hoses running from the primary water source. A pump sends the water under pressure into the system; this causes the sprinklers to oscillate in a wide circle watering all below. I have the most experience with this system as my entire 1.5-acre vegetable garden is watered in this way. The system has various pros and cons. The pros include: It’s easy to set up and maintain. It is easy to use and does not take too much micromanaging. No special training is needed and most any one can run this type of system. It can be used during cold spells to keep the crops from freezing, and can be used to uniformly apply fertilizers if needed. The cons include: This system, unless it is state of the art, can be wasteful of water. My system is old and does need constant maintenance but thankfully it is not difficult or overly expensive to fix. The older my system gets the more water it wastes. When its windy the system is virtually useless because the water blows everywhere but on the plants. On very hot days most of the water evaporates before it reaches the plants. When the weather is very hot I usually try to water in early morning. Overhead watering can also cause mildew and other mold issues with some very bushy plants or plants which develop vines close to the ground. The ground can get very wet using overhead sprinkling and has the potential to stay that way under the shade of thick plants. 2. Surface irrigation- The oldest form of irrigation in which the entire is flooded from channels that are dug on the sides of the field or orchard. Water is pumped into these channels and then from there piped into the field to flood the crop. The pros are it is easy to set up and implement. This system uses and abundance of water to create high yields and will also spread the topsoil evenly over the field (irrigation education). The cons include: This system tends to waste a lot of water as the plants can only absorb so much water at once. If the soil does not hold water it can run straight through before the roots can absorb it. The water is not controlled at all so much of it will drain away from some parts of the field too fast while overwatering other parts of the field. Roots can become over saturated with water which leaves the plant open to diseases and stunted growth (irrigation education). I have seen this style of irrigation used on a pecan farm in Mexico that I visited this spring. It was very interesting to see but took a lot of manual labor because individual dams had to be hand dug around each tree so the water would pool at the base of every tree. 3. Drip irrigation- A system which pumps water through a single tube which has been either perforated or fitted with different styles of applicators. Water is pumped through the tube under pressure; then it flows out through the holes or applicators directly to the base of the
plants. Pros include: Efficient use of water, is a good way to uniformly water an irregularly shaped or small field. Very little water is lost to evaporation and run off. Initial set up is not overly expensive (irrigation education). Cons include: General maintenance can be labor intensive and needs some level of micromanagement. The system can easily become clogged and needs a good filtration system especially if the water to be used has a high mineral content. On a large scale this system can be cost prohibitive but tends to work well on a smaller scale such as a greenhouse for example.
Types of drip irrigation systems. Drip Irrigation systems really are so diverse that I feel to expand on some of the different types available to anyone interested in setting one up. There are also many businesses dedicated to this style of irrigation. In states that have problems with water availability these systems are gaining popularity because they don’t need much water in order to function. One company that I have used is (https://www.dripworks.com/). This company has many complete systems for sale as well as the supplies to repair any established systems.
Types of Irrigation systems. Drip irrigation using T-tape is a simple form of drip irrigation it requires no drip emitters. The tape is lain down the center of the row; it does not bend around bushes well, unless the proper fittings are installed (harmony farm supply). The tape has tiny holes which allow water to seep out to the roots of the plants. Drip irrigation systems can also be set up using drip line which is basically poly tube of various diameters which can be fitted with a vast array of different emitters depending on one’s needs. This tube can be bent into a gradual curve around single shrubs. The Harmony farm supply website has a good diagram of the different types of drip irrigation tubes and how resistant they are to being clogged. Water lines set up with sprinkler emitters. Small sprinkler emitters can be fitted to the standard drip irrigation tubes and used as a very small version of overhead style watering.
I personally have never used drip irrigation or T-tape systems. I prefer to use soaker hoses. They tend to be tougher in the long run and can withstand a greater level of pressure. The hoses are as easy to hook together because they are designed to connect to a standard garden hose. I hooked a few together for one row and then lay the hose at the base of my raspberry bushes down the center of my row; I used hoop stakes to hold the hose down. I do have filters on my system though soaker hoses are not so easy to clog as drip irrigation lines. For my large patch I have rows over 100 feet long and the soaker hose has equal pressure to the end of the row and is tough enough that I leave it in my patch from year to year. I make sure that the system is flushed in the spring and put a good mulch over the hoses both to keep the weeds in my patch down and to protect the hoses from sun and cold. So far they have done very well. The hoses in my berry patch are ¾ inch and my water system has ample psi to send water all the way to the end of eight (170 ft.) rows through these hoses. In fact, I have excess psi and have to run some of my overhead sprinklers in the veggie patch to keep the soaker system from blowing from the pressure. I also use smaller diameter hoses about ½ inch to water some of my veggie rows. The best deal I found for buying soaker hoses online was Amazon not surprisingly and the shipping to Alaska was very reasonable. I set my irrigation system up piecemeal which is not the cheapest way but was the only one available to me because I wanted to use soaker hoses. Setting up a drip irrigation system would be much simpler because of all the kits available online or in gardening centers.
The best systems for berries seem to involve either T-tape or drip irrigation covered with an organic mulch or plastic mulch to prevent water loss and protect the system. For my next project I may invest in a small drip irrigation kit just to see how it performs. This research has helped me come up
with a few good ideas and some of the websites have very nice diagrams; I especially like the design pages put out by (Harmony farms and nursery supply company).
By Blueberry croft farm and nursery 2016. Watering and mulching blueberry plants. www. blueberrycroft.com//. Available online: http://blueberrycroft.com/cms/watering-and-mulching-blueberries Accessed on Oct. 12, 2016
Posted by irrigation.education Community on Mar 21, 2016 3:09:17 PM. What irrigation type is best for you. Irrigation education. Available online: http://blog.irrigation.education/blog/irrigation_types Accessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Tom Bressan 2006. Drip Irrigation Handbook. The Urban Farmer Store. Available online: http://www.urbanfarmerstore.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/DripHandbk.pdf Accessed Oct. 12, 2016
By Harmony farm supply and nursery business 1980-2016. Drip irrigation basics. http://www.harmonyfarm.com . Available online: Irrigation designAccessed Oct. 12, 2016
Youtubes:
By Netafim USA, Published on Sep 25, 2014. Increase blueberry yields using drip irrigation. Available Online: Drip. Accessed Oct.12, 2016
By Patty Woodland, Published on Aug 30, 2013. How to install a Dripworks Drip irrigation system. Available Online:  Dripworks Accessed Oct. 12, 2016
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