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Overhead Or Drip Irrigation: What Offers the Most Value?

One of the most common questions homeowners ask themselves when selecting the components of their automatic irrigation system is whether drip irrigation or sprinkler irrigation is better for their yard.

If you too are seeking the answer to this question, you have come to the right place. To help you make an informed decision, we discuss the differences between these two systems.

Drip Irrigation: An Overview

Drip irrigation is also known as micro-irrigation and low volume irrigation. A drip irrigation system utilizes a network of pipes, emitters, and tubing to supply water at a progressive rate directly to the soil. These can be run on top of the soil or sub-surface.

Drip irrigation is almost 90 percent efficient. It reduces runoff and evaporation. No wonder it is becoming increasingly popular among landscapers in Sonoma County.

Known for its versatility, drip irrigation is suitable for most soils. As stated earlier, it can be applied on top of the soil or subsurface. An underground drip irrigation system can help address the problem of surface evaporation. When installing a subsurface drip irrigation system, use products specifically designed for subsurface applications.


  1. Localized application minimizes fertilizer and nutrient loss

  2. Reduced soil erosion

  3. Highly uniform water distribution

  4. Slow infiltration rate

  5. Less weed growth

  6. Fields with irregular shapes can be accommodated

  7. Run-off risk is minimized

  8. High water application efficiency


  1. Extreme sun rays can damage the coating. To avoid this problem, use UV-resistant tubing

  2. Difficult to see problems before plants become stressed

  3. Tubing with improper filtering can get clogged

  4. Rodents can gnaw at the tubing

  5. The tubing is prone to damage from sharp objects such as the metal blade of a shovel

Overhead Sprinkler Irrigation Explained

An overhead sprinkler irrigation system uses a network of spray heads, sprinkler nozzles, or rotors. The system first breaks water into tiny droplets and then uses an efficient spray pattern to disperse these droplets which then blankets the target area. Two concepts must be accounted for in overhead sprinkler systems.

  1. Distribution Uniformity – how evenly water is applied over the target area

  2. Precipitation Rate – how fast the water is applied measured in inches per hour (think rain fall)

Dialing in these two concepts will provide for more even watering and determine how quickly water will infiltrate into the soil which will allow for a healthier landscape area with less or no run off.


Overhead sprinkler systems are usually used when covering large areas of lands such as athletic sports complexes, ornamental lawns, and commercial properties. Here are some advantages of overhead sprinkler systems.

  1. Lower maintenance costs

  2. Long product life (with proper maintenance, an overhead sprinkler irrigation system can last 10 years or more)

  3. Can cover a larger area

  4. Shorter irrigation intervals

  5. Easier to locate breaks/damage


  1. Requires adjustments to cover the entire area

  2. Higher risk of runoff and erosion than drip irrigation

  3. Increased risk of disease and fungi growth

  4. Increased potential for wind drift issues

Gardenworks Inc. is a team of experienced landscapers in Sonoma County. We live to create enchanting landscapes that seem out of a fantasy world. We are committed to helping our clients maintain a healthy and aesthetically pleasing yard year-round. To discuss your project, call (707) 857-2050.


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