Sumo Gardener

Different Types of Irrigation Systems for the Garden

If you own a home, you likely have a yard as well. You may like your yard very much. You want people who drive or walk past discussing it for the right reasons.

That means you don’t want brown or dry patches. You want green, lush grass you can stroll through that feels carpet-like under your bare feet. Your grass becomes a selling point when you move on from that house. Buyers love homes with well-manicured lawns.

An irrigation system can bring you the lush, green lawn you want. We’ll discuss different types of irrigation systems now. Once you understand various kinds, you can pick one that makes sense.


Types of Irrigation Systems

What is Irrigation?

If you don’t know this term yet, irrigation means applying water that you regulate and measure out. Usually, you need irrigation for plants. You can’t just hope plants or your lawn turn out okay. You must water them regularly and encourage their growth.

Plants must undergo the photosynthesis process. That takes water and sunlight as well. You can’t force sunlight’s occurrence, but you can regulate the water plants and grass need.

Now, let’s discuss different types of irrigation systems for your garden. 

Types of Irrigation Systems

Surface Irrigation

Surface Irrigation

You will likely see surface irrigation more than other kinds. That’s because you can set it up and use it fairly easily. If you set up sprinklers across your yard and use a hose for an easy water source connection, that’s a surface irrigation setup.

You place the sprinkler, turn on the water, and set it the way you want. Most sprinklers have multiple settings, and you can select one that seems best.

Localized Irrigation

The localized irrigation method usually costs more and is more complex. You might hire professionals for the setup. You may also set it up yourself if you have some excellent DIY skills.

With localized irrigation, you distribute water under low pressure. You’ll still use sprinklers in most instances. However, the pipes through which the water comes remain underground. 

You will have an intricate network that you create by digging trenches and burying the pipes. Then, you turn on the water, which flows through the pipes and fuels the sprinklers.


Sub-irrigation involves water moving across the land through a raised water table. To get this method going effectively, you must have ditches, canals, pumping stations, and gates.

You can’t usually set up sub-irrigation on your own for a single house. If it exists, it usually serves multiple homes. Often, you’ll see sub-irrigation setups in cooperative communities or managed properties.

You might pay maintenance fees when you use sub-irrigation. The money you pay maintains the system and fixes issues with it.

Manual Irrigation

Manual Irrigation

Manual irrigation isn’t exactly the easiest system for watering lawns or gardens. You must take a watering can and sprinkle water everywhere yourself. This works fine with small garden patches, but you can easily see how using it for a large lawn won’t make much sense. 

You’d take all day walking around watering the yard with a can. You get exercise this way and strengthen your can-holding arm, but other than that, it’s not very practical.

Other Irrigation Methods

You might also encounter less conventional irrigation methods. For instance, you might divert rainwater into your lawn through your gutters. You can set up a pipe running across your deck or through a side yard. 

Doing so means you utilize rainwater, which makes sense, but you probably can’t distribute it evenly. You’ll have too much water in one lawn section and not enough elsewhere.

You might also have a sump pump in your basement that directs rainwater that could flood the basement into your yard. That’s practical, but you have the same problem. You’ll probably divert the rainwater into one lawn section, oversaturating it.

You can sometimes set up more elaborate underground irrigation systems using your gutters or sump pump as a focal point. You can dig narrow trenches and run pipes through them that fuel automatic sprinklers.

That’s only possible with some properties, though. More times than not, you’re better off setting up localized or surface irrigation systems.

Wrapping Up Our Guide to Types of Irrigation for Your Garden

Whichever one you choose, ensure it distributes the water evenly and that you use it regularly. If you don’t, you won’t have the healthy, green lawn you desire. 

Your neighbors won’t like a patchy, brown lawn since that lowers their property value. A healthy lawn highlights your property, while a poorly-maintained one makes your home stand out for the wrong reasons.

About the Author Pat Moreno

Pat is our gardening tool expert here at Sumo Gardener. Working for many years as a private and commercial landscaper, Pat has used almost every type of gardening tool there is. Along with a vast knowledge for types of plants and putting together an amazing looking and maintainable garden, Pat developed a passion for gardening tools as he found that using the right tools vastly improved the ease and outcome of any landscaping job he undertook. When spending hours, days or years using a particular tool, you want to make sure you’ve got the best one for the job, and Pat is the right guy to guide us to the best gardening tools.

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