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Irrigation Methods that Reduce Weeds and Conserve Water

David Bainbridge shares which watering methods work best for minimizing weeds.

| Summer 2018

  • clay-pot
    Clay pot waterers can save gardeners hours of work by nourishing crops without encouraging weeds.
    Photo by GrowOya.com

  • clay-pot

Question: Which irrigation methods work best for minimizing weeds? 

Answer: Some of the most efficient watering systems for your garden include soaker hoses, drip irrigation, and buried reservoirs. These not only grow healthier plants and save water, but they also minimize weed growth and reduce watering and weeding time.

Ceramic-based irrigation systems, such as ollas, buried clay pots, porous clay pipes, and porous capsules, are some of the best watering setups for small plots. Using these methods, you can put fertilizer and water right where the crops will get them. Water moves through the clay walls as plants use the water in the soil, so weeds have little to grow on. In areas with little summer rain, the difference can be striking. In a recent study, weeds around plants grown with clay pot irrigation weighed 200 pounds per acre, compared with 8.5 tons per acre with conventional surface irrigation. A heavy mulch between plants will further reduce your weeding time.

Wick irrigation, which relies on a fiber wick to transfer water into soil, is even more efficient than clay pot irrigation. As the plant uses water, it draws more from the reservoir through the nylon or polyester wick.



Deep pipe irrigation often works best for larger shrubs and trees. It uses an open-ended, vertical or near-vertical pipe to deliver water to the root zone, which leads to deep watering and excellent root growth while minimizing weed growth. The pipe can be plastic, metal, or bamboo with the nodes drilled or knocked out.

Try a comparison in your garden this year — you’ll save time, energy, and water, too. 



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