Accurately watering your plants can be challenging without proper knowledge of soil, climate and other planting factors. As a general rule, too much watering can lead to suffocation of the roots, while too little watering can deplete soil of essential hydration. So how much water is too much or too little? It depends on the soil you’re working with. Water drip systems are a practical method for managing the watering of your plants, especially in desert environments. Here are a few soil subjects to consider when planning a water drip system.

What Kind of Soil

Clay soils retain water, causing the water to spread out horizontally. If watered too frequently, the moisture will deoxidize the soil, resulting in a weaker root system. To avoid this, plants in clay soils need to be watered less frequently than plants in loam or sandy soils.

Sandy soils  have a noticeably difficult time holding in water, and are suitable for plants like carrots, echinacea and wormwood. After watering, the moisture tends to run straight down and out of the plant, so consider a timer with a higher gallon-per-hour rating. This will give the water a better chance to run horizontally.  Set the timer to water for brief, frequent durations. 

Loam soils are considered ideal and are a mixture of sand, silt and clay. Loam soils have a better balance of holding nutrients than any other soil, and is best suited for high-demand vegetables and fruits, like tomatoes or strawberries. 


Living in the Truckee Meadows valley, we see a decent amount of wind. Strong winds can interrupt watering from sprinklers. If you live in an extremely windy area, consider drip or surface irrigation systems.

Sun exposure is also a vital part of understanding how much water your plants need, and also when the most effective time of day is for watering your plants. Not sure about the sunshine needs for your plants? Check out this sun and shade infographic below:  

How much sun for plants

Size of Plant Container or Growing Area

Depending on where you have your plants growing, the timer and duration of watering will vary. Plants in small pots, for example, should be watered daily for brief amounts of time (no more than 5 minutes). For small shrubs planted in the ground, the timer should be set for about 30 minutes. Small trees need to be watered every few weeks for 4-6 hours. This can be accomplished with a deep drip watering stake.  Note: These watering times are approximate.

Types of Drip Irrigation Systems

Porous Soaker Hose System Typically used for shrubs and hedges, this system is extremely porous (hence the name) and basically sweats water along the length of the hose. Because this system is made out of recycled automobile tires, they are naturally durable.

Emitter Drip System Best suited for small trees, this system consists of several hoses that are laid out throughout the planting area. Each hose has holes about 15 inches apart which release drops of water according to the timer. There’s one con to this system: they are easily clogged. Bring them in during winter to avoid excess clogging. The emitter drip system is commonly used when planting in clay soils. 

Watermatic Drip System This system wins the environmentally friendly award, as it is known for conserving the most water by minimizing  evaporation. The watermatic drip system uses tiny spray heads and is best for flowerbeds and trees.

Micro Misting System This system was initially designed for vineyards and orchards and distributes water evenly. The Micro Misting System is also beneficial for backyard gardens, especially for flowers and plants with shallow roots.