Water is essential for vital functions. That applies to plants as well as people: rain alone cannot always supply sufficient water to roots, so it must be supplemented with irrigation.
Water pumps for irrigation can transport a quantity of water from one place to another, overcoming a height difference and/or travelling over distance, using suction and pressure. You can also use them to convey water to where it is in short supply, by drawing it from a tank transported to the site. Today we will see how to use a petrol-powered water pump to irrigate the vegetable patch, as well as giving you lots of tips for doing it better.
Water pumps for irrigating the vegetable patch
How should you irrigate? The water must be distributed the right way, without wasting any, so that the plants can derive maximum benefit from it without risks to their health. It must arrive gradually, on the ground at root level (this way the leaves and stem of the vegetable remain dry and are therefore less exposed to disease).
There are several irrigation systems for the vegetable patch:
Watering can: suitable for a small area.
Hosepipe: suitable for a small vegetable patch and more practical than a watering can; avoid using it to direct pray jets of water onto the green parts of plants.
Lateral infiltration: this can be done with a hosepipe, for example, by letting water flow along the lateral furrows of the vegetable plots; it requires a lot of water, which can stagnate, and does not guarantee a uniform result throughout the vegetable patch.
Sprinkler: tends to waste water and wet only the green parts of plants.
Drop irrigation: ideal for saving water (which is conveyed locally to the foot of each plant), this gradual method of water delivery promotes plant health (because as well as staying dry, they don’t become dirty with soil), saves time and can be automated.
You can use a water pump for irrigation by connecting the delivery port to a hosepipe, which is used directly for spraying vegetation, or connected in turn to a surface sprinkler. Otherwise you can connect it to the main tube of a drip irrigation system that feeds driplines/perforated hoses (each of which conveys water to individual plots of the vegetable patch).
A water pump must be prepared for irrigation. If it is a self-priming engine water pump like the Efco MP 3000, proceed as follows:
Connect the suction port of the water pump to a rigid spiral hose.
Apply the appropriate filter to the suction hose, in order to keep out any foreign bodies that could damage it.
Connect the delivery port to the outlet pipe (hosepipe, drip irrigation pipe, etc.).
Place the water pump near to the water source.
Immerse the end of the suction hose in the water.
Fill the body of the water pump with priming water.
Start the water pump: it will start working at full speed as soon as the air in the suction hose is completely expelled.
When and how much to water a vegetable patch
What water should you irrigate with? Rain is a neglected but precious resource for the home vegetable patch or allotment. A rainwater reservoir costs nothing; the water is at ambient temperature (so plants aren't at risk of thermal shock) and, unlike tap water, it won’t contain limestone or chlorine (the latter is toxic to plants, so we don't recommend irrigating habitually with water drained from a swimming pool using a water pump). In the event of a summer hosepipe ban, it guarantees you a good degree of autonomy.
You can collect water in dustbins or a storage tank, from which you can also draw water for irrigation using a water pump. Speaking of autonomy, a rainwater storage tank is a must if you have an allotment located far from your home, with no nearby water supply sources (such as a stream or well).
As an alternative to eco-friendly rainwater, what else can you use to irrigate with? Mains water (which contains chlorine), water from natural sources (provided it is not polluted), or a well (if safe from a chemical point of view). All these alternatives have one thing in common: the water will be more or less cold, which can cause thermal shock, especially if you spray your vegetables during the hottest hours of the day.
How much to water a vegetable patch depends on the season and the weather forecast (the warmer it is, the more water evaporates from the soil and the more plants transpire), the type of soil (does it dry quickly or stay moist?), the species and the lifecycle stage of the vegetables.
Water should be used sparingly. In the vegetable patch you can take advantage of some tips to save it, such as tilling the soil carefully and applying a mulch layer to retain moisture. We talk about this in our article on how to protect the vegetable patch from the heat (or, click the following link if you want to know when, how much and how to irrigate the lawn in summer). The vegetable patch should be watered (albeit minimally) even in cold weather: here you can find our tips for cultivating the vegetable patch in winter.
When should you irrigate? In summer, water the vegetable patch in the evening or early morning, which are the coolest hours, whereas in spring and autumn you should do it in the late morning. In order not to avoid stressing the plants, there shouldn’t be an excessive difference in temperature between the water, soil and air. In addition, the vegetables should have time to absorb the water, without it evaporating unnecessarily or creating stagnant water that can lead to disease.
Water pumps are not just for irrigation: although that is their primary use, they can are also handy for various other purposes. For example, emptying a swimming pool or pond and refilling it (here is how to make a DIY pond in your garden). In addition, with a petrol engine pump for irrigation you can also deal with specific contingencies, such as draining stormwater from a trench or flooded room.
In many cases the water is not clean, but contains mud, leaves, pebbles and so on: here are some precautions for using a water pump with dirty water.