Handwatering and Drip System Combinations for Outdoor Gardening

By Kent Gruetzmacher
Published: July 10, 2017 | Last updated: April 9, 2021 09:54:45
Key Takeaways

Hand-watering and drip systems both have their merits, but combining these techniques gives growers the best of both worlds. Kent Gruetzmacher explores the variables for the perfect set-up.

By diversifying approaches to watering and fertilizing outdoor crops, gardeners achieve far more versatility in troubleshooting and dealing with scheduling constraints. For some cultivators, this notion means combining techniques of both irrigation drip systems and hand-watering.


More specifically, this idea is concerned with putting plants on a constant straight-water drip system in conjunction with the hand-watering of nutrients. Hand-watering nutrients forces drip irrigation farmers to be more hands on with their crops when fertilizing.

This intimate exchange with plants promotes an inclusive, critical examination of the entire garden, an occurrence that is often lacking in automated cultivation solutions.


Also, a straight-water drip system provides horticulturalists a security blanket with watering, as the drip can sometimes cover the recurring chore of hand-watering when a constraint arises in one’s schedule.

Finally, the drip system and hoses can sometimes be used functionally in an interchangeable fashion. To elaborate, the hose can be used in hand-watering to periodically flush out salt deposits in the soil during a long summer growing season (See: Flushing for Soil and Hydroponic Gardens)

Similarly, the drip system can be used to fertilize the garden in the event of a scheduling emergency—nutrients can be mixed and aerated in advance of the actual feeding time.


By setting up one’s garden with both hand-watering and drip irrigation systems early in the season, a grower can help ensure a bountiful crop by diversifying irrigation techniques with anticipatory planning.

Consider Your Climate

In deciding whether or not to invest time and money in both hand-watering and drip irrigation systems, gardeners should first consider their geographical locale and subsequent growing environment. To illustrate, daily watering is essential for the health of sun-loving crops in hot, dry climates like those in inland California.


However, for many outdoor cultivators in these areas, the prospect of hand-watering plants every morning for an entire spring, summer, and fall is a rather daunting proposal. As a result, placing a consistent straight water drip right on the root ball of plants can really help eliminate the stresses of a daily morning watering routine—with most of hand-watering only occurring with fertilization.

However, in more temperate and humid areas of the US, such as the Midwest and the East Coast, the consistency of a straight-water drip will probably need to be regulated with a timer, as the climactic demands for water aren’t as explicit in these geographies.

Point being, the benefits of diversifying you watering approaches are applicable in all geographic locales, but the techniques must be refined according to environmental considerations.

Containers and Grow Mediums

The size and type of a grow container, as well as the choice of a growing medium, are the next most important factors in choosing to implement both hand-watering and drip irrigation strategies.

For starters, if gardeners choose to use a coco mix, or a similar light growing medium that easily dries out, a straight water drip can be an excellent addition to a garden to ensure consistent moisture by the plants roots.

In a similar fashion, for those who like to use well-aerated fabric pots that lose water easily, a straight water drip can be just what’s needed to give plants an extra push in the summer heat.

Also, for outdoors cultivators using 100-gallon (or plus) sized pots, the straight water drip system is perhaps the most practical way to at least semi-automate an irrigation system.

Strictly using drip irrigation set-ups for such large pots is both difficult and inefficient as there is a large square footage of soil surface to cover in these pots.

By utilizing a combination of drip irrigation and hand-watering, one ensures a more even distribution of nutrients above the entire soil surface of large pots while still utilizing some of the convenience of automation.

Water Sources, Nutrients, and Teas

The water source present at the garden site, as well as the sorts of nutrients and teas being used for fertilization, are also important factors in considering the implementation of a hand-watering and drip irrigation combo.

First of all, water quality is determined largely by its source—that generally being from either a municipal water source or a well. For those lucky well-water gardeners, a straight water drip system can often be run directly off of a standard home water connection, depending on the water’s pH and the water table quality. (See: How to Understand a Water Quality Report)

However, if a garden is irrigated purely with city water, this treated water usually needs to be filtered or should sit in a holding pond to eliminate chlorine additives before being pumped out of the reservoir by an electric pump.

Nutrients and compost teas are the final factor to weigh when deciding to diversify one’s watering approach with both systems. By hand-watering when fertilizing, a thorough spreading of this mixture on the soil surface will help ensure an even disbursement of salts within a growing medium.

By manually feeding plants an even amount of fertilizers, farmers avoid the notorious hot spots in soils that are caused by the concentrated nutrient drip of a pure automated irrigation system.

Along this line of thought, using a drip system strictly (except for emergencies, that is) for straight water will keep it from clogging—an issue that plagues irrigation farmers who use thick organic nutrients and teas.

Finally, by implementing a constant straight water drip on an outdoor garden, it’s possible to keep the soil consistently moist. This practice will ensure that the beneficial microbes in organic nutrients and teas don’t die off as they do when soil mediums completely dry out.

Enjoyed this article? Read More: Hold that Hose! Summer Watering Advice


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Written by Kent Gruetzmacher | Writer, Owner of KCG Content

Profile Picture of Kent Gruetzmacher

Kent Gruetzmacher MFA is a Colorado-based writer and owner of the writing and marketing firm KCG Content. Kent has been working in the cannabis and hydroponics space for over a decade. Beginning in California in 2009, he has held positions in cultivation, operations, marketing, and business development. Looking specifically to writing, Kent has worked with many of the leading publications and marketing agencies in the cannabis space. His writing has been recognized by such icons as Steve D’Angelo and Rick Simpson.

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