Irrigation (Gardens)

Understand Garden Irrigation Systems: Learn about watering systems and equipment and how to irrigate plants effectively and efficiently. Through distance or online education.

Course Code: BHT210
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Learn how to develop and maintain an efficient irrigation system

  • Understand garden Irrigation Systems:
  • Learn about watering systems and equipment
  • Learn to irrigate plants effectively and efficiently.

This is a ten lesson course that covers the design, installation, maintenance, operation and evaluation of simple irrigation systems. This course is similar to BHT304 and BAG213, but focuses on irrigation for parks, home gardens, and other ornamental horticulture areas

Water is essential to plant growth and is often the major limitation to productivity. However, depending on the climate, the value of the plant, the value of the land and its suitability for irrigation, the cost, reliability and quality of the water supply, irrigation may or may not be possible or feasible.

The main objective of irrigation schemes or systems is to produce a particular desired pattern of plant growth. Maximum vegetative growth does not necessarily correspond to maximum yield of the part of the plant desired e.g. fruit, nuts, or roots.

In addition, achieving maximum yield may require inefficient use of available resources, whether it is land, water, equipment, or labour. 'Optimum yield' is usually the desired objective.

This has been defined as the yield at which the benefit/cost ratio is at maximum, although even this may be hard to achieve if any of the resources required for the irrigation system e.g. land, water, or equipment is limited. Therefore, it is important to clearly define the purpose or desired outcome of an irrigation system.

Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction To Irrigation
    • Introduction
    • Objective Of Irrigation
    • Irrigation: The Wider View
    • Sources Of Water
    • Feasibility Of Irrigation
    • How To Improve the Quality of Water from Any Source
    • Likely Quality Problems in Different Kinds of Water
    • Problems Of Water Quality and Their Remedies
    • Physical Impurities
    • Chemical Impurities
    • Biological Impurities
  2. Soil Characteristics
    • Understanding Soils
    • Naming The Soil
    • Different Soils Are Suited to Different Purposes
    • Improving Soils
    • Chemical Properties of Soil
    • Soil Ph
    • Soil Sodicity
    • Soil Salinity
    • Physical Properties of Soil
    • Soil Uniformity
    • Available Soil Water Capacity
    • Infiltration
    • Internal Drainage
    • Soil And Water
    • Kinds Of Soil Moisture
    • Gravitational Water
    • Capillary Water
    • Hygroscopic Water
    • Transpiration And Wilting Point
    • A Feel-Test for Estimating Soil Moisture Level
    • Fertigation
  3. Estimating Plant Needs and Irrigation Scheduling
    • Introduction
    • When To Irrigate
    • Signs To Look For
    • Symptoms Of Water Deficiency
    • Symptoms Of Water Excess
    • A Checklist for Home Gardeners
    • Timing Of Irrigations
    • Measuring Water Available to Plants
    • Calculating Field Capacity
    • Calculating Permanent Wilting Point
    • Available Moisture Range
    • Rooting Depths of Selected Plants
    • Water Extraction by Roots
    • Irrigation Calculations
    • Pan Evaporation Rates
    • Irrigation System Efficiency
    • Estimating Water Needs
    • Type Of Plant
    • Rate Of Growth
    • Climate
    • Soil Conditions
    • Estimated Water Loss from Soil Under Different Climatic Conditions
    • Tensiometers
    • The Water Requirements of Turf Grasses
    • Importance Of Schedules
    • Scheduling Irrigation
    • Water Volumes and Duration
  4. Drainage
    • Introduction
    • Drainage
    • Improving Permeability During Construction
    • Improving Surface Drainage After Construction
    • Layout Of Drains
    • Outlet
    • Gradients
    • Distance Between Drainage Pipes
    • Depth Of Drains
    • Types Of Drains
    • Laying The Drain
    • Dams And Water Storage
    • Soil Degradation
    • Erosion
    • Soil Acidification
    • Soil Compaction
    • Chemical Residues
    • Wastewater Treatment Using Reed Beds
  5. Types Of Irrigation Systems
    • Introduction
    • Flood Irrigation Systems
    • Pressurised Irrigation Systems
    • Conventional Sprinkler Systems
    • Mechanised Sprinkler Irrigation Systems
    • Fixed Sprinkler Systems
    • Quick-Coupling Systems
    • Sprinkler Heads
    • Mechanisms That Drive Rotating Head Sprinklers
    • Design Considerations
  6. Trickle Systems
    • Introduction
    • Trickle Irrigation
    • Do It Yourself Micro Irrigation Systems
    • Time Length of Watering
    • Automatic Systems
    • Maintenance Of Watering Systems
    • Microjet Irrigation Provides Many of The Answers
    • Maintaining Your Trickle Irrigation
    • Conserves Water
    • Saves Labour
    • Does Not Get Water Where It Is Not Wanted
    • Reduces Weeds
    • Reduces Diseases
    • Cleaning Filters
    • Flushing The System
    • Use Of Chlorine
    • Chlorination In Doses
    • Continuous Chlorination
  7. Design Specifications
    • Introduction
    • Hydraulics
    • Pressure
    • Measuring Pressure
    • Calculating Discharge or Flow
    • Bernoulli’s Equation
    • Velocity
    • Friction Loss in Systems
    • Water Hammer
  8. Pumps And Filters
    • Types Of Pumps
    • Pumps And Pressure Systems
    • More On Types of Pumps
    • Shallow Well Pumps
    • Deep Well Pumps
    • Pumping Mechanisms
    • Piston Pumps
    • Centrifugal Pumps
    • Turbine Pumps
    • When A Centrifugal Pump Fails to Operate
    • Trickle Irrigation: Prevention of Clogging
    • Controllers
    • Automatic Controllers
    • Manual Controllers
  9. Selecting The Right System for A Plant
    • Introduction
    • Water Saving Measures
    • Filtration
    • Flood Irrigation
    • Sprinkler Irrigation
    • Trickle Irrigation
    • Example - Putting Greens
    • Example - Trickle Irrigation in Ornamental Gardens
    • Example - Irrigation of Vines
  10. Design And Operation of Systems
    • Introduction
    • Cyclic Watering
    • Pulse Watering
    • Scheduling Irrigation
    • Sprinkler Spacings
    • Considering Sprinkler Performance in Design
    • Electrical Factors
    • Electric Powered Automatic Systems
    • Design Considerations
    • Water Availability
    • Source And Quality of Water
    • Regulations
    • Site Details
    • Finances And Labour Requirements
    • Water Pressure
    • Plants Water Requirements
    • Evapo-Transpiration
    • Soil-Water-Plant Interrelationships
    • Variations In Plantings

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.


  • Explain the significance of soil in irrigation.
  • Explain how to determine when to irrigate in a small scale situation.
  • Manage irrigation in a given situation.
  • Explain the significance of different aspects of moving water including: drainage, pumps, filters, storage and recirculation.
  • Select an appropriate irrigation system for a given situation.
  • Explain the principles of design for a simple irrigation system.
  • Design a simple irrigation system.
  • Oversee the installation of an irrigation system.


Irrigation can be used to produce outcomes in terms of crop production. Irrigation schemes may also have other outcomes. Large-scale schemes may have an impact on human settlement patterns, causing local migrations of labour to or from irrigated areas with subsequent changes in the availability and cost of housing and services. Land prices may also be severely affected as land use patterns change. Impoundment of rivers and streams into dams and lakes can result in major environmental changes (such as changes to river characteristics and to flora and fauna populations) in areas both adjacent and far removed from those features. Small scale, even down to individual garden size systems, can still cause far-reaching changes. For example, the base flow component (year-round flow) of many urban streams derives almost entirely from home irrigation of gardens. If this was to stop these streams would cease flowing for much of the year. In addition, much of the excess water from irrigation systems that flow to streams, rivers and lakes is high in chemicals leached out of gardens or other crop areas. These chemicals, particularly nitrogen and phosphorous from fertilisers and pesticides, can cause major changes in vegetation and animal populations in and adjacent to water bodies.

“Everyone needs to know about irrigation if they are working in gardens or nurseries, so this course will be really helpful for learning about different irrigation methods and how to establishing them.”- Tracey Morris Dip.Hort., Cert.Hort., Cert III Organic Farming, ACS Tutor.

How Can This Course Help Me?

Everyone knows that plants need water but more plants die from being over-watered than under-watered.  Understanding the water needs of plants is extremely important and that is addressed in this course. The other important aspect of irrigation is to know what the different options for watering plants are, and that is also addressed here. This course will help students work out watering schedules and choose appropriate irrigation systems to best meet plant needs.

This course is going to be of value to people working in:

  • Parks & gardens
  • Landscaping
  • Irrigation
  • Garden maintenance
  • Green keeping & turf care
  • Garden centres   

Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Principal of ACS Distance Education, John Mason, is fellow of the CIH.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
Member of Study Gold Coast Education Network.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
ACS Global Partner - Affiliated with colleges in seven countries around the world.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.
Member Nursery and Garden Industry Association.

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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Dr. Lynette Morgan

Broad expertise in horticulture and crop production. She travels widely as a partner in Suntec Horticultural Consultants, and has clients in central America, the USA, Caribbean, South East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

John Mason (Horticulturist)

Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant.
Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK.
He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world.

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