Q: What exactly is drip irrigation? Is it something a homeowner should know about?--G.E., Huntington Beach
A: According to the California Assn. of Nurserymen's definition, drip irrigation is a slow-process watering technique designed to conserve water. One manufacturer of home-garden systems, Drip Mist, claims that use of a residential drip-irrigation system can mean a savings of more than 60% of water used in garden care. The premise is that other methods of irrigation--such as sprinkler, flood and furrow--often result in wasted water because more water is applied than can be absorbed, and the water runs off. Water is also applied where it is not needed, so more is wasted. Depending on how a drip-irrigation system is installed, areas between shrubs can easily remain unwatered. Because the drip-system-applied water can be held to a flow that equals the rate at which the soil can absorb moisture, runoff is eliminated. Other advantages include fewer weeks, increased yield and better growth. In the latter case, plants need not undergo water stress between waterings nor endure water-logged soils. Home gardeners can have drip-irrigation systems installed by most landscape contractors or purchase do-it-yourself systems at a nursery or garden-supply store. Such kits are designed to operate at normal water pressure and connect easily. They offer a choice of methods--such as emitters, soaker tubes, mist sprayers--for a variety of applications.