Drip Irrigation System Creation
Living in the western United States offers the possibility for a large yard and a therefore a large garden. However, watering such a large, dry area can put a toll on your back and your pocketbook. Lucky for us gardeners the availability and affordability of drip irrigation has provided a relief on both the labor of watering and in how much water needed to keep any garden producing and looking its best. Hauling a hose from one area to another or filling countless watering cans as you walk back and forth in the afternoon sun can get tiring and is wasteful of your time and energy as well as our precious water. That is why setting up a drip irrigation system that connects to your hose is a great idea that will only take an afternoon to set up and will provide you with afternoons of play instead of watering.
The modern method of drip irrigation was invented in Israel where engineer Simcha Blass developed a method of using the velocity of water and forcing it to travel through different sized passages in an emitter. This allowed him to control the flow, volume and location of where the water was to be delivered. Blass’ new method delivered water precisely at the root base of the plant, cutting down on water waste and increasing the efficiency of watering in large scale situations in an arid climate.
Understanding basic water flow and delivery is essential for planning a drip system for your garden. Drip systems can be connected to an automatic sprinkling system, however, if you are looking for a more flexible solution, you can set up a drip system to work with your garden hose. The instructions below describe how to construct the setup I use in my own garden, a drip system that can be connected to a garden hose.
To begin constructing your drip irrigation system you need to take three things into consideration: how much area you need to water, how much water your plants require, and the amount of water pressure you have available through your hose. These three things allow you to shop for the proper parts for your personal setup, and will help you control water pressure throughout the system ensuring that every one of your plants is getting all the moisture that is necessary. Depending on your answers to those questions you can now go and buy your parts, available at most hardware stores in the plumbing and sprinkler sections.
You will need:
- a coil of ½ inch poly distribution tubing, typically manufactured by Orbit or Rain Bird
- a distribution tubing punch and a tubing cutter (typically available packaged together)
- a utility knife and a couple of spare blades
- drippers (available in outputs of ½ to 5 gallons) that match with plant needs
- end caps for the distribution tubing
- junction pieces
- crampons (garden staples)
- hose connectors
Note: It is a good idea to pick up a few extra drippers, endcaps, and junction pieces in case you make a mistake or a piece breaks.
Before you begin punching holes in your tubing and snapping in your drippers, take the time to walk over your garden and identify where you will place your plants. Or better yet, plant your garden and construct your drip system around the plants. After your plans are complete or your plants are in the soil you can begin to construct your drip system.
Start by putting an end cap on your distribution tubing. Next, lay down the length of tube you need. Your system can have several curves or junctions and cover quite a distance but be careful to ensure that you do not decrease the pressure in the system by trying to cover too much distance. A good rule of thumb is to keep each section of distribution tubing under 75 feet. When you have finished measuring out a section you can cut the tubing, and assemble the junctions if needed. Once the tubing is in its final position, use your crampons to keep it stable. At the end opposite your end cap you can now slide on the hose connection piece, from here you will need to get ready for the most labor intensive part of the entire system; puncturing the hose and affixing your drippers.
If you planted before laying out your drip system tubing your task is to now take your puncture tool and with positioning the tube as close to the plant base as possible. Poke a hole in the tube. Now you will take the dripper that is necessary for that plant and taking the side with a flanged plug and snapping it into the tube. The satisfying sound of a pop will let you know that it has been installed. Repeat this for every plant on the system. If you have not yet planted, measure out where you need each dripper to be located. Then follow the same steps for installing the drippers, making sure that when you plant to put the root base as close to the dripper as possible.
Now that your drip system has been prepared and your plants are in the soil you are ready to connect your hose to your drip system. Bring the end of your hose to the connector on your drip system and screw the connector on to the hose as you would any hose attachment. Since there is air in your drip system anytime you detach your hose, begin by turning on your water to a lower flow and allowing the system to fill with water, once this is done you can increase the water flow to up the pressure in the system. Keep an eye on how much water is being released from each dripper, as too much pressure in the system can force your dippers out of the tubing and make a mess of your garden.
Your new drip system will allow you to water large areas of your garden at once, now instead of dragging your hose around, or lugging around watering cans for a few hours you can move your hose to just a few connection points and water all of those plants at the same time. Another big benefit of the drip system is that if you are living in a very arid region or your soil is sandy and percolates quickly, is that your plants don’t waste water and are in less competition from weeds that show up when you are using, flood irrigation or just moving the water to each individual plant. For those of you with knowledge and skills with a sprinkler system you can attach your drip system to a zone on your sprinklers and have your plants watered any time your sprinklers are running saving you the need to attach your hose to each individual section.
There are an infinite manner of ways in which you can configure your drip system, for any climate, soil type or plants. All it takes is a little time and you can have a garden with healthy plants, fewer weeds and more money in your pocket book for more tools and toys to make your garden the jewel of your neighborhood.