One method of watering plants that is efficient and won’t waste water to evaporation is installing a drip line irrigation. It doesn’t matter whether you are growing trees, vegetables, or flowers, you can easily manage the whole system by laying out the tubing with drippers strategically placed to feed water directly to the roots.
You can even automate the drip irrigation system so that when you are traveling or at work, you can still keep your yard in tip-top shape. Also known as micro-irrigation, this network of plastic tubing and low-volume drippers are very economical and easy to install.
You can buy drippers (aka emitters) that put out different volumes of water depending on the needs of your plants. Planning out the area ahead of time will help you figure out the amount of materials required to finish the job.
This post gives some tips on the planning phase:
Divide your garden by water needs. Before you purchase your supplies, you’ll need to know what exactly you need. Sketch a rough map of your garden, or the area you wish to drip irrigate. Divide the map into several regions based on one or more of the following:
- Watering needs of each plant. Mark these heavy, medium, or light.
- Levels of sun or shade. If most of your plants have similar watering needs, use sun exposure to divide your garden. Plants in full sun will need more water than plants in partial or full shade.
- Soil types: Take this into account if your garden has major soil variation. See below for more information.
Design the irrigation layout. A typical drip tube can reach a maximum length of 200 ft (60 m), or 400 ft (120 m) if the water enters the line at its center. If you need more than one drip tube, you can install a lateral line with two or more drip tubes extending from it at different points. For large gardens, use a pressurized mainline instead of the lateral line, and consider looping it in a full circle, which allows you to double its length to 800 feet (240 m) (240 m). Sketch the proposed layout onto your map.
- Ideally, each drip tube should serve an area with similar watering needs.
- “Distribution tubing” is a smaller alternative to drip tubing. This can only reach a maximum length of 30 ft (9 m). Use only for potted or hanging plants to prevent clogging.
- Typically, the mainline runs along one length of the garden, or around the entire perimeter for large properties.
Once you have your garden planned out, the next thing is to purchase the correct supplies. There are a variety of different types of tubing, but we like to use polyethylene pipe, which we call poly pipe.
There are pre-assembled kits you can purchase that can be helpful, but you might be able to complete the project cheaper by buying your materials individually. Here is a list of potential items:
- Pipe, also called tubing or hose, is the line through which water runs. It can be connected to any outside faucet.
- Add a filter to ensure that minerals and other debris are removed from the water before it reaches your plants, particularly if you’re drawing from a nearby stream or river.
- If you don’t already have one in place, install a backflow preventer, or vacuum breaker, to stop contaminated water from flowing back into your water supply.
- A Y-shaped connector can connect drip irrigation and a hose to a faucet simultaneously.
- Supply and header lines are usually ½ inch in diameter while lateral lines are ¼ inch.
- A pressure regulator maintains steady water pressure for better operation.
- Elbow and T-shaped connectors provide multiple installation options.
- Foggers create a fine mist that is ideal for watering hanging plants and flowers.
- Water is dispersed through emitters, micro sprinkler heads, foggers or sprayers.
- Micro sprinkler heads function like regular sprinklers at lower pressure and volume.
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Hand watering a raised flower bed or veggie garden is tedious, so setting up a drip irrigation system also works well for raised beds. For hanging plants and flowers, the emitters are many times misters instead of drippers, but the setup is similar.
The following video really goes into detail with creating your own drip irrigation system:
His list of supplies that he uses just for the wall hydrant is extensive. You wouldn’t have to have all of the devices he added, but be sure and use the backflow device. We usually bury our poly pipe or cover it with mulch so the water isn’t as hot coming out of the emitters, but it depends on whether your drip system is located in the sun or shade.
You also have to keep in mind that in the Denver, Colorado area, you will need to winterize your system, so planning ahead with a way to blow out the watering system is going to save a lot of repairs the next spring. Give us a call to learn more about irrigation and maintaining your landscaping.