The early of years of the garden required a lot of hose dragging and sprinkler rotation during the dry periods to keep our veggie plants watered. Our site is surrounded by open farmland, so add windy conditions at times made overhead watering feel futile.
Enter Drip Irrigation. While installing an irrigation system might sound like a job for a professional, I assure you that installation is easy, making this a very DIY-friendly improvement that will save you hours a week and improve your gardening success.
Drip irrigation systems are designed to supply a slow drip of water at surface level, utilizing a water pressure system of 25 psi. Sandy soil types may do best with daily watering due to the speed at which water drains. Heavier soil types may only need watering once or twice a week. An automatic timer means by the time you are strolling the garden in the morning with your coffee, your plants have already been watered and are ready for the day! With water being applied directly to the ground in locations you choose, fungal leaf disease and powdery mildew risks are reduced and water loss in undesirable areas like paths is eliminated.
Starting at your spigot, you will need a filter to remove larger particles that could clog your system. These are sold along with the drip irrigation supplies. Check the filter screen regularly to remove sediment accumulated in the screen.
A pressure reducer is mandatory and also sold with the drip irrigation components. Our residential water systems supply water at a much higher pressure that the irrigation components can withstand. The pressure reducer is easily attached to the filter prior to attaching the drip hose. Pressure reducers will need to be replaced at least yearly. As a side note, pressure reducers are also important for soaker hoses to work properly.
After the reducer, typically a 1/2″ hose without emitters is used to convey water to the garden bed site. Once at the desired watering locations, you can purchase hose with in-line emitters spaced every 18″ which works well in veggie or annual garden beds. Or you can purchase piping and add emitters at an interval (and drip rate) that you choose, which is a better option for shrubs, trees, and perennials.
All the connecting components as well as on/off valves to isolate watering areas are available with the drip irrigation supplies. Two brands readily found in this area are Mister Landscaper and Rainbird. Please note that not all components are interchangeable with other brands, as their hose diameter differs slightly.
With many different components, including microsprinklers, your design options are vast. The main thing to keep in mind is to research the manufacturers’ limits for number of emitters/distance to ensure all emitters get adequate water. You can always add more than one system to add more emitters. Our garden has 6 zones. The colored lines in the adjacent pictures illustrate the 1/2″ main lines that carry water to the system, while the white lines are 1/4″ in-line emitter hoses.