Monday, August 29, 2011

Drip irrigation set up

I spent the last week learning how to set up a drip irrigation system for our back-yard using 1/2" poly tubing. Unlike a traditional sprinkler system that is expensive to set up, requires lots of trench digging, wastes more water than necessary, and complicated plumber skills, drip irrigation is very do-it-yourself friendly. This will save me some time so that I can spend it on other things like shaping and taking care of the trees and plants. It will also keep everything alive while we go on vacation.

We have no sprinkler system so I'm setting up a simple drip system connected directly to the hose bib with a 4-way manifold attached. I measured that our hose bib outputs 4.5 gallons per minute (or 270 gallons per hour). We have a clay-like soil. I am using all DIG brand drip irrigation parts bought from Home Depot. While you browse at HD, grab one of those free DIG pamphlets because they tell you everything you need to know to set your drip irrigation system up. We only have small trees and shrubs, potted plants, hanging baskets, a few window boxes, and we have a strip of ground cover in the front yard. I only read what applies to the kinds of plants we have. Setting up the drip irrigation system isn't rocket science, it just takes a little bit of research and is very inexpensive compared to hiring a professional to install a traditional sprinkler system. Here are some important notes I gathered from the free DIG pamphlet:

- You should not exceed 220 GPH (3.6 GPM) total through a 1/2" line, and no more than 25 GPH on a 1/4" line.

- For small trees and shrubs in clay soil, use one 1GPH dripper; for loamy and sandy soil, use one to two 1GPH drippers spaced every 12-18" apart.

- For hanging baskets, pots, and boxes 1-25 gallons, use one .5 gallon dripper. Or use one sprayer on a spike for a 5-25 gallon sized plants.

I'm using mist sprayers for my potted plants because most of my soil is so coarse that a drip emitter would pass the water straight through the soil to the drainage hole before the roots get to absorb any of it.

My hanging baskets have more dense soil that can hold more water so I will use a .5 gallon per hour drip emitter.

All the small trees and shrubs are using two 1 gallon per hour drip emitters except for the Manzanita because it's not recommended that they be watered by drip irrigation. I will hand water the Manzanita when it's thirsty.

I will use jet spray emitters for the ground cover in the front yard once I'm done with the back-yard.

To automate everything, I bought a 9001EZ, 3/4" Hose end timer connected to a 4 way hose bib manifold. This allows me to attach a hose to hand water anything that has special watering needs. In the future, I will call a professional to install a carbon water filter to remove the chlorine out of the garden water and use mycorrhizae applications to optimize tree and plant growth.

Useful resource links:

You can set up a very easy drip watering system by getting these parts at any Home Depot or Lowes.  You can use drip emitters, micro sprinklers with all different kinds of spray patterns, misters which are good for pots, and even soaker hoses.  In addition, you can get a timer and you're set to go on vacation!

For those of you who have a sprinkler system, you can get this retrofit adapter to attach to a sprinkler head and it will allow you to convert it to a drip system.

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