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How to Choose the Right Fertilizer for Your Drip Irrigation System

How to Choose the Right Fertilizer for Your Drip Irrigation System

Nov 8th 2023

Whether it's a large-scale commercial farm or a small backyard garden, gardening requires great effort. From preparing the soil and planting seeds or transplants to installing efficient irrigation systems like drip irrigation, every step is crucial to ensure healthy and productive plants. Fertilizing is a key component of this process. Fertilizing through a drip irrigation system is known as fertigation. It uses drip irrigation technologies to supply water and nutrients directly to plant roots. Once you know what fertilizer to use and how to insert it into the injector, fertigation is simple.

Read on to learn about how to choose the best fertilizer for your drip irrigation system and look at popular injection methods, including Ez-Flo injectors, Mazzei systems, and Dema MixRite.

So, let's get started!

Things You Need to Know Before Fertilizing through Your Drip Irrigation System

Fertigation, which involves applying fertilizer via an irrigation system, can be a little time-saver. However, if not done right, it might cause damage to your drip irrigation system.

Here's why: Fertilizers usually contain salts that can clog nozzles and cause pipe buildup, potentially causing your system to fail. Furthermore, they can change the pH of the water, making it more acidic and potentially harmful.

To avoid such problems, use a reliable fertilizer and check the pH of the water before applying it. Also, flush the system regularly to remove any salt or sediment buildup. Taking some measures can keep your drip irrigation system in good shape while reaping the benefits of fertigation.

Pros and Cons of Fertilizing through Drip Irrigation System

Pros

  • Precise Nutrient Control: Fertigation controls nutrient dosage according to plant and soil needs. It's adaptable to both traditional and hydroponic setups, outperforming traditional methods.
  • Reduced Leaching: By providing the right amount of nutrients and water, fertigation minimizes the risk of leaching.
  • Efficient Resource Use: This system reduces waste and enables better resource management by controlling nutrients and fertilizer amounts. Fertigation eliminates fertilizer waste through traditional watering and manual mixing.

Cons

  • Increased Maintenance: Fertigation systems require more maintenance, including daily checks for leaks and consistent fertilizer feeding. Regular cleaning is crucial to avoid contaminants that can disrupt nutrient delivery.
  • Higher Installation Costs: Installing a fertigation system involves additional costs for specialized hardware like control units and sensors, making it more expensive, especially for larger operations.

Can You Fertilize through Your Drip Irrigation System at Home?

Fertigation, the process of combining fertilizer and irrigation, is more commonly used in large-scale agriculture than home gardens. Here's why:

  • Fertigation is most effective when used with accurate drip irrigation systems. Setting up such a system at home might be difficult and expensive.
  • Using fertilizers in irrigation systems requires an expensive backflow preventer to keep chemicals out of your water supply.
  • Many home gardens have sprinkler systems, which can cause excessive runoff and potentially cause algae and weed development.
  • Chemical overspray can damage cars and surrounding properties if home sprinklers are utilized for fertigation.
  • Home gardens often have a variety of plant types with varying nutrient requirements, making precision fertigation challenging.
  • Fertigation requires complex and costly automation. Manual mixing may damage plants.

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Know What Fertilizer to Use

Fertilizers come in various forms, including liquid, granular, and soluble. Liquid fertilizers are frequently used with drip irrigation systems because they are easy to mix and apply. Water-soluble fertilizers, particularly those with less than 0.5% insoluble impurities, are also a good choice because they readily dissolve and can be injected into the irrigation system.

Water-soluble NPK fertilizers are an excellent approach to providing plants with the nutrients they require for healthy growth. They contain a readily dissolved combination of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). You can incorporate a fertilizer injector into your drip irrigation system to distribute the fertilizer evenly. This method lets you control watering and fertilizing from a single system.

How to Inject Fertilizers into the Drip Irrigation System

Fertilizer injections are commonly used in large-scale agriculture, small-scale gardening, and landscaping due to reliable and user-friendly dispenser units. Here are some of the common injectors you can use to fertilize through your drip irrigation system.

EZ-FLO Fertilizer Injectors

How to use: These versatile fertilizer injectors are easy to use. Fill the tank with the fertilizer of your choice, whether it's dry or liquid concentrate. Adjust the injection rate with the valve to control the fertilizer concentration. The injector can be connected to a faucet directly with the provided hose bib adapter or to a main water line with an installation coupler.

Ensure that your irrigation system meets the flow requirements, as EZ-FLO injectors require a minimum flow of 120 GPH and can operate down to 7.5 GPH with flow-restriction discs provided. For individuals who need to fertilize multiple areas, the Faucet Switching Kit allows you to switch the tank from one faucet to another without disconnecting any pipes.

Mazzei Fertilizer Injectors

How to Use: Mazzei injectors are Venturi injectors designed for commercial use. They feature a reliable suction mechanism that draws liquid fertilizer from various containers. They can be connected directly to a main water line or through a bypass for minimal flow restriction. To ensure the best performance, choose a Mazzei injector that matches the flow rate (GPH) of your irrigation system.

A large injector won't draw fertilizer, while a small one could limit the flow of the system. A 25% pressure difference between the incoming and outgoing levels is required for the Mazzei to operate properly. This difference creates the vacuum effect required to draw fertilizer.

Dema MixRite

How to Use: Dema MixRite provides very accurate pump-style injectors that are simple to use and maintain. These injectors accurately meter fertilized solutions into your irrigation system, and they run entirely on the power of the water flowing through them. They don't require complex electrical setups. Choose the MixRite model that corresponds to the fertilizer dilution concentration (mix ratio) you want for the fertilizer or additive you're injecting into your irrigation system. There are several options available to accommodate both high-water flow and smaller-scale applications.

DripWorks provides various MixRite parts, including new piston kits, plastic springs, and seal kits. You can also find accessories such as wall-mounting brackets to help with installation.

The Bottom Line

In the world of agriculture and gardening, the right choice of fertilizer is essential. From small-scale gardens to expansive commercial operations, the combination of the right fertilizer and irrigation system is a key to success.

And when it comes to effectively providing those nutrients, a suitable drip irrigation system combined with the right injector can make all the difference. Remember that it's not just about convenience; it's about making the most of your resources, conserving water, and, eventually, promoting healthier, more productive crops.

If you want to learn more about fertigation, irrigation, or other areas of garden maintenance, our team at Dripworks is here to help. Feel free to reach out for more information.