Life depends on water. Unless you live in a gardener’s paradise where plants get a reliable, sustainable watering from weekly rainfall, you’re going to need to irrigate. That means most if not all of us will have to supplement Mother Nature’s efforts with our own if we want our plants to thrive.
Many irrigation methods are available, from simple approaches like buckets or garden hoses to advanced sprinkler systems. But one of the smartest moves you could make would be installing a drip system. In garden layouts large or small, drip watering will offer several benefits. First and foremost, it can slash water use by 30 to 50%. By directing water exactly where you want it to go with drip irrigation, you won’t be watering weeds and encouraging their growth. Plus, because the water drips at the base of plants, drip irrigation can reduce the spread of disease caused by overhead watering. If you attach a timer to your drip irrigation system, you won’t even have to be around. It will operate automatically according to the schedule you set. Read on to learn how to install a drip irrigation system.
Mapping it Out
First you will want to do some planning. Check to see if any local laws cover drip irrigation in your area. Some jurisdictions will require backflow testing to ensure garden water does not contaminate municipal drinking water supplies.
Decide where you want to run your drip irrigation system, including the location of each plant you wish to water. You should also check your soil to determine whether it is clay, loam or sandy. Clay soils will hold water longer and will require less irrigation than loamy or sandy soils.
Next, assemble the basic components you will need for your drip irrigation system. These include tubes to run the water from a faucet to your plants, valves to control the flow of water and emitters, which will drip small amounts of water close to your plants. If you prefer, you can purchase a drip irrigation kit. Besides providing you everything you need, a kit can save you money compared to purchasing individual components.
You can use 1/2” drip irrigation tubing that will serve as the mainline to carry water from a faucet to the lines and emitters in your garden. Before attaching the tubing to the water supply, you will need to connect a backflow preventer to the faucet to prevent garden water from getting into your home’s drinking water. It’s also a good idea to install a filter to remove particulates so they don’t clog up your drip lines. Then connect the mainline to your backflow preventer.
Feeding the Flow
Now you are ready to run feeder lines down through your rows of plants. You can use tees to branch off feeder lines from the main line. Cut feeder lines to the lengths you need and attach them to the mainline.
Now you’re ready to install emitters to your feeder lines. Using an emitter tool makes this quick and easy. Attach 1/4” emitter tubes to the feeder line at one end and to the emitters at the other with barbed connectors, placing them exactly where you want them by each plant.
Now plug the ends of your lines with caps. You are ready to test your new drip irrigation system and to grow a better garden while saving water, money and time.