Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Lawns

Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Lawns

Feb 23rd 2024

Subsurface Drip Irrigation is the most effective method to water your lawn and conserve resources. Maintaining a lush and healthy lawn requires efficient irrigation, and traditional sprinkler systems are not ideal for it. Subsurface drip irrigation has become a popular irrigation method for gardeners and landscapers in recent years because it delivers water directly to the roots of grass and plants via buried drip emitter tubing. As a result, there is no water loss due to evaporation and overspray.

Looking for an efficient irrigation method to transform your average lawn into a lush, healthier lawn? Subsurface drip irrigation is the ideal choice. In this guide, we will cover all the essential information you need to know about Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Lawns.

What is Subsurface Drip Irrigation?

Subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) is an underground irrigation system that delivers water directly to root zones of turfgrass or plants through a network of buried drip tubing with evenly spaced emitters. This is an efficient type of drip irrigation system that is permanently buried in the ground.

SDI systems offer an excellent solution to irrigate difficult lawns, such as steep slopes, irregular-shaped areas, or narrow strips, which are usually residential lawns. In the SDI system, the emitter drip tubing is buried under the soil surface, which can make your lawn more aesthetically pleasing. Underground lawn irrigation also helps reduce water wastage by supplying water only to roots.

Advantages of Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Lawns

SDI system is considered the best method to irrigate lawns due to the following benefits it offers:

  • Reduced water consumption
  • No evaporation, overspray, or water run-off
  • Uniform application of water via evenly spaced emitters
  • Slow and controlled water distribution
  • Promotes strong root growth
  • Invisible irrigation system, making your lawn look more beautiful
  • Easy to install
  • Requires less maintenance
  • 70% more efficient than traditional lawn watering methods like sprinkler irrigation system

How does a Subsurface Drip Irrigation System Differ from a Regular Drip Irrigation System?

Regular drip irrigation systems place drip lines above the ground to deliver water to the plants. This system is not buried under the soil surface. Although the drip irrigation system is an efficient and cost-effective irrigation method, subsurface drip irrigation is the more advanced type of this system.

Unlike regular drip irrigation systems, subsurface drip irrigation (SDI) systems have drip lines buried under the soil, providing water directly to plants' roots beneath the surface. Since the drip lines are buried under the ground in the SDI system, it protects the tubing from foot traffic or lawnmowers. Also, it eliminates the need for frequent adjustment and maintenance of above-ground drip tubing.

Does Subsurface Drip Irrigation Work for lawns?

Every homeowner knows that a healthy green lawn requires a lot of water. This also applies to grass on golf courses and sports fields. Subsurface drip irrigation systems have been widely used to irrigate trees, flower beds, vegetables, or shrubs, but now they are becoming popular for turfgrass irrigation because of their efficiency.

If your lawn has slopes or unusual shapes and low water pressure, subsurface drip irrigation is ideal. Installing a sub-surface drip irrigation system can reduce water usage because no water is lost to evaporation, and it reduces turf disease and discourages weed growth. SDI-irrigated turf has been reported to save 50-90% water. One of the great features of the SDI system is that you can use the lawn or sports field during irrigation.

Things to Consider When Designing Subsurface Drip Irrigation for Lawns

Designing an SDI system for a lawn requires careful planning. Before moving towards the designing and installation process, there are some crucial things every landscaper should consider when designing an SDI system for a lawn.

Know the Soil Type

Understanding your soil type is a crucial factor in the design of the SDI system. Clay soils retain more water for a longer time. These soils allow water to move much farther than sandy soils. However, sandy soil drains more quickly and requires frequent watering. Therefore, drip lines and emitters are placed closely in sandy soils, while you can increase the spacing in clay soils.

Determine the Watering Needs of Your Lawn

Another thing to consider is the water requirements of your lawn, depending on the local climate and grass type. Different types of plants and grass have different water requirements.

Consider the Size and Shape of Your Lawn

Next, consider the size and shape of your lawn to determine which emitter line you should choose. While assessing the lawn, consider any obstacles that can affect the irrigation system, such as trees or pathways. A sloped lawn usually requires an SDI system with pressure-compensating emitters, while a flat lawn can use non-pressure-compensating emitters.

How to Design and Install Subsurface Drip Irrigation for your Lawn Turf?

SDI systems should be planned and designed first before installation for greater efficiency and successful installation.

Design the System

To design the subsurface drip irrigation system for your lawn, assess your lawn and its watering needs. If you have a large lawn, you can divide it into multiple zones depending on soil type, sun exposure, and other factors.

Next, design a layout of your SDI system on graph paper. Mark the location of the main water supply and the placement of drip tubing and emitters to ensure even coverage of the lawn.

Key Components of Subsurface Drip Irrigation System

Drip Tubing: We recommend using Netafim drip emitter tubing. It is the most advanced drip tubing on the market, with pressure-compensating, self-flushing emitters with a check valve.

Main Supply Line: The PVC or poly tubing to carry water from the source to the drip tubing.

Backflow Prevention Device: It is essential to prevent contaminants from entering the main water supply.

Manual Flush Valve: It is installed at the end of the mainline to flush the system manually once or twice a year.

Filter: It is to remove debris that can clog the emitters or drip tubing.

Pressure Regulator: It is essential to control the pressure depending on the drip tubing pressure range and watering needs.

Subsurface Drip Irrigation Installation

A subsurface drip irrigation system is easy to install even if you do not have any previous irrigation experience. Here's a step-by-step process to install an SDI system for your lawn turf.

Step 1: Remove existing grass or vegetation from the area before installation. This will help you install the tubing easily.

Step 2: Use a trenching shovel to dig trenches in the planned drip tubing layout. The depth of the trench should be between 6-12 inches.

Step 3: Connect the backflow preventer to the mainline.

Step 4: Install a mainline and connect it to a water source. The main line goes from your water source to the lawn. Use appropriate fittings to connect the mainline with drip tubing.

Step 5: Follow your layout plant and lay the drip tubing perpendicular to the mainline. On slopes, place the drip tubing closer at the top and farther apart at the bottom of the slope.

Step 6: Install a flush valve at the end of the mainline to flush debris from the system.

Step 7: Install an air release valve in the mainline at the highest point in a valve box. This valve will prevent the system from sucking debris into the tubing.

Step 8: Test the system by turning the water supply on. Check for any leaks and make necessary adjustments to adjust the water flow. Then, backfill the system with topsoil.

What are Common Problems with Subsurface Drip Irrigation Systems?

There are some common problems that you may face with SDI systems. You need to be aware of these problems and address them promptly.

Clogged Emitters: This is the most common problem with subsurface irrigation systems. If debris or sediment builds up in the tubing or the water pressure is too high, emitters can become clogged. Using Netafim emitter tubing with a self-flushing system and installing a filter can help prevent this problem. Netafim drip line is highly resistant to clogging.

Root Intrusion: You can encounter this problem if there's a tree in your lawn. Sometimes, tree roots can grow into the tubing, which can cause blockages and damage the system. Fortunately, you can avoid root intrusion, too, by installing Netafim emitter tubing. The Copper Oxide in the emitter will prevent root intrusion without needing any chemicals.

Leaks and Breaks: Another common problem is leaks or breaks in the system, which can be caused by damaged tubing or fittings. To avoid this problem, make sure to buy the subsurface drip irrigation components from a trusted irrigation provider and inspect the system regularly.

How to Repair and Maintain a Subsurface Drip Irrigation System?

Once you have successfully installed a subsurface drip irrigation system for your lawn, it is crucial to do regular maintenance and timely repairs for the effectiveness of your irrigation system.

Here are some expert tips to guide you on how to maintain and repair your SDI system.

  • Regularly inspect your SDI system for any signs of leaks or damage. If you notice any leaks or blockage issues in tubing or fittings, fix them quickly to prevent further damage.
  • Flush the system once or twice in each season to remove any debris or mineral buildup.
  • Clean the filters once or twice a year.
  • Monitor the water pressure in the system. High pressure can damage the drip lines, and low pressure can result in inadequate water distribution.
  • Consider necessary seasonal adjustments. For example, reduce the watering period during heavy rainfall to avoid overwatering. Similarly, you can increase the watering frequency during hot and dry weather to prevent dry spots on your lawn and keep it healthy.

The Bottom Line

Subsurface drip irrigation is the best underground irrigation system to irrigate your lawn. Consider upgrading your lawn irrigation system and switching to an SDI system and enjoy the benefits of a vibrant, green lawn and reduced water consumption.

DripWorks carries all the key components of a subsurface drip irrigation system. Whether you need high-quality Netafim emitter tubing, pressure regulator, or backflow preventers, you will find all the required irrigation components here!

For any queries, you can contact our experts. Our friendly team is always happy to help you design and install a subsurface drip irrigation system for your lawn turf!