Solutions / Water

All About Irrigation

All About Irrigation
Scott Sporleder, Photographer

What’s in your kit?

 

This simple breakdown of irrigation parts and options de-mystifies the realm of irrigation to help you save water and time in your garden.

Drip irrigation is more water-wise than hand watering, and if you invest in an automatic timer to control your system, you’ll never have to worry about forgetting to water.

Installing drip irrigation can be intimidating, but after you learn a few basics, it’s actually pretty easy and just requires playing around with the pieces in your garden. The parts are cheap and there are lots of great video tutorials available on the internet. Fans of Legos and model trains will excel at this.

The best way to get started is to purchase a kit for garden beds or containers available at hardware stores or online: http://www.dripworks.com (~$60-$100). Start small and play with the configuration of just one bed first. Once you get the hang of it you can make plans to irrigate the rest of your beds.

 

There are three main parts of any drip system:

 

Water Source / point of connection
  • where the system connects to the water source (ie: spigot or valve from sprinkler system). It always includes a filter to prevent holes from being clogged (even city water contains sediment and debris) and a pressure regulator. Typical building water pressures are too high for drip systems. TIP: If you use an automated timer (we recommend you do!), it goes at the point of connection.
Mainline, or “supply tubing”
  • The mainline is exactly what it sounds like- it’s the main tube, usually made of polyethylene, that supplies water to the entire system. Attached will be the feeder tubing, which is much thinner and supplies water at a specified measured flow rate. Dripline is even smaller and attaches to feeder tubing. TIP: Mainline tubing is treated for UV resistance, so there’s no need to bury it- simply cover it with a light layer of mulch.
Emitters
  • different kinds of tubing or devices that apply water to plants in specific ways. Dripline (or “drip tape”), individual emitters, bubblers, and micro sprays are a few common kinds. If you’re using drip tape, buy the kind with pre-installed emitters.
    TIP
  • To reach all parts of your garden you can use various fittings such as T’s, elbows, and couplers to connect and direct tubing from the mainline.

 

OTHER IRRIGATION OPTIONS

Soaker hoses “sweat” water from tiny holes along the hose. They emit water slowly and continuously with a 2-3’ watering width. These hoses can buried under a light layer of mulch to conserve water.

  • To install: simply lay along the ground or weave between plantings, cut to length, and add hose fittings and end caps.
  • Best for: relatively level sites and runs of 100′ or less; soaker hoses operate with as little as 8 lbs of water pressure.

Sprinkler hoses spray a fine mist of water into the air. They look like flat hoses with perforations all along their length. For a drip irrigation effect, simply turn sprinkler hoses over so the mist is directed straight into the ground.

  • To install: just lay the hose on the ground and screw it into the spigot.
  • Best for: areas that do not have a lot of tight curves (such as raised beds).