Drip irrigation, how easy and efficient it can be.

Alasgun

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In a conversation with @ninnymary this came up and i offered to write this little diddy to give you some idea of the benefits of a simple drip set up. It will be written in two parts with pictures coming later today.

if you travel regularly or are lazy like me or are concerned about water usage a drip system can make you a better gardener with out you’re having to spend many hours looking after this continually time consuming portion of gardening.

You can go online and buy prepared systems, most of which contain lot’s of things you won’t use or don't need; or you can buy the components and assemble your own system and have it fit your set up perfectly.

Starting at the wall, you’ll need a hose timer; i use and like the orbit and instapark offerings. Simple one hose, battery operated and dead reliable. In my 5 tree orchard; my biggest fear is that i will forget this thing and it will freeze in the fall. They’re that reliable and my apple / cherry trees each receive 1 gallon per day at 9:20 am.

To the timer you’ll need a dedicated hose carrying water to what ever your watering and on the male end of that hose you’ll screw on an adapter from male garden hose to 1/2 female N.P.T.

Now we’re going plastic fittings from here on and start with a 1/2 npt male to 1/2 inch barb fitting. From here you run the main line along side whatever it is your watering and close the end. More on this when the pictures come.

Now go back thru and punch in emitters a couple away from the plant base.

Turn the water on, set the timer and give it a try. Using the manual override on the timer you can turn it on for a short period to be sure there are no leaks and the drippers are dripping. At this point move the timer back into the auto mode and go play a round of golf, your buddies will be impressed when you look at your watch and say “my strawberry patch has been watering for the last 15 minutes”!

I’ll take pictures today of each element and include good detail of each.
i’ll also give you some sources to purchase the necessary parts.
 
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Alasgun

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Ok, we’re back. A couple things before the pictorial explanation.
This is the most rudimentary set up you’ll probably encounter and there’s a lot of variety in this field so don't be overwhelmed by the options. I buy all of my drip supplies from either dripworks.com or the box stores. I prefer Netafim main line tubing and emitters but am very happy with the Rainbird offerings.
Also, the sky’s the limit when it comes to drip technology, you can go completely digital including bluetooth all the way down to wind up timers that require you to set them before each time of use.

1. starting at the hose bib, screw your timer on the the female end of the garden hose then run the hose as close as possible to the area you want to irrigate.

2. Looking at the picture from the bottom up! The male end of the garden hose comes into a garden hose by garden hose adapter. Then a garden hose by NPT adapter. Now we go plastic NPT to 1/2 inch male barb fitting. (the brown piece) from here we roll out however much main line tube as we want and cap or plug the end. Either use plugs with clamps or simply fold and tape the end, it wont leak.
Long u shaped wire brackets will pin the tube to the earth where ever you want it to stay. (Be sure and stradle the tube when you shove these in the ground😳)

3. now decide what your watering and using the yellow penetration tool, poke a hole in the main line and insert the emitter directly or use a barb and tubing to really reach out. I’ve spaced them 4 feet from the main line and had them work fine.

now the fine print, you need pretty decent hand strength to shove the main line onto the fittings; if you dont have it, get a little help. It will take me longer to write this than you’ll spend putting together a fairly extensive lay out. It’s pretty easy.
In the fall you can bring it all inside OR just bring in the timers and plug the timer end of the hose to keep bugs out. It will last many years thru our winters, ya’ll down south won’t have any issues. Once unhooked, i roll up the hose at the connection where it starts watering trees and leave it lay. Then i can drive across the area with a snow plow.
In the next picture you see the end of the garden hose where it meets the irrigation tube and takes off thru the cherry and apple trees.
Notice how grown in it is, that’s from just rolling it up and leaving it in the yard several years in a row. Makes it easy to mow across!

next picture shows the line continuing to the next tree AND the tell tale wet spot that shows you its all working.

The last two pictures are an Amazon shopping cart to show you one option for purchasing This stuff.

I run 2 digital timers, controlling my greenhouse and the main garden with roughly 300 emitters total. I use differing size emitters for different vegetables and water twice a day for 8 minutes each time. Im using drip tube in the main beds which have integral emitters built into the line at differing flow rates and spacing.
The coolest part is, once your system is in place you simply forget it, it’s that reliable. i was quite comfortable being gone for a week at a time before i set up the rabbitry which is currently like milking cows, but that will change too, once i have time.

Go online, look at what’s out there and decide if it would work for you. Simple systems are very affordable and will sure free up some valuable time for you.

This was kinda hastily done, if any of it seems confusing; let me know.
 

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heirloomgal

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I have a system something like this in my greenhouse @Alasgun, so I have a question for you. Two years ago I noticed as the drip was on, that a few of the pots were totally dry except where the drip was going straight through. Also, I often top dress my pepper plants with chicken manure a few times throughout the summer (pretty much the only fertiliser I give them) and I stopped (temporarily I guess) using my drip system as a result of these two things. But I'd like to start using it again, since it really does save work and the $$ has been spent to set it up. Have you ever had these issues, especially the former?
 

Alasgun

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@heirloomgal the only reason i could give for pots being dry would be faulty or incompatible emitters.
drip emitters come in two different configurations, standard and pressure compensating. The standard version is used a lot in systems that feed from a tank of some sort. Think water tower or third world, off grid etc. they dont do too well if used outside of they’re design parameters.
I only use P.C emitters, designed to be run in a pressurized system, think from a well pump or city water system.

The components in my discussion are the simplest available and i purposely did not include any extraneous components such as filters,
check valves etc. I’d look over my system to see if everything's compatible, maybe replace the couple offenders and try it again. I can see no reason for the system to function fine at other sites and yet have a couple that are not dripping.

During a watering cycle look closely at the delivery end of the dripper to be sure water is coming out. Some times the soil is so loose or dry that a wet spot will not appear on the surface. I have had occasion to have what seemed like a slow emitter on a new run and i simply wipe the tip of the emitter and they’ve always flowed.

maybe a picture of your set up focusing on the same components i’ve shown and especially an emitter might be helpful, i’ll do what ever i can (from half way around the world) to help you resolve the issue!

Thanks
 
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heirloomgal

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My system is tied to the same water that runs through the hoses and into the house, so city water. I wonder if it was a fault in a few emitters then, I got a bit spooked when I saw those dry pots 'dripping' as though the water found a single tunnel in the pots to run through and did not saturate any of the soil in the pot as a result. I honestly did not inspect closely at the time at it as I should have. I think we are going to use the drip system again this year, so I will keep in mind looking at individual emitters first if a problem comes up. I wondered if having a pot get too dry before watering might be a catch with the drip irrigation. I'm trying a new soil also this year in my greenhouse pots so we'll see if that changes anything...
 

Alasgun

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@heirloomgal, i see what your referring to now. I always fire up my system 4-5 days ahead, until you have some saturation it will seem to run right thru.
most of the time i just hand water the greenhouse beds with a watering can or the outside beds with sprinkler’s till i get it correct.

even if a drip system had no other benefit than time savings i’d still use it and not look back. It would take me large portions of each day to keep up with my spread. Add to that not having to be here all the time, exact delivery time and consistent amounts and huge water savings and it’s a win win situation!
 

ninnymary

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Thank you so much Alasgun! I am going to print it out for my husband. Yes, I'm old school and prefer to read things on paper than screens, haha.

Please keep in mind that I know zero about the equipment needed. I also know it depends on how big your garden is. But can you roughly give me a cost for it? Would you say around $200, $400? etc.

Thanks a bunch,
Mary
 

Alasgun

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@ninnymary, the internet pricing is visible on two of the pictures i included so just figure in what’s shown in the group and you can get real close to exact!
you'll need a Timer, garden hose long enough to reach the items you want to water, the adapter fittings shown, a big enough piece of the main line tubing to get water thru the bed and enough emitters to cover each plant or in the case of a wide bed, enough drip line with integral emitters to cover the intended area, and some plugs for the ends of the lines. With some good guestimating you can come real close to a total as you know the size of the area you want to water.
Start with something small enough to gain some confidence then clip a line open and add more fittings! You’d be surprised to see what you can water with this set up!

watering trees or pots in a line are quite simple as one main line tube thru the area with emitters and your done. Garden beds take a little more effort because you will make a manifold that covers the area you want watered.

I’ll take two more pictures showing a single line and a garden bed, so you can see it better.
 
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heirloomgal

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O
@heirloomgal, i see what your referring to now. I always fire up my system 4-5 days ahead, until you have some saturation it will seem to run right thru.
most of the time i just hand water the greenhouse beds with a watering can or the outside beds with sprinkler’s till i get it correct.

even if a drip system had no other benefit than time savings i’d still use it and not look back. It would take me large portions of each day to keep up with my spread. Add to that not having to be here all the time, exact delivery time and consistent amounts and huge water savings and it’s a win win situation!

Good to know that you've seen that happen too, a dry pot 'dripping'. Maybe if I make sure to find that just dry enough point to be watered, before it gets too dry, that issue won't come up again. I agree with you that it is a great system for many reasons, I need to get out of my old fashioned lazy mindset. DH is the one who is more experimental and forward thinking when it comes to garden technologies. The last year we use the drip system I also made the mistake of not remembering that I had turned it on, it's so silent except for the faint sound of water in hose. I think that may have actually happened twice in one month, and since I often water in the evening, it was on both times until I noticed at some point the next day. Needless to say, it was felt significantly on the water bill! My lazy thinking said "you can't forget the water wand on" - but the drip is better in so many ways. I just have to adjust to a new and different way of doing things. This year we've put a manual timer right on the main hose valve at the house so that can't happen again...:hide
 

bobm

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I used a drip system extensively on my ranch. When a drip emitter plugs up and does not drip, the culprit was invariably a earwig bug getting into the emitter opening. The easiest thing to do is to just replace the emitter. :old
 

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