Installing a drip irrigation system

I decided to design and build a drip irrigation and wondered just how big of a pain it would be. I did some research, learned what was needed and put one in our back yard and am detailing here what I learned. With a little forethought and focus, your drip system will turn out great. It’s not that hard, it just takes a little consideration and effort. Good luck.

When deciding on a drip system, you don’t want an overly complicated irrigation network for a minimally sized area. Heck, you could just use a drip hose on a spigot with a timer to do that. Putting in place a system to feed a backyard’s plant beds, shrubs, and trees simply takes a few minutes of designing and a handful of hours connecting all the pieces. Before you know it you’ll be able to relax on the couch, crack open a cold one and admire your work, knowing your garden will be thanking you for its own liquid refreshment.

Most small irrigation is drip tubing, ¼-inch or ½-inch hose fitted with little plastic nubs, known as emitters, that enable water to drip out at a regulated pace while not clogging up. You’ll purchase that tube either prepunched, with factory-installed emitters underneath the surface every two feet or so, or unperforated, which means you need to you to punch the holes and connect the emitters to the surface of the tube yourself. Unperforated tubing can be used to customize a system to an uncommon layout or to attach sections of tubing wherever you don’t want water. The conduit zig zags around and among plants and trees to get water into the soil at the roots. Some stores sell soaker hose (described above, laser-perforated rubber that weeps water into the soil) and can be used instead of emitters.

This is the tubing you insert the emitters into.

All manufacturers sell specialized products for various types of plants—sprays for ground cover, foggers for hanging containers, and single emitters for reaching plants off the grid. However few supply a kit with everything enclosed. You’ll need to draw a concept of your garden (because micro irrigation requires so much tubing, it’s not acceptable for lawns) and map a configuration of the tube and accessories, then purchase the parts one by one. Or you can contact the drip kit’s manufacturer. Most can take your garden plans and supply you with an economical style and materials list free of charge. Once you get going it’s easy.

You start with screwing a vacuum breaker to the pressure regulator, if your hose bib doesn’t already have its own vacuum breaker. This part prevents contaminated hose water from backwashing into the house’s supply lines.

Next, attach the filter to the pressure regulator. Then connect the hose tee to the threaded end coming off the filter. You’ve basically just put an inline filter between your water source and your drip system. This end should have a barbed end to accept the cut end of the tube. Hold it tight and screw the complete assembly to the hose bib.

Then attach a length of unperforated tube or hose to the hose bib, long enough to reach from the bib to the plant beds. Using barbed connectors, attach the roll of ½-inch tube with emitters to the unperforated tubing at the edge of the plant bed. Snake the tube with emitters around the plants, close to their roots. Keep the lines of tube about twelve inches apart.

Once you’ve got the tubing in position, use plastic ground stakes to tie it down. Take care the hook at the highest of the stakes fits over the tube. Wherever the tube needs to turn at a sharp angle or vary to a different section, cut it and reattach it with tee or elbow connectors. Cut the tip of the tube after you are finished; leave it open so you’ll flush it with water later.

Position loops of ¼-inch tube around the trees and shrubs. Use a hole punch to pierce the ½-inch tube wherever the loop can begin. Insert a small tee connector into the opening. Attach one end of ¼-inch tube with emitters to at least one side of the tee. Now make a lasso shape around the trunk of the tree. The loop ought to be large enough to extend halfway out to the edge of the tree’s cover. Cut the tube and connect the tip to the opposite side of the tee.

Where the plantings are dense it’s tough to snake tube at the roots, but do your best.

Pierce the ½-inch tube with a hole punch, then insert a small straight connector. Attach a length of unperforated ¼-inch tube long enough to reach the location of the small sprayer. Connect the opposite end of the ¼-inch tube to the small sprayer. Clip the sprayer to a stake and position it within the ground cover.

Use an identical methodology to branch out with single emitters (to rose bushes, for example), foggers, or different specialized drip heads.

This is what the main tubing looks like after the emitters are installed and it’s staked down. Just cover it and your finished.

Once all the tube and attachments are placed, turn on the water for a second to flush dirt out of the tube. Turn off the water. Slide a ½-inch finish clamp onto the open end of the tube. Fold the tip, then slide the opposite loop of the end clamp over the rolled piece to hold it in its crimped position.

Clean up around all the tube and make certain all connections are tight and no emitters are blocked or clogged. turn on the water and check for leaks or bad connections. To keep the water from evaporating before it reaches the plant roots and to provide the garden a manicured look, cover all the exposed tube with about 2 inches of mulch.

Now go grab that beer and take pride in your work.