These days, when conserving water is both an environmental and economic necessity, drip irrigation makes more sense than ever. While standard sprinklers and automated in-ground irrigation systems can both provide ample amounts of water to your yard, they are not as efficient and effective when it comes to watering gardens, plants and other hard-to-reach areas. Drip irrigation, with its flexible features and low-pressure emission, deposits water only where it's needed, preventing it from being wasted and saving you money in the process. Rather than casting a wide spray or steady stream of water over a large area, drip irrigation dribbles out tiny quantities of water to provide steady soaking in specific places. Use the following questions to help determine what parts of your yard would benefit from drip irrigation and how to go about installing it:
• What are the primary uses and applications of drip irrigation?
• Can you install the system yourself?
• What components will you need for installation?
• What types of kits could make watering easier?
• Are there any special features you'd like to have?
Applications, Components and Kits
Installing drip irrigation is a snap for any motivated do-it-yourselfer. You'll need to consider which areas of your yard you want to install it in and then take measurements to determine how much pipe, or hose, you'll need. Drip irrigation can be buried under ground or laid over the top. If you choose to lay it on top, it can be covered over with mulch to make it blend in with the landscaping. You can use drip irrigation to water everything from hanging baskets on your patio to rows of corn in your garden. There are several components necessary for efficient operation, but some, like emitters, provide you with a range of options to customize and optimize performance. Preassembled kits make it easy to find all of the components you need for a specific watering purpose.
Applications: In addition to conserving water, drip irrigation minimizes weed growth by providing water only to very specific areas. Use it to water hanging baskets or vines growing on a trellis that cannot be reached by normal sprinklers. Laying strips along your landscaping will provide just the right amount of water for plants and shrubs without wasting any on a nearby sidewalk. Weaving drip irrigation through your garden or burying it just underneath the soil will ensure that crops get the proper amount of hydration. As with traditional automatic irrigation systems, you may need to winterize your drip system if you live in a cold climate that experiences freezing temperatures during the fall and winter.
• Use drip irrigation to water oddly shaped sections of your lawn
• Decreases water loss in windy locations and evaporation on hot days
• Using drip irrigation on hillsides minimizes runoff
• Winterize your system to prevent tube damage from frozen water
Components: There are a number of components you'll need for your drip irrigation system. Pipe, also called tubing or hose, is the line through which water runs. It can be connected to any outside faucet. You'll want to add a filter to ensure that minerals and other debris are removed from the water before it reaches your plants, particularly if you're drawing from a nearby stream or river. If you don't already have one in place, install a backflow preventer, or vacuum breaker, to stop contaminated water from flowing back into your water supply. Water is dispersed through emitters, micro sprinkler heads, foggers or sprayers.
• A Y-shaped connector can connect drip irrigation and a hose to a faucet simultaneously
• Supply and header lines are usually 1/2" in diameter while lateral lines are 1/4"
• A pressure regulator maintains steady water pressure for better operation
• Elbow and T-shaped connectors provide multiple installation options
• Micro sprinkler heads function like regular sprinklers at lower pressure and volume
• Foggers create a fine mist that is ideal for watering hanging plants and flowers
Emitters: Emitters are water outlets connected to the pipe or tubing. There are several different varieties available, so use the chart below to determine which ones are right for different areas of your lawn. If you're setting up a particularly long run or need to go up and down hills, look for pressure-compensating emitters, which maintain a steady flow rate despite changes in water pressure along the line.
Function and Description
|Drip||Deliver water one drop at a time to keep roots moist||• Container plants
• Flower gardens
• Vegetable gardens
|Emitter Line and Drip Tape||Provide saturation coverage along the entire line and have equally spaced emitters built in||• Vegetable gardens
• Flower gardens
• Raised-bed gardens
|In-Line Drip||Placed between sections of tubing to allow water to drip out as it flows through||• Hedges
|Mister||Create humidity by moistening the air as well as watering plants' roots||• Arid climates
• Plants that require high humidity
|Punch-In||Inserted through a hole in the pipe and feature a ridge on the inlet barb that prevents them from popping out; allow for customized flow rates and water pressure||• Wide range of applications
• Soil ranging from clay to sandy
• Container plants on patios, decks and
Kits: Drip irrigation kits are available for specialized needs. Because they're designed for specific purposes, kits are very effective when it comes to providing just the right amount of hydration. Use garden drip watering kits to precisely water shrubs, bushes, trees, vines and vegetables. Micro sprinkler kits are ideal for flowerbeds, groundcover, hillsides, large trees and any other densely planted areas. Use retrofit kits to convert your existing irrigation system to a drip irrigation system.
• Drip kits are ideal for specific watering purposes
• Patio kits efficiently water plants in pots and baskets whether on the ground or hanging
• Drip soaker kits are specially designed for irrigating row crops and vegetable gardens
Timers: If you're away on vacation or in the midst of a busy week, use an automatic timer to ensure that your plants, landscaping and garden receive the water they need.
Stoppers: Sometimes called "goof plugs," stoppers allow you to plug an emitter hole if your watering needs change, such as when you rearrange your landscaping or if you relocate the tube to another area.
Fertilizer Injector: If your garden isn't quite growing as well as you'd like, use a fertilizer injector to add nutrients to your drip irrigation line, which will then water and fertilize plants simultaneously to save you time and effort.