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Planning a Drip Irrigation System For Your Garden and Plants

Drip irrigation is watering at a slow rate (or drip) right at the roots of plants. Root irrigation is a good water conservation choice because it provides a deeper level of watering than surface watering, which is prone to wastage due to evaporation and runoff.

When you install drip irrigation lines they do not need to be buried (although they can be if you prefer), so you can easily move them about and make adjustments to the watering pattern as needed.

Drip irrigation supplies and systems consist of:

  • Polyethylene hose or tubing (usually 1/2")—makes up the main lines of your system
  • Hose connectors or fittings—joins several lines of tubing
  • Anti-siphon control valve—prevents the irrigation water from flowing back into your home drinking water system
  • Pressure regulator—keeps the water pressure from the faucet at around 30 psi (usually the recommended pressure for drip irrigation systems)
  • Filter—keeps debris from clogging the emitters
  • Polyethylene microtubing—takes water from the main lines to the plants
  • Emitters—delivers water to the plants
  • Automatic timer—turn the drip action on and off

When you are planning a drip irrigation system, have a look at the type of plants or areas in the garden you need to water, and come up with a list of watering requirements. If you draw these areas on a plan of your house and garden, you'll find it much easier to plan where the drip irrigation lines should go, and which lines should deliver more water than others. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Large trees and shrubs—require infrequent deep watering
  • Vegetable gardens—require frequent watering
  • Sun/flower beds—dry out faster than shade beds and require frequent watering
  • Shade beds—require less frequent watering
  • Containers an hanging baskets—require frequent watering
  • Drip irrigation systems are available online as kits and as individual parts
  • Lawns—see sprinkler systems

Ready to get started?

If you are a novice when it comes to drip irrigation, look into a drip irrigation kit to get you started. When you purchase a kit, make sure the kit is expandable so that you can add new drip lines later as needed.

Alternatively, you can use the manufacturer's planning guides to "build your own" drip irrigation system from individual parts: tubing,  fittings, emitters, valves, and so on. These planning guides are product specific, but they walk you through the planning process and tell you how many of each part you'll need. If you are still unsure, call or visit a local garden center for advice.

For more information on keeping your plants healthy and happy, please read this article on how to make your garden really grow.

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