How to Set Up a Drip Irrigation System for your Vegetable Garden
Guest post from Sarah Davis, Adams County Master Gardener.
Today I set up a dripline system in my vegetable garden. In the past I had manually watered my garden with a sprinkler or by hand with a sprayer. This was not only an inefficient use of water, it also wasn’t the most consistent of watering, nor was it the healthiest way to deliver water to the plants. My garden survived the summer, though I think that was in spite of my efforts, not because of them.
Driplines are great choices for vegetable gardens for several reasons. First, it is an efficient use of water. You can direct the water to the specific area you wish to water. This also helps with weed prevention, as you are not watering areas you don’t mean to water. Additionally, the system can be hooked up to a timer, providing a consistent watering schedule that does not rely on your memory or availability to be completed. Finally, many plants benefit from being watered at their roots rather than having water splashed on their leaves as you might do by watering by hand with a sprayer or using a sprinkler to accomplish the task. Damp leaves can encourage powdery mildew and other plant maladies.
There are many kinds of tools and supplies that you can purchase to set up a dripline. The above picture is what I used for my garden, because it suited my particular purpose. Driplines offer great flexibility in emitter type and function, so if what is described here doesn’t suit your needs exactly, look at the other emitter choices available. Here’s what I used:
Not pictured: Teflon tape and landscape fabric pins.
A note about emitters: you will see different rating on emitters, indicating their flow rate in gallons per hour, or GPH. This indicates how much water will exit the emitter. You can vary the flow on the emitter so that plants that need a lot of water can be on the same line with others that don’t need quite as much by choosing the proper emitter flow. For the purposes of my garden, I mostly stuck to 0.5 GPH emitters.
The first thing I did after gathering my supplies was assemble the backflow preventer, filter, pressure regulator and hose reduction piece so I could attach one side to my hose, and the other side to my ½” distribution pipe.
Note: depending on the threads of these pieces and your hose end piece, you may need an additional connector to be able to hook it all together. In my case, I needed a female to female connector to attach this configuration to the end of my hose.
I then measured out the length of ½” distribution pipe that I would need to run from the hose and down the length of the area that I wished to cover. For my configuration, I ran the distribution pipe along the top side of my raise bed garden.
Once you have cut the length needed, attach one side to the hose connection assembly. To connect the ½” distribution line to this configuration, loosen the knob at the end so the distribution pipe can slip (snugly) over the end piece. Firmly push the distribution pipe on to the connector piece. The fit should be tight. Next, twist the knob back up to tighten on the distribution pipe to secure the pieces together.
You will need to close off the other end of the distribution pipe so water doesn’t just flow straight out. There are many different types of end pieces. One version looks like two circles attached to one another that you thread the distribution pipe through, bending the end to close it off. I chose to use a version that you insert into the pipe like cork. Connecting it to the pipe was very similar to how we connected the other side to the hose assembly: firmly push the end piece into the distribution pipe, then tighten the knob down onto the end to secure in place.
After you have done this, you are ready to start adding your connections. Take the hole punch and poke a hole in the 1/2” distribution pipe in the location you want to add an emitter or ¼” distribution tube.
Firmly push the connector or emitter you are adding into the hole you have created in the ½” pipe. You should hear a small “click” as it snaps into place.
For the purposes of my garden, I utilized ¼” distribution tubing with emitters embedded in the line.
Because of the length and number of emitters in the ¼” tubing, I ran the tubing down the length of one row, loped around the far end, then ran it back up to the ½” tubing and connected it again to the ½” distribution pipe. By doing this, I ensured that there will be sufficient flow from the distribution pipe to make it to all of the emitters.
As you work your way through, you can secure the tubing to the ground using various stakes to ensure that the tubing remains where you want it.
Make sure the tubing and emitters are near the plants you wish to water for the maximum efficiency.
In some cases, the plant that I wished to water was between the rows that the ¼” tubing was hitting. In those cases, I placed an emitter directly into the ½” tube so I could ensure the plant received water as well.
Continue adding pipe and emitters until you have sufficiently covered the area which you wish to water. If you have a large area, you may need to add an additional “zone” rather than making one long continuous run to ensure proper water flow and pressure.