Why use drip irrigation?
I don’t claim to be an expert on Drip Irrigation because someone once told me that an Ex is a has-been and a spurt is a drip under pressure. What I do know is I have watered a lot of plants in my 50 + years of growing plants and taking care of gardens. The two things I have observed is that plants grow better when we can water them regularly and not just depend on the rain. The other observation is that you need to put the water on the roots where it is needed and not on the leaves.
A slow dripping of water at the base of the plant will conserve water and keep the plant healthier than spraying water up in the air to evaporate and wet the leaves. When leaves stay wet this invites fungal and bacterial diseases to set in. You can easily set up a drip system with a soaker hose or with custom arrangement of drip emitters where you need them in your garden. Most systems run on low pressure around 8 to 10 Psi. You can achieve this by installing a pressure regulator or simply opening the faucet a quarter turn. Because the pressure is low you don’t have to glue or tighten pipe clamps at your fittings and joints. Some will have screw tight compression fittings or just slip on pipe fittings to make your connections.
Using a soaker Hose
A soaker hose is the simplest of drip systems. The water drips out all along the hose like sweat coming off your arm. You arrange the soaker hose around your plants within 6 to 8 inches of the plants you want to water. You can use a u shaped wire called a sod staple or a landscape fabric staple to hold your soaker hose in place. Bring water from the faucet to the soaker hose with a regular garden hose. The amount of time you need to run the soaker hose will depend on the weather and how large your plants are. A good rule of thumb is to begin by running the soaker hose 30 to 45 minutes the first time to get the soil good and wet and about 20 minutes at a time every 2 to 3 days during warm weather after that. You can also stick your finger into soil up to the second knuckle next to plant to judge how wet the soil is . You want the soil to dry slightly between waterings but not to the point that your plants wilt. Your soil type, the weather and size and type of plants you are growing will make your watering time unique. Drip hoses usually come in 25 or 50 foot lengths but you can also buy 100 foot bulk rolls that come with fittings where you can customize it to fit your individual needs. With soaker hoses it is best not to go over about 100 feet in any one run because they will not put out the same amount of water at the end of the hose as they do a the beginning. Elevation also affects an even water distribution. As with any Irrigation system you can automate it by attaching battery run timers to to any faucet.
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A Custom Drip System.
For larger Gardens and Orchards you might consider a custom drip system. These systems usually include buying pressure compensating drip emitters that are pre-spaced or you can buy the blank tubing and insert your emitters where you need them. They can be buried under the mulch and some can be buried slightly under the soil. The will put out the same amount of water at different elevations and on longer runs than soaker hose. They are simple to install as they take little effort to push in the emitters and connect the tees, elbows and dead ends that you need to make a custom layout. One trick I use to make the tubing easier to work with is to lay the tubing out in the sun to make it softer. I have also used hot water to dip the ends of my pipe in before pushing it onto the tees and elbows. Your emitters will come in different flow rates 1/4 , 1/2 and 1 gallon per hour. Most home faucets will have an output of 4 to 5 gallons per minute or around 240 gallons an hour. You will need to limit the number of emitters you have on any one run to the water flow that you have.
Drip tape is less expensive but not as long lasting as tubing. It is often used in large gardens and comes with pre set holes any where from 4 to 12 inches apart.
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