Want to water your fruits and vegetables with drip irrigation? Drip irrigation has many advantages for the home gardener, starting with water conservation. 90 to 95 percent of the water goes into the soil, so less water is needed to wet the root zone. Walkways stay dry, so you can work whenever you want without having to worry about muddy shoes. And by keeping moisture off the plant leaves, you keep funguses and plant disease from developing. Drip irrigation can be easily tailored to the specific type of plant, and with automatic timers can be incorporated into your regular watering schedule.
The first step is to decide what you’ll be planting. Drip tubing comes in three basic varieties: soaker tubing, emitter tubing and distribution tubing, which can then be fitted with a full range of drippers and micro sprinklers. Tightly packed plants, like carrots, radishes and herbs, will benefit from soaker or emitter tubing. Plants that are spaced more widely, such as corn, tomatoes, peppers and melons, would be better served with emitter tubing or distribution tubing with drippers or micro sprinklers. As a general rule, make just sure you’re not watering empty soil, because it will waste water and eventually you’ll see weeds pop up.
Next, decide your water source. You can either tie into your underground system or use a hose tap timer, either way works great. There are too many details to go into here, but you can check out our other blog posts for an in depth review of both scenarios.
Now, design your layout by drawing the garden space and labeling the plants you want to include, paying attention to the recommended spacing. In the example pictured to the left, we’re watering some vegetables that need to be closely placed together. We’ve run a half-inch distribution line and then tied into that with adjustable flow flag drippers connected to soaker tubing. This will give a deep soak the plants need. In another example the plants are spaced further apart, so we run a half-inch distribution line down the middle and then branch off with quarter-inch tubing with pressure compensating drippers on the end.
There are so many ways to tailor and tweak a drip system. You’re able to get a customized watering for each plant. A well designed drip system is a thing of beauty and the results are outstanding, yielding delicious fruits and vegetables all season long.
Here are some answers to a few common questions.
I have plants that require different amounts of water in the same area. How can I get them both the water they need?
The best way to do this is using drippers of different flow rates. For example, let’s say you have pumpkins (with deep roots which require a lot of water) and strawberries (shallow roots, not nearly as much water). To water both effectively, use a pressure compensated dripper of 2 GPH (gallons per hour) pointing directly at the pumpkin. For the strawberries, we’ll use some soaker tubing, but connect it to a distribution line with an adjustable flag dripper, which we’ll turn down so that the strawberries don’t get drowned. This way, I run the drip system for 90 minutes, the pumpkin gets 3 gallons of water directly at its roots, and the row of strawberries get only 1 gallon.
I use secondary water, but this always seems to clog up my emitters. How can I prevent this?
Secondary water is a great use of resources. The plants can tell no difference and many municipalities offer huge discounts for the use of secondary water. But the problem of clogging is a big one. To combat this we recommend the use of a filter, which can be installed on either underground or hose tap systems. With regularly cleaning, this will keep a lot of the debris out and your system running well.