Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Garden Drip Water System (so far)

The garden is happily being water via our fancy schmancy drip water system.  Yes, right now.  We've used some variation of the drip system to water the garden for about 10 years now.  The drip system is fantastic for so many reasons.  One is that is saves water.  We only water what we want when we want and don't lose much to evaporation.  Another reason I love the drip system is that it can water a whole section of the garden at once without making a mess of the walkways.  Plus it makes watering easy.  I don't have to move hoses or sprinklers.  Just turn it on and off.  Ahhhh.  And not that I would ever do this, but if your town has water time regulations, nobody can tell that you forgot to turn off your drip system after 10:00 am so your neighbors won't report you to the city for watering outside of the water hours.  Yeah, that's never happened here.

This year we built the system so that it (hopefully) can be re-used "as is" in years to come and not have to be re-designed every year.  I don't think we're moving any time soon, so we won't have to re-design our garden area and when we designed the water system this year we made it easy to take apart and easy to use parts separate from each other as well.  Here's how it works.

First, we spent a lot of time in Dripworks' catalog.  We also spent a lot of time figuring out how we want the pieces to come apart for winter storage and how to hook it all up so we have the versatility we wanted.  We have 4 long garden beds plus an area for corn, an area for potatoes, raspberries, fruit trees, and an area for other berries that haven't been planted yet.  Each area needed its own water system section so we could water only the beds, only the squash, only the corn, only the fruit trees, only the potatoes, or any combination of them depending on what was planted and what needed water.  Crazy, I know, but it works so much better not to water the garden areas where nothing is planted.

So I drew a picture of each area and used the catalog to determine the parts we would need.  This is the garden bed area drawing.  Ugh.  Blogger uploaded it sideways.  You can get the idea anyway.

I totaled up the parts.  There are definitely more parts involved when you want it all to break apart easily and want to be able to turn each area on and off independently.  Then I ordered most of the parts from Dripworks and picked up the 1/2" tubing at Walmart garden center.  When all the parts arrived, I pulled them out to separate them into sections to match my drawings and I had missed a few parts, so I put in another order.

Here's what we ended up with:
3/4 inch PVC for the main framework (hubby had some of this from some other project)
Valves for the PVC to turn main sections on and off
1/2 inch black tubing (funny pipe) for running water lines down to the squash area and transitioning from the PVC to the dripline in the bed and berry areas.
1/4 inch drip line down the beds, potatoes, and berry areas plus around the trees.
Connectors, joiners, and caps for the 1/4 inch drip line
T-tape for the corn rows (could have used the dripline here also, but we had T-tape left from other years, so we used it for the corn)
Valves and connectors for the 1/2 inch tubing and T tape
1/4 inch water line (not dripline) to get water to the squash hills
Water emitters at the end of the squash lines.
PVC to hose and hose to 1/2 inch tubing fittings so we can take the whole thing apart in manageable chunks for storage at the end of the gardening season.

Here's a few pictures so you can kind of see how it is put together.  The start of the first bed showing the PVC leading to the 1/2 inch black pipe with driplines inserted in it and running down the bed.  We did 4 rows of dripline per bed, essentially soaking the entire bed since we planted the entire bed.  We want each bed lines to be able to be removed from the PVC for storage, so there are hose fittings between the PVC and the 1/2 inch black pipe on each bed.  We also put a valve at each bed so we could start watering when the early crops were planted without watering all four beds.

Another view of the connection from PVC to the bed.

Where we hook the hose to the PVC to water the beds.  Eventually we'll have a full main PVC line that connects all the sections, but for now we're just screwing the hose onto each section as we want to water it.  Plus another bed line branching off the PVC "bed section" mainline.

1/4 inch drip line in the carrots.

T tape connectors on the corn section of the PVC.  We didn't put a valve on each row of corn.  Maybe we will in the future, but this year we planted all the corn at the same time (late).

T tape.  This is less flexible than the dripline.  It comes flat and not tubular, but it rounds out as it fills with water.  It drips out slits on the top of the tape.

1/2 inch tubing runs down the middle of the squash area and 1/4 inch tubing runs to each squash hill.

The ends of the 1/4 inch line at the squash hill has an emitter.  There are lots of different emitters.  I would not get this kind again, but we had extras of it, so we're using it.  It is supposed to be variable, but is really difficult to set them all similarly, so some squash get more water than others and then when you're adjusting the flow it's real easy to screw the green part all the way off which isn't a real big deal, just kind of a hassle.

You'll also want a filter and a pressure regulator, but I'm not an expert on this, so contact the Dripworks people.  They're super friendly and helpful.  We've called them plenty through the years.  You might have an irrigation store near you you could also get the parts and information from.  We don't, so we use the magic of the internet and UPS to order what we need.

As a final note, you may be thinking about using soaker hose from the store, but don't.  It is relatively inexpensive, but doesn't drip at a constant rate through the length of the hose and is prone to blowouts.  Plus it's not easy to get the hose the right length for your rows.  Cutting 1/4 inch dripline and putting a plug at the end is easy.  Putting a fitting and cap on your soaker hose and having a 3 foot piece left over is a pain in the neck.  It might work well the first year, but after that soaker hose is lots of trouble.  Just don't do it.  We have and it's not worth it.

There you have it.  The basics on the drip system.  Each garden area is going to be a little different and it may take you a bit of figuring and drawing to determine the parts you want for your area, but I can't say how much I love the drip system in my garden.


TheSurvivalMom said...

Oh, Angela. This is exactly what our garden needed. Yes, our garden is in the past tense!! LOL Once the temps hit 110 and above, no one wanted to go out and water it by hand. We tried the Square Foot Garden method and made a couple of mistakes. Our frames should have been deeper, for one. Now I'm thinking about what to plant this fall, and I hope for better luck.

pressure washer hose said...

Nice idea! I think I also need to make drip water system in my garden. Anyway, thanks for sharing this post. I've got an idea. Keep posting.