Drip Irrigation 101: Installation, Main Types and How It Saves Water

1 drip irrigation sprinkler

Compared to other types of irrigation systems, drip irrigation can save a lot of water, which is not only great news for you, but also for the environment. If you’ve never tried a drip irrigation system before, today’s article is all you need in order to get started. We’re going to take you through the steps of installing the system, talk about the main types that you can choose from, as well as explain how this type of irrigation saves water.

Drip Irrigation: Everything You Need to Know

Main Types of Drip Irrigation System

  • Drip Emitter System: This is one of the most popular options when it comes to drip irrigation. It consists of multiple hoses spread all throughout the garden, each of them containing a couple of evenly distributed emitters. As the name suggests, the way they deliver water to the soil is in the form of drops. What you have to pay attention to is that the emitters tend to clog quite fast, especially in winter. In order to avoid that, you should store the hoses inside.
  • Porous Soaker Hose System: The amazing thing about this type of drip irrigation system is that it can be made of old car tires with holes in them. It’s durable and easy to use, but it’s not great for lawn care. Instead, use it for shrubs, hedges, and raised garden beds.
  • Micro Misting Sprinklers: You’ve probably seen this type of system in orchards or vineyards, but did you know that you can also use it in your backyard? Its main benefit is the fact that the roots of the plants will get equal amounts of water, which will increase your yield. The mist that this irrigation system releases is also important for the plants. It helps keep them refreshed and safe from the frost at the beginning of spring. These sprinklers are inexpensive as well, so they’re definitely an option worth considering.
  • Micro Sprinkler Heads: the last type of drip irrigation system we’d like to mention is also quite popular. That’s because it effectively minimizes evaporation, which in turn leads to water preservation. It’s primarily made of micro-spray heads, which successfully waters garden beds and trees. The pressure of the heads is low compared to other types, but this means they won’t clog that fast either. This is particularly useful if you live in an area with hard water.

How to Install a Drip Irrigation System

1. Plan Everything Beforehand

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to installing a drip irrigation system. Which is why we advise you not to rush this decision. Plan everything to the letter before actually starting the installation process. The first thing that should concern you is whether what you have in mind fulfills the legal requirements or not. In order to check this, you’re going to have to talk to the municipal water department. The requirements might differ from one area to another, so it’s best to be safe. Not having the permits or the supervision required of you might lead to fines or even time spent in jail.

The second concern should relate to the area you want to irrigate, and your plants’ watering needs. Drawing a sketch would be useful since it can help you see how many different regions are in your garden. You should divide the regions according to how much water each plant needs, whether the area is in full sun or shade, and the type of soil.

The irrigation layout should also be established beforehand since you’re going to have to know whether you have to buy more than one drip tube. In this case, you also need a lateral line. Depending on the size of your garden, you can replace the lateral line with a pressurized mainline. Since your garden could have different watering needs, you might have to divide the system into multiple zones. This means you’re also going to need a zone control valve for each of them. Especially if you’re going to use the system for a long time, we recommend an electric valve over a manual one.

The way you want your water delivered is also important, and this is where the main types of drip irrigation system above come in. Choose between them, according to the needs of your plants. You can choose more than one, and use different ones for different areas of your garden.

2. Buy the Equipment

In terms of the equipment you’re going to need, this also differs according to many factors, such as the type of drip irrigation system you decided on, the size of the area where you want to install it, the type of plants you want to irrigate using it, and so on. Still, there are some a couple of main pieces of equipment you’re going to need either way. These are the pipes, the emitters, plastic fittings to use for the connections, and end caps for the drip tubes. If you’re going to install a lateral line, you’re also going to have to buy an air vent. Some additional drip irrigation parts would be adapters to connect the pipes, black polyethylene tubing for the lateral line, and copper, PEX, or galvanized steel pipes for the mainline.illustration of how to install a drip irrigation system, drip irrigation

3. Connect the System to the Water Supply

There are a couple of steps you have to go through when connecting the drip irrigation system to the water supply. First, you have to install a backflow preventer on the main line. This will prevent the contamination of the drinking water supply. Then, you have to add an irrigation controller. After all, one of the main benefits of a drip irrigation system is that it allows you to water your plants automatically.

A filter is also required, since rust, water particles, and minerals can easily clog drip tubing. If your water pressure is more than 40 psi, you’re also going to need to install a pressure regulator, which will regulate and reduce the water pressure. Finally, if you want to install a lateral line as well, this is the time to do so. Use aluminum tape when doing it, in order to protect it from sunlight.

4. Add the Drip Irrigation

The final step in installing a drip irrigation system is actually adding the drip irrigation. The drip lines should go first. With a tubing cutter, cut them according to the dimensions you need, and then connect them to the lateral line or the pressure regulator. The lines should stay at the surface of the soil since underground, rodents might chew on them. If you don’t want them to be visible, you can use mulch to cover them. If you want to control them individually, you’re going to have to install a control valve before each of them. Covering sprinklers is also possible if you want your garden to have a unique look.

In order to make sure they’ll stay in place, secure them with garden stakes. If you’re going to use micro sprinklers or drip emitters, you’ll have to attach them along the lines at this point. Then, add a cap at the end of each tube, to avoid water leakage.

How Drip Irrigation Preserves Water

There’s more than one reason why drip irrigation is so popular nowadays. Today, we’re going to explore the most obvious benefit of using this type of system to water your plants. That is the fact that you’ll be saving water. That’s because due to the drip irrigation emitters, the system releases exact amounts of water every time, which ensures no water will be wasted. You have control over the amount of water each plant is going to get, so none of them will receive more than they need.

sprinkler head watering plants, drip irrigation

This is not the only reason why using drip irrigation helps save water. You also save water due to the fact that less of it evaporates while getting distributed. The wind doesn’t interfere with it, and the system won’t be spraying sidewalks or buildings. Plus, it delivers water straight to the roots, which reduces water runoff. For instance, if your garden has slopes or uneven soil, a drip irrigation system will help you reduce water consumption.

Some gardens are quite sparse. We understand the desire not to grow too many plants close together. Still, this usually leads to a lot of water getting wasted in between the areas where plants actually grow. This issue is nonexistent with drip irrigation since this type of system applies water only where you need it.

Summing It All Up

The efficiency of a drip irrigation system is an impressive 90 to 95 percent, as opposed to 30 to 60 percent in the case of rotors and sprays. This fact should be enough to convince you that installing such a system in your garden is the best way to irrigate your plants without wasting any water. We hope today’s guide has provided you with the complete steps of installing drip irrigation in an effective way, as well as provide you with all the important information related to this irrigation system and its wonderful benefits.

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