THE DRIP IRRIGATION SYSTEM THAT ROCKED MY WORLD.

I know. Enough with the garden stuff, Karen.  But in the summer that’s where my life is, outside in the garden with the bugs, snakes, birds and what I firmly believe to be a village of organized and complex problem solving slugs.

Once the cooler weather arrives I’ll be back inside doing some painting (my dining room brick wall … gasp,) rearranging and maybe some slip covering.  Maybe.

But for now, I’m firmly entrenched in the pestfest of my garden.

One of the more relaxing chores in the world of gardening is sitting yourself down in a lawn chair, hose in hand, sending a gentle sprinkling of water onto your vegetable beds.

Hand watering is almost meditative.  Unless you have twelve, 16 foot beds, a self diagnosed hyperactivity disorder, at least one body to feed and bathe every day, soil that drains like a gamblers bank account and a garden hose you suspect of being made out of a weirdly pliable cast iron.

THEN it just sucks.

So this spring I looked into installing a drip system.

And then I got overwhelmed and confused and felt like I might stroke out so  I continued with hand watering.

It turns out drip systems aren’t all that difficult.  They just seeeeem difficult to the uninitiated.  I ended up emailing the company I buy my row cover from and asked them to help me. They sell all the stuff you need for drip irrigation including entire kits with everything you need. I just wasn’t sure what size kit I needed or if I needed two of them or if I should just do it without a kit.

So I took a shot, randomly sent them my garden plan and asked for help.

Within a few days someone from the company sent me back a mock up of my garden with a drip layout, a list of everything I needed to do it and the price it would be ($324 for my entire 40′ X 40′ plot.)

It took 3 days to install (working 2-3 hours each time) and I love it with all of my heart.  I big heart love it.  I lasagna love it.

What’s to love you ask?  Here are a few things:

Why I Love Drip Irrigation
  • No waste of water.  It goes directly in the ground where you want it, not onto paths, not onto the dense layer of plant leaves and not into the air.
  • You can water and work in your garden at the same time.  Try doing that while dodging a sprinkler.
  • Every single inch of your garden is watered.  There are no dry or missed spots.
  • Because the water is dripped so slowly it’s fully absorbed deeply into the soil with no run off.
  • You can set it to a timer and forget about it.

So, just like LED lighting, Drip Irrigation can seem a bit YIKES, but once it’s explained by someone as stupid as you are, it all makes sense.  You just need an equally confused person to explain it to you.

I am just that person.

Here’s a video of the entire system after I’ve installed it so you can make sense of the layout and what it all looks like.

 

 

HOW TO INSTALL DRIP IRRIGATION IN A HOME GARDEN

 

(There are 2 types of hoses with drip irrigation: the drip hose, which has holes in it for dripping water in the beds and the supply hose, the hose that feeds the drip hose)

  1.  Assemble your filter and pressure reducer. (The pressure reducer ensures you always have constant water pressure at 12 psi.)

installing drip irrigation filter

These are what the pieces look like unassembled but laid out in order.

installing a drip irrigation water filter

Tape your pipe ends with plumbing tape (provided) and screw everything together.  If you’re ordering from the place I ordered from (Dubois Agrinovation) you’ll get the exact same parts that go together in the exact same order, the exact same way).

    2. Attach your assembled filter and pressure reducer to your garden hose.  Make sure it is OFF.  Then attach the end of your supply hose to the filter.

3.  Run your supply hose to where you want your drip hoses to run.  In my case I needed to run 2 supply hoses, one to feed the left side of my garden and one to feed the right side.  To run the hose to where you need it you may need to cut the supply hose and attach elbows or tees, like you see below.

4.  Run your supply hose the full length of your garden and attach shut off valves.

 

Drip irrigation tubing

5. Cut your drip tape to length and lay them on your garden beds with the holes facing UP.   You should have one drip tape per row of plants or approximately 1 drip tape every 12″.

*(laying drip tape would be much easier in the spring when the garden isn’t full of plants)

installing drip irrigation in vegetable garden

 

6.  Lay out all of your on/off valves where your drip tape meets your supply line.

*TIP:  If you’re working alone, lay a rock on one end of the drip tape while you run it to keep it in place.

Installing drip irrigation in a raised bed vegetable garden

If you’re working in a garden with plants already, just lay the rock on one end of your drip tape then gently pull the plants up and lay the tape underneath.  Then pull the drip line tight and straight.

7. Attach all of your drip tape on off valves.  For me there were 32 of them to fit.  Here’s how to attach the drip lines to the supply line.

 

 

karen bertelsen gardening

8.  Before you put the end caps on your drip line you have to purge the system so any dirt that got into the lines gets flushed out.  Close the valves at the end of your supply line, make sure all the drip line valves are open and turn the water on.  This is your first test run.  Wooooo!

installing drip irrigation in home garden

9.  Once you’ve run the lines long enough for any soil to have been flushed out, turn the water off and attach the end caps to all of your drip lines.

10.  Smile.  Your system is now fully installed.

installing drip irrigation in home garden

The drip system delivers water slowly through holes in the top of the drip tape.  The water will spread out and down.

Here’s a cross section of the soil after 1/2 an hour of the drip system running.  You can see how far down and wide the water has travelled.

depth of drip irrigation moisture

 

Still confused?  Here it is in a nutshell.

  1. Assemble filter & pressure reducer.
  2. Attach garden hose and drip system supply hose.
  3. Run supply hose along where you want water.
  4. Attach drip tape off of supply hose.
  5. Purge system.
  6. Do a little dance, make a little love.

If you have a normal sized garden and only need 10 rows of drip tape, a kit with everything you need will cost you $155.

But there are kit sizes for every garden if you take a look here.

There’s only a month or so more of this gardening business left in my part of the world.  Once the end of September hits I’ll be thinking about ordering firewood, finishing up some canning and practicing some brain exercises so that next year … I’ll be better prepared to outsmart a slug.

 

Update:

**to those who are asking in the comment section, the system runs for 1/2 hour – 2 hours depending on your soil.

***the system can stay put throughout the entire winter.  Just blow some of the water out of the lines so they don’t freeze and break the tubes.  The only thing you need to take apart and bring inside is the filter and pressure gauge.

41 Comments

  1. Lois Baron says:

    Wow. That’s cheap for garden happiness. Way to go!

  2. Jani Wolfe says:

    Do you have to disassemble after the growing season is over or just let it lay where you have it now? Nice job as always!!

    • Alberta Karen says:

      yes, Karen, please address this question. If I was to install this, can I leave it in the garden over winter? In Edmonton?

    • Gayke says:

      I went to the website and downloaded the brochure. It says to disassemble the system after flushing it at the end of the season, and store the filter & pressure and the hoses inside for the winter. AND, they recommend replacing the tape (not the hoses) every year to prevent bacteria/algae build up.

      I just dug and terraced my 30×45 garden, installed 12 4×4 beds. I think I may just buy 1/2 inch PV, cut 3 to 4 or so three foot pieces for each bed, drill 1/16 in holes and put them together with tees and elbows (connecting them without gluing, so I can take it apart each fall, and put back together each year, storing the pipes in my shed). I found the plans on Pinterest. I’ll have to find a pressure control, but they are sold at garden supply or places like Lowe’s or Home Depot.

  3. Deborah Burns says:

    Good job installing your drip system!! Just spent the day handwatering much of my yard, 70+ days of no rain at my house in Seattle 🙁

    I used multiple methods: 2 kinds of sprinklers, the flippy floppy wave (2 of them, 1 front and back) and the pin cushion, the bubbler (moved everey 7 minutes) 2 faucets, 4 different hoses, and the waterwand! Most of the time both faucets were running at the same time. AND, every morning, I run one of the flipply floppy wave sprinklers for an hour and waterwand plants still (after years) stranded in their pots and ferns! I have a slopped yard with garden areas, shrubs and trees.

    It is like a military campaign every Summer, although a much longer draught this Summer, usually in July and August we get some heavy monsoon rains that drench the landscape a couple of times. This year I didn’t even have a veggie garden!

    In anticipation of a large water bill, I paid an extra $100 towards my upcoming bill, I am sure it will be a doozy! 🙂

  4. Lindy says:

    Ahhhhh. I feel like saying ‘welcome to the sect’. We of the contented drip irrigation system tribe. I can’t believe I put it off for years before I installed. Hopefully you will convince others to leap in.

    And it’s utter bliss in my drought-ridden heat wave part of the world. When all is parched and crispy outside the potager I can wander down my rows of vegetables, fruit and flowers and know I am not a bad gardener. Everything is drip fed and lush and lovely.

  5. nancy says:

    I have “installed” (throw down skinny plastic pipe on the ground) Mr Landscaper drip irrigation in 2 homes in my previous life. Along with Rain bird timers. It’s such a stellar setup!! Then I moved to Seattle and I don’t think they have it here. So, I bought a look alike version instead of ordering it from Amazon. I really detest this system, I can’t remember the name of it, it’s nearly useless, you have to water for 3 years to get a good watering. Drip irrigation is just wonderful.

  6. Sheryl says:

    Thanks for the birds-eye view of your garden. Very meditative. Mother nature added a nice touch with the bird song.

  7. Dianna says:

    Excellent educational reading with my morning tea!

    Right now, nightly waterings gets hubby up off his chair and outdoors for a little while …. so… I don’t plan on filling him in on ‘drip watering’.

    As always, such a pleasure reading your blog. Every time.

  8. Jen says:

    I can’t believe it’s that inexpensive! I have thought of this many times but was afraid it would cost too much and be too intimidating to put together. Thanks friend!

  9. Sadie Loretto says:

    Wow! Love the ideas. I was afraid to do my own drip system, but will try next spring.

    • Karen says:

      I’m going to try to do a reminder post in the spring for everyone. This would have been much easier and much more effective if I would have been able to do it in the spring. But that wasn’t an option for me this year. 🙂 ~ karen!

  10. Katie C. says:

    I installed a drip system with a timer in my garden beds this spring because I did not want last year’s $900 water bill to happen again. It’s AWESOME! However, we got a ton of rain this year in Massachusetts and I kept forgetting to turn the system off on rainy days so I lost a bunch of stuff to rot and over-watering.

  11. MelissaM says:

    I’ve used a Rainbird kit bought at a home store. I put this in after planting 10 shrubs and a couple roses that I didn’t want to lose through a summer drought, and I didn’t want to be running in and out moving a hose back and forth. Marvelous system! I’ve reconfigured it now for other shrubs/plantings. I’ve never messed with an automated timer system, but that would mean watering would be effortless. If only the weeding were as effortless.

  12. Susan Claire says:

    I started using drip systems back in the 80’s. Great idea, but I also spent at least an hour prying earwigs and dirt (from said earwigs) out of the sprinkler heads every time I turned it on. Ants too, they really like jamming in there to get to that last drop of water. Finally gave up and trashed the whole system. Perhaps I’ll try again, improvements must have been made by now.

    • Karen says:

      Yes, the holes are just tiny little dots. You lay the hose so the holes are UP, not down touching the soil. An earwig could never get in them. There are no sprinkler heads, just little holes in tubes. Works great. ~ karen!

  13. Jody says:

    The best part of that was the cross section of soil to see how deep the water goes and how far it spreads. Thanks for the info.

  14. Ev Wilcox says:

    Seems like a lot of work to have to take it all apart every fall and redo every spring, but then you can fuss with the beds, as in adding dirt and mulch, etc, before you plant. So, all in all-a pretty good idea. Thanks for all the info and vids-you rock, as usual! Maybe you could give us some photos next spring as your veg friends are just showing? Thanks Karen!

  15. Mary W says:

    I LOVE YOU!!!!! Now if you could do a drip system for pots on my back porch without having hose run all over the floor – dream come true. A friend did this with clear tubes that she nailed along the edge of her roof and had an extension come down each support beam or each chained up hanging plant. She also located her big potted plants under the support beams. She put a timer on it and had the most gorgeous porch without effort that you ever saw. She moved away before we got together to do mine and I just don’t take the time every day to water all the plants on my porch in pots or hanging baskets. Florida requires almost daily watering of potted plants that hang under roofs but in the sun. Of course slugs aren’t much of a problem here but I wonder – do they enjoy your garden even more now? Could you run beer through to eliminate them? You may run them away but I bet your garden would be filled with a new sort of two legged slug that slept between the rows, didn’t eat your food but crushed them when they fell over from too much ‘watering’.

  16. Cindy Marlow says:

    First comment: Are you sourcing for a local super market or something? That’s a TON of produce! Second comment: Excellent tutorial! We once installed a drip system to water our 1.5 acre tree and shrub nursery. We lovingly referred to it as Frankenstein’s monster watering system. Evidently we weren’t smart enough to realize that there might be a supply company that would help with the design…it was entirely trial and error. Your’s is a thing of beauty!

  17. Lianne says:

    Also, check if your municipality offers rebates for installing drip systems – I know mine does.

  18. Heather Sykora says:

    Thank you!! Thank you!! I installed a Home Depot system two years ago – for a small 8×4 bed. The little sprinkler heads did not get enough water some places and too much other spots. It was frustrating as my tomatoes croaked in the Texas heat…. so I only planted thinks that could handle once a week watering this year- sweet potato vines – thanks to your tutorial. They look enormous 🙂. I feel inspired to try more again next year after reading this post!! Thank you!

  19. Paulette says:

    This is your best gardening post. Ever! You would not believe the thick crap I’ve been reading in an effort to figure out how these systems work. Not once did you mention a double check valve or an atmospheric vacuum breaker backflow preventer. The kind of words that make you think you might need a degree in fluid physics before you can irrigate a bed of lettuce.

    I had also written off your supplier as a source after being told by locals who should have known better they were too expensive for home gardeners. Also not true. I can afford this. Waaaay cheaper than what it has been taking to repair this ragged old body after a season of hauling water and hoses that weigh more than I do.

    What a relief! I can do this. Thank you for this.

    • Karen says:

      OH cripes! Their stuff is always a great price. I discovered them a few years ago on the recommendation of a fellow super-serious gardener. We would order stuff together because if it’s over $70 (I believe) shipping is free. This drip line is the BEST thing I’ve done in my garden. Once I get it hooked up to a timer I’m set. ~ karen!

  20. Erin says:

    Great post! I have a Dubois irrigation system on a timer for part of my covered growing space. It really is a time and water saver so I’ve meant to plan and purchase a second (&third) system for another couple of garden plots. With all the rain this summer, I keep moving this job to the bottom of the list. This would be a great time to get it so it’s ready to go in the spring. Thanks for the reminder.

  21. Dale Lacina says:

    Unless you put all seeds and seedlings in at the same time in the spring, you may need to figure how to reinstall this in sections. Can the drip tape holes in the supply line be taped over until that drip tape line is needed? I am sure the garden genius you are, you have figured this out already.

    • Karen says:

      I’m not sure what you mean Dale. You mean so you aren’t needlessly watering beds that don’t have anything in them? Each drip strip is attached to its own on/off valve. 🙂 So you can have all beds going, 2 beds going, 5 … whatever you want. It’s really customizable and adjustable. ~ karen!

      • Dale Lacina says:

        Dummy me!! I watched you install the drip tape connectors and did not recognize the shut off valve on top of the connectors. Thanks for being the equally confused person and explaining it to me. I knew you would be the genius to have that figured out. Well designed set up.

  22. Janelle says:

    Huh. Neato. Could a gal put these under sod, or are they only for above grade watering?

  23. S. Barthel says:

    A question Karen- Why have the water bubble up? In very dry years various commercial drip systems have had problems with crows that sometimes punch holes in drip tape if the plastic is too lightweight. It seems that water bubbling up to the top might be more of an attractant for birds. Have you had to fight off the flocks?

    • Karen says:

      Hi S. That’s the recommendation from the company that I bought the tape from. The reasoning is if the tape is laid with the holes into the soil, they get clogged. I haven’t had any birds on my drip tape that I’ve seen. They’re pretty touch tapes but I have no idea how they’d do against a crow. We do have Osprey in the area but I think they’re too big to land in my plot, lol. ~ karen!

  24. Jack Barr says:

    Hi, Karen. OK, so my question comes so late after your post on irrigation….. something I’ve been contemplating for years, but never got around to eliminating from my To Do list.
    Why did you decide to go with a particular company, rather than any other? You, like many of us DYIs, often purchase products from Lee Valley, yet you didn’t use the product they offer? You tend to thoroughly research before investing in a product, so I’d like to take advantage of your knowledge.
    Many thanks for any info you may offer before I make the plunge.

    Jack.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jack! I went with Dubois Agrinovation for a few reasons. Their prices are really good, they’re an actual agricultural company so they have top quality set ups, PLUS when I emailed them my garden layout asking for help they knew exactly what I needed to do, drew the whole plan up for me with exactly what I needed. If I had a smaller garden I may have just bought a kit from Lee Valley or Home Depot, but for a 40’x 40′ plot it was a bit more extensive. All of those things (cost, expertise, quality) are what prompted me to go with Dubois. Also I’d bought other garden things from them before and was happy with them. The company was recommended to me by someone who does even MORE research than I do, lol. He’s a market farmer. ~ karen!

  25. Jack Barr says:

    Hi, Karen. Thanks for your very prompt reply, the helpful info and, of course, your great, funny, eclectic, informative blog. I really appreciate all of it and now I must tackle this before the snow flies.
    ps: The “DYI” was not a misprint. Since most DIYs tend to accumulate multiple projects and To Do lists, I refer to us as Do Yourself Inners. Its still way better than being a member of the “I can’t find anything to do” society.
    Stay well, curious, and keep gardening!

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