Drip Layout at Bottom

Drip or Skip?

If you are not going to use Drip irrigation, please do not garden. The probability of your garden failing increases along with the probability of your badmouthing gardening. If you won't drip then skip gardening.

Nature of Drip Irrigation:

  1. Drip irrigation is like a cross between hydroponics and old-fashion sprinkling one's garden. In hydroponics, the plant roots are in a liquid container. With drip irrigation, one creates a tear-shaped water envelope which should water the plant if one has planted next to the water-emitter. By "next", it is meant no more than an inch away.
  2. Drip irrigation saves money over sprinkling. On a hot, dry day, evaporation rates of 75% or more have been reported for the water between the time it leaves the sprinkler and some its the plants. Water on top of plants leaves increases the evaporate rate.
  3. Water on top of plants can cause the magnifying effect, that is, the water droplet acts as a magnifying glass which burns the leaf leaving brown spots where the cells have died.
  4. Sprinkling cleans the air in fashion similar to industrial plants where water sprays are used for scrubbing exhaust to reduce air pollution. If you want you plants to suffere from mold and mildew, sprinkle your plants.
  5. While one should do a monthly broadcast of 10-10-10, one can use the drip system for weekly in-line fertilization of one's garden ... only the plants, not weeds! Drip irrigation pays for itself by reducing fertilizer costs.
  6. Anti-lazy, low motivation helper: With a timer (usually up to 120 minutes), one can easily water one's garden. Without a timer, one is apt to forget to water or to over-water due to forgetting to turn off the water.
  7. Disease reduction: By watering only the plant, one does not water garden activity that can increase diseases and pests. Furthermore, one can use in-line eco-friendly solutions to treat ground bugs. Like many measures, a monthly preventative injection reduces outbreaks.

Soaker hoses are not drip irrigation:

  1. Soaker hoses water a line which is surface rather than creating an efficient, economic tear-drop envelope that the plant roots will follow.
  2. The damn things are fragile. They break and spray all the time--wasting water and not watering the plant.
  3. I ended up having a plastic jar with couplers/unions/joiners along with a cutter and ties. At one point, I had several splices within a ten-foot length. When I gave the hoses away, I also gave unions and ties with instructions. Now, I would trash them rather than give them away unless it was someone I did not like!

If you use Drip Irrigation:
  1. Spacing:You will place the properly spaced drip line down before you plant your seeds or seedlings. Drip line spacing is 4", 6", 8", 9", 12" 15", 18", 24", 36", and 48" (based on my internet buys). Please note that driplines have a life of 7 to 10 years depending on how you treat them.
  2. Cost: Most can be bought in 50' or 100' lengths for about 20 cents a foot or less. (If you put together a neighborhood gardening club, you can buy in bulk. Note: 1/4" is for short distances under 30 feet. 1/2" will go several hundred feet.)
  3. Weeds: With drip irrigation, you only water the plant, not the weeds. The time it takes to lay down a drip line is far less than the time it takes to weed a garden over and over.
  4. Mulch: If you don't want weeds at all, spread a two-inch layer of mulch over your soil before you plant. Put the mulch on top of the drip line.
    1. You will have few, if any, any weeds as the decomposing much robs the nitrogen from the top 1" of soil which prevents weed germination/growth.
    2. Seedlings are not affected by mulch. Seeds can be planted with mulch pulled back until the plants are six inches tall. [Root systems basically echo the above-ground foilage in density.].)
    3. I have a forester friend who delivers dump-truck loads of mulch for free tho I give him $20 and veggies for his kindness. Call up a tree service to see if they will deliver mulch. Also, city and counties provide free mulch derived from tree removal--they don't deliver but it is free.
  5. Target watering: With drip irrigation, usually .5 gal/hr, you create a tear-shaped water bubble under your plant which prompts it to root deeper for better wind strength compared to sprinkling, hosing or broadcast watering. With hosing, you either flood or ignore a plant. Drip waters each plant the same so that if you have a problem plant, you know it is not watering (unless the drip emitter is clogged).
  6. Lower cost: With drip, you use only about 20%-25% of the water consumed by sprinkling. A lot of the water evaporates on in the air and most evaporation from the soil top. Little evaporation occurs with drip irrigation. In Richmond, at $4/1000 gallons, watering a plant for an hour with a .5/gph emitter will cost $.002 or 1/5 of a penny.
  7. Diseases: If you want to disease your plants with every microbe in the air, sprinkle them. Your laundry washing machines cleans your clothes, in part, by water absorbing the loose dirt and microbes on your clothes. One of the first and most common diseases is mildew which chokes the leaves thus killing the plant. Another common disease is tomato or potato blight. One garden rule is to not work in the garden if the plants are wet. Every time you touch a plant, any microbes on you will transfer.
  8. Timer: With drip irrigation, you can buy a cheap $10/$12 hose timer to set watering from a few minute to two hours. I don't care who you are, you are going to have days in which you don't feel like watering or you leave the water on all day or or night.
  9. Fertilizer: With drip lines, you can buy a cheap $10/$12 in-line fertilizer at Ace Hardware
  10. Bug killers: Many insects develop in the soil before emerging to devastate your crop. There are a number of eco-friendly bug stoppers derived from tree bark. Healthy trees resist bug infestations by having natural bug stoppers. That is what you put into your ferilizer pot to put about the roots of your plants.

Drip Layout

For the average homeowner, one of three configurations will work: straight, lateral and bi-lateral. The 1/4 drip will be the simplest and least expensive that will do the job. Depending on the emitter gap (6", 9",12") the length can be 18 feet(6"),  25 feet(9") and 34 feet(12"). Otherwise, insufficient water present occurs with little or no drip beyond the maximum suggested length. All have a female water hose connector to which one should also connect a pressure regular, 30 lbs max. By using rubber tape to cover holes, one can turn 9" emitter into 18" or 27" or 12" into 24" or 36" to conserve water. Large plants require more spacing for roots. And, you should have a timer so minding your garden is not a hassle. (Increase water time as plants grow with adjustments for rain or dry periods. Wilting plants means the need to increase the drip time.

  1. Straight: Simple: A single line from a garden hose. At the end of the season, the line can be rolled up into a roll with a diameter of a foot with a tie holding it together so you can hang it on a nail or hook.
  2. Lateral: A half-inch solid feed tube from which straight lines exit for each row of vegetables. Root plants can be planted close in rows while tomatos, cucumbers and squash should be planted at two feet/three feet so that you can walk between every other row. With a lateral, you could water a plot 20 ft by whatever number of rows you want.
  3. Bi-lateral: Same as lateral only two-sided.

In all cases, one should use a short-length of flexible hose between the drip-line and its connection to the water source. Thus it is easier to move distance between rows and to roll up at the end of the season.

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