Commercial nurseries have long used drip tubing irrigation systems to water their plants. Now home gardeners are beginning to discover the ease of drip tubing systems and installing them for private use. When you learn a bit about drip tubing you may discover it’s the right choice for your landscape needs.
What is drip tubing?
Drip tubing irrigation systems apply a slow drip of water at the plant root source. The hose lies on the landscaped ground, and emitters along the length of the tubing release water onto individual plants. This helps avoid soaking ground that doesn’t need to be watered and ensures an even distribution of water between high and low-lying areas.
A drip tube irrigation system consists of a mainline pipe, which runs from the main water source to a valve. From the valve, sub-mains may run to individual sections of the system. These are only involved if you’re connecting multiple areas to a single water source. From the valve or sub-main, you’ll find a backflow preventer, followed by a pressure regulator. Next comes a filter, then a tubing adapter to attach the drip tubing to the system. The drip tubing is a long flexible hose made of polyethylene. Emitters are placed at intervals along the tubing. These are what release the water onto the plants. The spacing of emitters varies depending on how far apart your plants are.
When does drip tubing make sense?
Drip tubing makes sense if you have a lot of plants to care for. It’s particularly good in uneven areas, where traditional watering methods would lead to run-off, leaving some plants under or over-watered. Drip tubing allows you to keep the rows between plants dry, and it helps protect your plants from disease caused by watering the leaves and flowers. You can save time, money and energy by installing a drip tubing system. The efficiency of the system allows you to get the same results with less water.
How big is a drip tubing system?
Your drip tubing irrigation system can be larger or smaller as you need it to be. At a minimum, you’ll have to have room for all the components mentioned earlier. At a maximum, the mainline and sub-main together should be 400 feet or less. Each drip tube should be 200 feet or shorter. However, by combining multiple tubes or systems, you can water as large an area as you need to.
How do I install a drip tubing system?
Drip tubing is fairly simple to install. You can expect to spend between $200 and $600 for a home system, depending on how large a system you want. Some drip tubing systems claim you can bury them in the soil, but in general, it’s a better idea to simply lay the tubing alongside the plants, on top of the ground. The tubing is more susceptible to decay if it’s buried. You’ll need to stake the tubing to the ground to keep it from moving around–the emitters need to be precisely placed to work the way they should.
What kind of drip tubing system should I get?
Match your drip tubing system to your watering needs. The system described here is common and can be adjusted to simpler or more complex versions depending on how many sub-mains and tubes you install. If you have a smaller garden, you may want to try the very simplest type of drip tubing instead–a soaker hose. This is a hose made of porous tubing that you lay beside your plants as you would drip tubing. However, there are no emitters or mainlines–the hose hooks directly to the water source and water is released all along the length. This type works well for gardens with lots of plants close together. If your plants are farther apart, a soaker hose wastes too much water on ground that doesn’t need it.
Your drip tubing system needs regular maintenance to stay working its best. At least once a year, flush the mainline of any clogs, clean the filter, and check the hoses for any leaks or damage. If you find a damaged section of hose, you may be able to fix it with a barb insert, which fits tightly over the hose to stop the leak.