What is a drip irrigation system?
A new way of effectively watering plants: a drip irrigation system! This is the ideal way to navigate and distribute the water used for your plants directly to their roots, as well as being able to leave your plants to become hydrated whilst unattended. So, in order to make your life easier – and especially as the holidays are coming up! – we’ve decided to show you just how easy it is to install.
The heart of the system is the irrigation controller. This is installed on a tap near the garden or vegetable patch and is responsible for opening and closing the flow of water according to what you have programmed in. There are many different models and prices available to satisfy the needs of all: from those that control two different areas of the garden (image 1) to those that you can control over the internet via an app (image 2). The controller is battery operated and can be left outdoors at all times without a problem.
It allows you to control two variants:
– the frequency of watering (in terms of hours or days)
– the duration (in minutes or hours)
It would be recommended to start off with a kit such as the one in this image. It contains everything you need to get started and you can always expand your collection by purchasing further parts which are sold separately.
Besides the controller, there are two types of tubing in the kits (image 3): a 16mm diameter tube (which acts as the main one) and a 4mm one, whose job is to channel the water to specific areas or to each plant pot.
These tubes are completely watertight, although some come pre-perforated (with small holes in them) or are exudative (porous along the entire length). They also are available in various lengths if you prefer to buy them separately.
Parts needed to install a drip irrigation system
- Irrigation controller
- Irrigation controller programmer
- Irrigation kit
- Tee connector
- 4-way connectors
- End caps
- Dripper stakes
- 2 port manifold
Connections are made using various plastic pieces (also included in the kits): these come in the shape of a T (image 4), of an X (image 5), elbows (image 6), end caps (image 7) and even stopcocks (image 8) to be able to open or shut off specific sections according to your needs.
Start by connecting the controller directly to the tap. The pressure reducer, filter and main hose (also included in the kits) should be positioned below this.
Design your own drip irrigation system
It’s a good idea to start off with a small map of your garden or vegetable patch. Sketch out where you would want the water to go and take measurements to check how many metres of the main tubing you will need. The kits usually come with around 25 metres of 16mm tubing.
Begin by uncoiling this tubing and spread it over the selected area. It is essential so that you don’t fold or twist it at the corners. To help avoid this, use the elbow shaped pieces (image 6) which allow the water to flow more easily rather than ‘choking’ it.
The tee pieces (image 4) will help you to cut off towards various plots you may want to avoid, you close off these ‘branches’ by using the end cap (image 7) which was designed for this purpose.
If your plants are on the ground, you can pierce this tubing directly with the punch and install the dripper (image 9) above it. However if the water needs to reach plant pots or planters, it would be recommended to use the smallest tube (4mm).
Here is an analogy I like to use to make it easier to understand: the thick tube is like the arteries of this circulatory system that you’re installing. And the narrow one is like the veins that reach every corner of the body!
To gain maximum control over the amount of water that reaches your plants, drippers are used. These can be adjustable or can even be shut off completely. For plant pots I like to use drip stakes (image 10), because these are easy to jab into the soil.
As mentioned at the start, all of these items are available separately: tubes, laterals, elbows, drippers, stopcocks, connectors… But we also want to highlight a type of ‘splitter’ that turns your single tap into a double one (piece 11). This allows you to connect the drip irrigation system to one outlet, while keeping the other one for your normal garden hose, or just as a tap. Note that if you’re looking for something like this, they also come with 4 outlets.
A few tips before you install your drip irrigation system:
- Don’t leave it all to the day before your holidays. Give yourself plenty of time to test how it works and make adjustments to the length and frequency of watering.
- If you’re installing your system on a terrace or balcony to water pots, make sure that the minimum length of watering that can be programmed is 1 minute. If your plants need it, it’s a good idea to program the system to water them twice a day rather than to waste water because you can’t water for less time.
- If you need to pierce the tubes to insert the connectors, try to make these holes as straight as possible and insert the pieces all the way in to ensure a good seal. If this is too difficult, heat up the tube a little with a lighter or hot water. The parts will then slide in more easily.
Until next time!
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