Sunday, April 17, 2011

Installing drip irrigation is fun and easy

My husband has been holding out on me. Through experience at jobs, and by reading the packages while working at a hardware store in high school and in college, he can complete many household improvement tasks, although he tries to keep his knowledge hidden from me as much as possible so his “honey-do” list does not lengthen. Although he’s watched me drag hoses to water my plants and saw my soaker hoses break from dry-rot, he never told me that while he worked on John’s Island, SC, at a palm tree farm for a month or so after college, he installed drip irrigation around 150 palm trees in the midst of a Lowcountry summer.

I have read about drip irrigation, and although it sounded like an efficient way to water plants, I thought the installation process was nearly as complicated as that of the one installed by professionals that waters my lawn. I decided to try it, though, because I hate dragging hoses. I began with a starter kit. My husband, while helping me, revealed his seemingly miraculous skill in drip irrigation installation and had to confess the origin of the skill. After he helped me install the first few emitters, I completed the rest of the system.

I like drip irrigation because it provides slow drips of water to plants, at a rate of ½ gallon to 3 gallons per hour, and the water does not run off or evaporate like water from sprinklers. It’s inexpensive, although it does cost more than buying a soaker hose to move around; to water a small garden you could probably get all the supplies you need for under $50, and you can reuse them next year. Calculate in the cost of all the water you won’t waste with other systems, the weeds you won’t encourage by watering them while you water your plants, and avoiding the aggravation of dragging hoses all summer, and it’s a bargain.

Attach the main hose to a pressure regulator, which is attached to a garden hose or the house faucet. Off this main hose, install branches with emitters that drip onto each plant. For a row of beans, for example, use a hose with perforations to drip water onto the plants. For shrubs, put individual emitters in the hose for each plant. Attach the hose to the ground with landscape stakes and cover everything with mulch. Drain the system before winter comes, and leave it in place year-round.

I recommend buying a starter kit, which provides diagrams and instructions. Also, look at www.irrigationtutorials.com and www.dripirrigation.com. The public library and bookstores also have books. Once I understood the basic idea behind the system and could identify the parts, I installed our system easily, and it’s fun, kind of like playing with Tinkertoys.

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