Convert to Drip Irrigation Where it’s Best
A handy Guide to Get You Started
Irrigation in the time of drought. Unfortunately, it’s not a spoof of a literary classic, but a reality we all face. At Hydro-Scape, we present solutions that allow you to keep a lush, beautiful landscape while still complying with water restrictions.
Drip irrigation systems use plastic tubing, either with tiny holes or small emitters. The emitters drip water at a chosen, slow, rate. It’s the perfect irrigation system for saving water! Using a drip irrigation system not only saves water and energy, it also protects the land and benefits your plants.
It does this by targeting only the plants you want to water and not the empty spaces. Since you’re not watering those empty spaces, weed and foreign plant growth is greatly reduced. Your plants are getting the optimal amount of water, so they’re more likely to grow uniformly, making your landscape even more beautiful.
Drip irrigation is perfect for trees, shrubs, gardens and flowerbeds. It also works well for landscaping features planted on slopes. However, we don’t advise you to use it for your lawn, stick with a spray head that utilizes today’s water-saving technology.
We’ve developed a short “how to” for converting your existing spray heads to an on-surface drip system. Read on!
- Planning: Calculate the square footage of the zone, determine soil type and system pressure. These allow you to find the proper flow rate, spacing and lateral row spacing of the drip lines. No soil preparation is needed.
- If the controller for your spray system has a valve large enough for the total gallons per minute (GPM) of the drip system (it usually is), you don’t need to buy new.
- If the PVC lines from the water source to the zone are large enough to handle the GPM (they usually are), you can use them for the drip system.
- Your existing plants stay right where they are, as the drip line is flexible. There are also have different fittings to choose from and these two combined allow you to run the drip line right next to existing plants.
- However, if you’re putting in new plants at the same time it’s slightly different.
- One-gallon plants go in after the drip system.
- Five-gallon and fifteen-gallon plants, as well as boxed trees, should be planted before the system is installed.
- Turn the current system off and remove all of the spray heads. Cap the lines.
- Hook up the new system to the water source. You can use either a hose bib or attach a combination tee to one of the nipples to which the spray heads connected. The tee reduces from threads to inserts. Many contractors connect the drip system right after the valve/filter/pressure regulator combination when installing new systems. Your existing hardscapes (sidewalks, etc.) may prevent you from doing it this way. Using the nipple method to connect to the PVC laterals is then the best option.
- Using the nipple method means you will need to install a pressure regulator. Usually, one that can handle 20-45 PSI is enough. You can get pre-assembled valve/filter/pressure regulator kits, such as Netafim’s Low Control Zone Kit, which makes the job easy.
- Use a combination tee fitting to connect the drip line, then loop the line around your plants or bed in rows about 16-24” apart. Begin looping from the tee. You can add rows using extra fittings. Keep the perimeter rows at least 2-4” from other zones and hardscape edges. Once you’re done looping, bring the line back to the tee fitting and connect it.
- Drip line staples will keep the lines in place. Staples that are curved at the top are best, as they won’t pinch the line. Space them every 3-5’. In soft soil, you can push them in by hand. For harder soils, you may need to pound them in place.
- Install a manual flush valve in the middle of the looped system farthest from the water source and at the lowest point in the zone. You’ll use this to clean or flush the system during maintenance.
- You’re ready to test your work! Turn on the water and time:
- How long it takes to saturate the soil, and
- How long it takes for water to move from one lateral line to the next one.
This is also the time to check for leaks in the system.
- Now that the system has passed the test, you can cover the drip lines with mulch or ground cover if you prefer. They’ll work just fine and vanish into your landscape.
- Routine maintenance is needed once every quarter. Clean the filter and flush the system. If you’re using city water and a good filter, your system should be clean.
Hydro-Scape offers everything you could possibly need to create the perfect drip systems. Some great conversion kits are made by Rain Bird and Netafim, making the task even simpler. Be sure to check out Rain Bird’s new QF Dripline Header, making it easier to install drip irrigation, available at select Hydro-Scape locations.
As always, the professional team at HS is here to help you!