Drip irrigation is super easy, and it won't dry up your wallet!
By Bruce Wiebe, Lakeville, Minnesota
I didn't have a clue how much time my wife dedicated every day to watering the hanging baskets, window boxes and ceramic planters on our deck and patio—until she assigned the chore to me one weekend. No wonder she had turned down my offer to build more window boxes!
All of the hose handling and watering can toting was too much work for my taste, so I scouted out a home center for alternative watering strategies.
The solution I found was a drip-irrigation or micro-watering kit. It only took a couple of hours to install, and it worked like magic all summer. With easy-to-connect tubing, custom-designed drippers for every style of planting, and a timer to run it automatically, we felt liberated enough to actually leave for a weekend and not worry about the plants.
Buy a Kit
A wide variety of kits are available, so get one with enough 1/2-inch main-line tubing to cover the distance between the outdoor faucet you'll use and the most distant container. We used a couple of kits from RAINDRIP, Inc., but similar kits are available from other companies.
Buy them at home centers, gardening centers or on-line; basic kits start at about $20. Be sure to buy a kit with a timer, so you can preset a daily watering schedule. Also check the contents of the kit before buying to see which dripper styles are inside; we've shown our three favorites on the next page.
Install the System
It's literally a snap to put in a drip-irrigation system. The tubes and connectors snap together without screws or clamps. For tools, you'll need a tape measure, hole punch and utility knife.
Start by screwing the timer to the faucet; most include an anti-siphon valve and a pressure regulator (photo at right). The faucet will still be available for regular use—just unscrew the timer after turning off the faucet. Or attach a Y-fitting to the faucet and use one side for your drip system, and the other for your standard hose.
Run the 1/2-inch main line along the least-conspicuous route (along the edge of your deck or patio, or low on a wall). Cut the main line at the farthest container and insert a plug from the kit. Cut and install sections of 1/4-inch tubing to connect the 1/2-inch main line to the drippers in the containers. Use the hole punch in the kit to bore holes for the barbed connectors (see photo below).
Keep the following in mind as you plan a drip-irrigation system:
- Follow the manufacturer's directions in terms of how long a main line can be and how many devices can be run from it.
- Most devices are adjustable. Monitor your plants after the first few days to make sure you're not drowning or starving them.
- We show drip irrigation for container plants, but systems can be used for trees, shrubs, and entire flower and vegetable gardens. You can even buy conversion devices that allow you to tap into a conventional underground sprinkler system with your drip-irrigation system.