How do you like your irrigation system? Any tips? Brands? Did you install it yourself? Please share your information.
Who has an Irrigation System
Our summers are bone-dry - no rain at all from May or June through October. So when we installed a garden, I worked on water-thriftiness.
- Replaced bad clay soil with high quality compost for better root growth
- Laid out soaker hoses instead of drip. We wanted cottage garden beds, no lawn, with every inch of soil filled. Soaker hoses do this better than drip, IMHO.
- Mulch heavily; renew every year or so.
It's a standing joke that outdoor faucets are never where you need them, LOL. I have faucet splitters, timers, and quick-connect ends so I can water as needed. Our summers are temperate so that's usually every 2-3 weeks. When I hear about people who water every day I'm stunned. If I have to water every week it would be because we got a rare 90-degree hot spell for four or five days, so we are fortunate here.
Water's extremely expensive here in the West. I usually manage to get by in the summer on bills of $20/mo for a little over 2000 sq. ft. of evergreen, crowded, flower-heavy garden beds. No watering in winter at all, that's our rainy season - which this year really was! A nice change from our three past years of drought.
We have the same type of watering system you have. We have to water every day or every other day. We have timers set to go off early in the am. It makes a world of difference if the plants receive enough water.
We mulch and use peat moss when we open up a garden. However some of these gardens are old and have no peat moss in the soil mostly clay. Our water gets really expensive here also. We've paid $300.00 a couple of months. Our city has the billing set up that what you use in water, they also charge the same amount for sewer. e.g. : 100.00 water use plus 100.00 sewer use. It's a racket!
I've been using the MR Landscaper drip system for 5-6 years.
I really like it, parts are available at Lowes.
Saves a lot on water costs.
I also use the Mr. Landscaper drip system....parts of my system are probably 10 years old. I just updated it this year to run drip irrigation to many of my containers. I really like this system because they offer a 10 GPH drip system--I need that extra pressure--the 2 GPH systems just don't do well for my containers.
I also use soaker hoses for some beds that my regular irrigation system doesn't reach, and I also use the EarthBox automated watering system for my 10 earthboxes. Everything runs off of timers.
This was my first year really utilizing drip irrigation for all of the containers I do, and it did a great job. I'm sure I have more to learn--I was kind of flying by the seat of my pants but it seemed to work. Interested in learning what I can do to improve my system.
my irrigation system is me and a hose. sigh.............. one more thing to add to my wants!
I don't know if you're still following this thread, but if you are I have some questions. I live across the bay from you, so share the same climate. I, too, have cottage-type gardens. Do you have recommendations re. a brand of soaker hoses? I've heard lots of bad things about them, but they seem more practical for my beds than drip irrigation targeted to a particular plant. I'm encouraging plants that self-seed, so need water to germinate the seeds, as well as water existing plants that are currently in season.
Mostly that the hoses don't last very long & that the pressure is uneven thru the length of the hose. But I've found an irrigation thread, on the vegetable forum, that's given me some new (to me) info. It sounds like a pressure regulator for the hose may help. But I'm very uninformed & welcome any info. Thanks!
I couldn't garden without an irrigation system. The hot, dry wind here can kill a newly transplanted tomato within a day. We bought a used Hunter Industrial/Commecial controller on ebay for one feature: Cycle and Soak. It runs the sprinklers for X minutes and then watis for Y minutes (X are Y are set by the user.) We set it to run for one minute and wait for ten minutes. We have terrible clay soil and any more than one or two minutes of water at a time just runs off because the top layer of soil gets saturated quickly. With that, and careful management of sprinkler alignment, none of our irrigation water leaves our yard. Our neighbors all run their sprinklers for 20-30 minutes and everything after the first minute or two runs out into the gutters. Then they complain about how high their utility bills are and how they are getting ripped off.
Besides the lawn, we have five other stations that water trees, veggie garden, and xeriscaped flower beds. The controller has an overall water budget so we can turn the whole system up or down depending on the weather. It has so many stations that it could control the entire block but we don't like our neighbors that much :)
Overall maintenance of the pipes and drippers is a giant pain but it takes less time than watering all the plants by hand every day. My mother in law waters her garden by hand twice a day but she's retired so she has time for that.
To encourage natural reseeding the surface of the soil has to be moistened frequently, which soaker hoses don't do. They are effective for established plants. Soaker hoses are really good for discouraging weed seeds that I don't want. The surface remains dry and not a good environment for seed sprout. I actually employ both systems for vegetable beds where I plant seeds. The mini sprinklers go off a few times a day until the seeds sprout and establish a root system. Then the soaker hoses take over.
I think you are using the system that I will need to use for my potager & ornamental beds. Do you run the soaker hoses & the mini sprinklers from the same controller & is this all automated.... or do you manually switch from one system to the other?
If anyone has suggestions for a good book to consult to learn about drip systems, I'd appreciate a recommendation.
There is a Y on each bed that I change manually from sprinkler to drip. One distributer hose from the timer to the bed serves both the sprinklers and the soakers. The timers have to be adjusted when I switch from sprinkler to drip since the sprinklers go off frequently and for a short time just to moisten the surface. Once I switch to drip, the timers are set to go off less frequently and for longer periods. Honestly, over time I have found I am generally more satisfied with the mini sprinklers overall. As has been said, the drip hoses can be unreliable. I can't see what's happening. The sprinklers are visible. If something goes wrong I can see it.
As far as books go, the best are the manuals that come with the various brands. Even then, though, some important points have to be learned the hard way. There is nothing like hands on. Some of our earlier posts cover the basics. From there it's all about customizing for your particular needs.
Drip irrigation is best suited for dry areas. I lived in Australia. The most of agricultural land is dry. This is Ideal irrigation for me. As you need a brand, I would suggest Hornet Central. It is easy to install.
One downside of soaker hoses is that, if you have hard water, the minerals plug up the tiny gaps in the hose matrix, and flow stops. Then you can throw them away or, if you want, you can drill 1/16th" holes every 12" and run them at a lower pressure and very variable watering rates.
>> Do you have recommendations re. a brand of soaker hoses? I've heard lots of bad things about them, but they seem more practical for my beds than drip irrigation targeted to a particular plant.
Have you looked at dripline and driptape? Driptape seems targeting at long, straight rows and large plots. But dripline works almost like soaker hoses by having one drip emitter every 6” or 9” or 12” or 18”. So you can water a whole bed by laying out one length of dripline, either in a straight line down the middle, or a loop, or curlicues.
The idea is that they mold emitters right INTO the black polyethylene tubing. For short runs, ¼” dripline is cheapest. But if you want 30-100 foot long runs, you need ½” dripline.
There seems to be a tendency to build “pressure compensating” drippers into the more expensive ½” dripline, and leaving the ¼” dripline with cheaper drippers that emit less as the pressure drops. Hence the row-length-limit of 15 feet (or 25 feet, or 10 feet).
I think Drip Tape is the same thing as T-Tape:
Everyone says, and I agree with them, that drippers waste less water than sprayers, since you have zero evaporation and zero overspray.
But if you don't have much wind, and it is not bone-dry and really hot, maybe 2-3 sprayers per bed would be easier for you than winding dripline around the plants and then worry about what you're hoeing. Do you mind spraying tiny water droplets onto your leaves? It might encourage blight and mold, but might wash some insects off the leaves.
I use a combination of drip hoses and micro sprayers in my flower borders. They are quite long and fairly narrow except for a few deeper areas. After some experimentation, I find that the 1/4" emitter lines with 6" or 9" spacing work well in the deeper sections, where the plants tend to be bigger so farther apart and there is more shade at the roots. I prefer 180 degree micro sprayers along the edges where the plants are smaller, closer together, and the sun beats down on them.
I have a 4-zone battery operated timer on the main and upper levels (only using 2, but about to add a third), and a single zone timer on the next level down. I water 2 or 3 times a week depending on when in the season, and from 45 minutes to 1 hour at a time.
This system has been working very well since I installation the first section 3 years ago. I've been tweaking and adding every year, but so far I'm very happy with my original plan.
I get most everything from Dripworks. They have been extremely helpful, especially in the beginning when I knew nothing and asked a million questions.
I am now using Mr Landscaper micro sprayer system - bought at Lowes. Love it. Cheap to start - cost really adds up with the micro sprayers. I have most of the back yard in a garden - 14 dwarf fruit trees along 3 sides - kept killing 2 at the end of one row - thought I did not get enough water to them. So, I decided to try to add a watering system for these trees. Saw one article that raved about Mr. L. - so decided to try. Hose a pain to lay out - does not want to lay flat for some time. Had to get a lot of hose stakes. Needed a 50 psi pressure regulator and maybe a timer - neither comes in the kit. Decided to get Orbit manual timer with no batteries - easier to use - very simple - but not used yet. Everything leaked and the hose attachments blew off. Changed most washers - got plastic hose connectors and screw down hose clamps. Magic. Have 150 ft along 3 fence lines and many sprayers. Trees doing better - many have new leaves. It was worth the effort. I am no longer watering 3 neighbors yards with my massive sprinklers.
In back, had 4 more beds (daylilies and iris) and a center court with many tubs of plants (conifers, sedums, blueberries, etc.) that needed watering. Also tubs of food plants. Started to lay out hose for the 4 beds and decided to try one last time a large sprinkler for just this area - this worked great - so moved 100 ft of hoses for watering along fence for tomatoes (done, need sprayers for thin area) and for other food tubs (will need 50 more ft). I can run the large sprinkler and the mist system at the same time. I will have the 300 ft max and many sprayers for main section and one side. The other side will be on another line - splitter on end of faucet assembly.
Just finished setting up another system in the front yard. Was using a large sprinkler but have 2 giant trees that shielded 2 end corners from water. Was going to wait until next year but saw dead plants from lack of water - so went ahead. Took 3 days to lay out hose - it keeps curling even with hose stakes - it will eventually loosen up. Have 100 plus 50 ft around perimeter plus 50 ft in center plus a little extra for connections. Only have 2 sections going - each tested with 1 sprayer each. Now have to start adding sprayers.
Have new iris to replace dead ones, and many more daffodils coming. Need ground to loosen up so I can dig holes - ground in front like concrete. The hose is not very noticeable in the back yard. It is noticeable in the front - may add mulch to cover - may not. Right now - just want to keep plants alive.
Update front yard. Added one line by porch that was never watered properly and many plants goners). Used 6 micro sprinklers - great now. Will fill dead plant positions later.
Have 150 ft around perimeter - many micro sprinklers - great. Added a circle of hose on inside - had trouble with sprinklers - looked ugly - hose would not lie flat. Tried large sprinkler again, adjusted to only hit center - liked it - remove inside circle of hose - loved it - now great on micro sprinklers and large sprinkler. Think I will add another separate timer for the large sprinkler (in front and in back).
Now starting on food tubs in back - testing different heads of micro sprinklers to get more than one tub at a time - and a narrow band for tomatoes at fence line next time. Also need to water buckets of sweet peppers with micro sprinklers - try narrow band and a way to raise the sprinklers above the plants.
It's too late, but one way to get coiled mainline to lie flat is to unroll it on a hot day and let it warm up with no water in it.
As it warms, the coils will relax and you can stretch it out and untwist it so it lies straighter and flatter.
When you said "50 PSI pressure regulator", I thought that was very high. Most components I've seen talk about 25-30 PSI as the max guaranteed pressure. 20 PSI is enough for anything I've tested, though I have no big spinners at all.
I know that I blew 10/32 screw thread fittings right out of vinyl 1/4" tubing, and sometimes even out of polyethylene `1/4" tubing. It might not matter for barb fittings and hose clamp fittings.
But you might consider testing a 20 or 30 PSI regulator and see if you like your spray patterns better. They can be as cheap as $8.
High pressures tend to generate fine mist with micro sprayers. The mist won't travel as far as slower droplets would, but wind can blow mist all over the yard. Lower-pressure droplets might give you more consistent watering on windy days.
Thanks. I know very little about water pressure in the line. I was surprised that I could run the micro system and one large sprinkler at the same time. I see on Amazon: Mister Landscaper 50 PSI Regulator for Micro Spray Irrigation Systems. Mister Landscaper 25 PSI Regulator for Dripper Irrigation Systems. Since I was going with the micro sprayers, I got the 50 psi one. The mist is odd but seems to be getting the soil damp. I am still trying to get the best way to water the large tubs - some will have short crops (salads), and some will be taller (beans). Very tired of hand watering with a sprayer hose - and too hot for me last month - I let some crops die.
I found individual drippers a pain. Too many connectors and pushing barbs into tubing, then a messy spider-web of tubing. Mostly, like you, I use micro-sprayers.
But I bought some "dripline" once and would have liked it, but I would have needed to run that zone for an hour or three, while the rest of my system only needs to run 15-25 minutes.
Dripline is just 1/4" or 1/2" tubing with built-in drippers every 6", 9", 12" or 18". They usually drip 1-2 GPH, so you have to run dripline for and hour or so to water deeply.
Dripline might work for your salad crops, or anything you don't to top-water.
My latest try: 2 rows of at least 12 large tubs, mist sprayer with sprayer in center of 3 tubs, sprayer setup for 1-2 ft x 6 ft. Seems to work - but will have trouble for tall crops - ok for salads (maybe). Tall plants like tomatoes will be in ground at fence and will use the 1-2x6 heads. Short plants will be in the 2 rows of tubs with 1-2x6 heads. Vine crops will go back in ground near regular mist sprayers. OK to here.
Not sure how to do peas and beans yet. Tried to set up 360 degree sprayer in center of 4 tubs but could not get sprayer tall enough (tried 2 L bottles to raise the sprayer) and the spray was too wide. If I have to hand water peas and beans, I might just leave them in tubs near the sweet peppers in buckets and hand water just these. The bulk will be done with timers. I am happy. Still need to get 2 more timers for the large sprinklers. I did spend a fortune in the mist sprinklers - happy I could use large sprinklers too - saved a bundle. I am lucky the water bill at this place is not horrible.
I bought a few tall stakes and they were OK for me. If I had a LOT of sprayers or spinners to stake, I think I would buy short plastic stakes and use waxed twine to lash then onto some kind of wooden poles so I had any height I wanted.
13" or 17", 59 cents each or 79 cents each. Home depot may be cheaper.
BTW, these "clip" stakes let you cut a length of "Rigid Riser" tubing and extend the stack another few inches higher, maybe 6". The "Rigid Riser" is like 1/4" tubing, but very thick walls. It grips so tightly that even 10/32 threads can stand up to 45 PSI.
I'm surprised that your sprayers are expensive. Fixed-flow-rate mini-jets can be cheap, like 22-28 cents each. Even "Frame Jets" only seem to be around 40 cents.
I bought Antelco "Rotor Spray™ Mini Sprinklers" for 41 each at a local wholesaler.
All these are designed to plug into the end of 1/4" polyethylene tubing or Rigid Risers. Often people use them on top of a stake, which is more expensive than the sprayer.
Annoyingly, little fixtures like 1/4" Tees or crosses cost almost as much as the spray head!
Hmmm - might be able to use tomato cages (have many) to raise up sprayers for sweet peppers in buckets (have 24 now) and taller food crops in tubs. The spray heads of 1-2x6 would work. Thanks. I will try this when daylight comes. I think you saved me.
Costs: 2 kits with 50 ft hose, 5 sprayers and heads, backflo, misc plastic = 32 each. 2 Pressure regs = 18 each. 2 Timers = 15 each. 1/2" Hose 100 ft =13 twice and 50 ft = 9 for 5? times. Starting to get costly: hose stakes for ground 3/2.64, micro stakes 3.26 each, micro spray heads 4/3.12. I have many hose stakes and very many micro stakes. Not sure how much I have spent so far. Have about 100 ft hose left for 3rd system but few micro stakes left (need to go on fence line). I keep track of what and how much I spend but have not added this up.
This message was edited Sep 24, 2014 3:50 AM
I just added the costs so far: 655.95.
This message was edited Sep 25, 2014 3:32 AM
That's a lot of money! I think I've spent around $150-200 for a pretty small system, but LOTS of spare and oddball parts I w3nated to try.
You might browse the irrigation isle at Home depot or Lowes, and look around online, before your next major purchase. I almost always buy from Dripworks or a local semi-wholesaler, but "Sprinkler Warehouse" online seems to have OK prices.
>> Hmmm - might be able to use tomato cages (have many) to raise up sprayers for sweet peppers in buckets (have 24 now) and taller food crops in tubs.
I bet that works well and eliminates the need for stakes. You could lash the 1/4" tubing directly to a strand of wire and still be able to aim it by twisting. I use waxed twine to get a good grip, and to make the knots easier to tie.,
I saw a photo where someone ran a piece of wood or a pole lengthwise above a bed, tied some 1/2" mainline to the pole, plugged sprayers right into the 1/2" mainline, and just sprayed down right from the mainline, completely eliminating barbs and 1/4" tubing.
Thanks The high cost is primarily due to the many expensive sprayers - did not guess I would need so many. Got 2 more timers (for large sprinklers) and 4 more sprayers with heads. Have cages on alternate buckets and tubs in 3rd zone. Will add hose and tie sprayers to cages tomorrow. I think the arrow spray of 1-2x6 between 3 tubs is working - planted 3 lettuces and spinach yesterday. Will plant more tomorrow in these tubs. Will plant beans and peas in tubs by peppers after the spray in zone 3 is working. I do like the idea of a pole over the tubs - will do that if the cages do not work. Thanks again.
I don't understand why sprayers would be expensive. I mostly use non-adjustable mini-jets at 21 to 28 cents each. Radius 3 to 6 feet.
Anyway, good luck evolving your system!
If you are still watching this forum, Mister Landscaper has great customer service and can help you with anything you may need. They will answer all of your questions over the phone or through email. They also offer bulk quantities of all of their products if you call them directly. I have had their system at my house going on a year and I love the fact that everything they sell in made in the USA (except for the timer). I called them to ask a question and found out that they make the tubing and parts themselves in house and have been doing so since the early 80's. I have found that by using Mister Landscaper products that this company stands behind everything they sell.
Set up the rain barrel drip system with very cheap adjustable micro emitters (thanks for the advice), filter, and maybe 60 feet of 1/2" hose from mister L. It worked great. I got the emitters from amazon. 100 per pack - used maybe 50 so far in 50 feet. I got the filter from amazon too - free shipping - and it had the correct M-F ends. I did not know how to do this but punted - and it worked. I am not mechanical. I did not spend much money on this. I am happy with it - also now have extender piece for faucet type connection to be able to attach hose with hose clamp (mr L connection let hose fall off easy again).
Planning on setting up more micro emitters for food tubs with mister L 25 psi pressure regulator (lowes) and orbit drip filter (coming soon at home depot - free shipping to store) - will attach to last Y of timer/etc. system already set up for microsprayers. Will do next spring. Too cold now - removed hardware and drained hoses already. Had 27 degrees that did a job on the garden. Thanks again for all the advice.
Just got a tarp on the drained rainbarrel and window AC - used bungee cords. 27 degrees did a job on the garden. Leaves have buried a lot too.
This part of California gets no rain all summer aside from an occasional freak thunder storm. Because of the drought this year I am trying drip on one 20 foot row of sweet corn, with 4 gpm emitters spaced at 12", the same as for the corn spacing. On another similar row the same distance and spacing with 2 gph emitters. I have laid down a heavy cover of wood chip mulch for a foot each side of the row. Our water supply is from an irrigation canal and even with the best filter system is too loaded with fine silt to use soaker hose.
Am trying to figure out what times I should be using as the corn grows for each row.. Theoretically, twenty 4gpm emitters along that row flowing for ten minutes would provide each plant with about a half gallon each, certainly enough for plants not yet 12" tall (I splurged and bought three six packs of started Silver Queen) and half that for the 2 gpm row where I have seeded the corn.
Anyone have any idea how the water amounts should be increased as the corn grows or at what intervals? The old guy we bought this place from 42 years ago told me to flood irrigate for 24 hours when it begins to tassle. But how frequently and how much thereafter? Would be really grateful for any advice.