The greatest virtue of man is perhaps curiosity ~Anatole France~


Drip Line 101

Owning a home has certain annual high points, one being when the sprinklers are dialed in.  It may seem trivial to some but when dealing with acres of grass, fruit trees, vegetables and shrubbery it is important to know that you can have a life outside of watering, ergo sprinklers being dialed in.  This year was more difficult that I had envisioned.  I had anticipated a turn key drip system from last year, which I found out was a pipe dream (no pun intended).  In fact my decision to rotate beds this year forced to me to alter most of last years work thus forcing me to ultimately make three sets of drip line grids. The key to the drip system is:

  1. Getting the right emitters, be sure to look at the gallons per minute in correlation to your plant needs.
  2. Buy enough.  Don't be cheap when it comes to hardware store trips.  If you have to go get double what you think and sit on it, you will need it.
  3. Check the inside diameter of your piping and if at all possible stick with one size and brand.  I have miles of hose and pipe at the farm, but sadly they are of numerous sizes causing frustration at times.
  4. Do not buy compression fittings.  Use a standard fitting and hose clamps, compression fitting are for one use only and if done wrong they leak and cause problems.
  5. Install on a warm day. Putting together 80+ emitters with the bare hands on a cold day will rip the skin right off your hands.
  6. Think about the future.  I had to place plugs and stops up and down my main line because spacing changed from last year.  Use a standard spacing along all lines and add emitters later if needed.  This will also make the appearance of the garden more organized.
  7. Use a cart system.  The first year I installed the drip I walked back and forth to the shop each time I needed a part.  This year I built a card from old barn wood and a schwin 10 speed ensuring that I had all tools needed for the trade with me, which has saved me time and lowered my blood pressure significantly.
  8. Drink water.  You are dealing with water, drink it, it is good for you.
  9. Be sure you have drains at the end of the drip for winter and spring blow outs.
  10. Hang and drain the system before cold weather.  Once away and hung properly in the barn the fields can be planted with cover crop and the installation for the coming year is easier.
One of the main learning point from this years drip system is that although the drip system cuts down on weeding and water consumption there is still work to be done.  If growing tons of tomatoes, the rows must be big thus lots of weeding. Next year I am planning on using a red colored ground cover on half my crop to see how it works.  My neighbors, the local garden shaman, feels that this is the best way to keep the soil warm and to cut down on weeding.