After getting the garden planted I am usually exhausted. It is hard work and takes me about 6 hours in the hot sun. So after I take a couple days to relax and nurse my sunburnt shoulders (you’d think I’d remember to apply extra sunscreen cause every year my shoulders get a little pink), it’s time to get back out there for one more day of work to install a drip watering system for the garden.
I actually really hate setting up the drip system, it’s really not hard work, but pushing those little pieces together over and over can really hurt my fingers. This year I gave myself a blister on my thumb. And for some reason, my fingers just don’t work the same in gloves. But I know one day of annoying (cause it’s not really hard work, just annoying) work will save my garden in the heat of the summer.
Having the drip watering system in place makes it so much easier to keep up with watering my garden. You only have to turn the water on/off once and all the plants get the water they need. In Utah, we have hot, very dry summers. It is so dry here, I struggle to grow anything outside in pots because they require watering once or even twice a day! And I want to make sure all the plants in my garden are watered properly so they can grow and produce lots and lots of veggies for us to eat.
When watering vegetables, most of the vegetables need to be watered deep. What that means is you need to make sure the water sinks deep into the ground instead of just keeping the surface moist. The reason you need to water deep is so that the roots reach down for the water instead of staying on the surface of the ground. Roots that reach deep into the soil will produce a stronger plant that can withstand the elements better and therefore produce more food. Yeah!
To water deep, you need to water with a tiny stream of water near the base of the plant for a longer period of time. The water will sink right into the ground instead of spreading over the surface of the soil. You don’t necessarily want to use more water, just more concentrated to right by the plant. This is why drip watering systems are so great for vegetable gardens.
Setting up drip watering systems can be a little overwhelming, there rows and rows and rows of little pieces and options. But I didn’t want to have a special degree to figure it out. I needed something that I could easily do and redo every year because you are suppose to rotate your vegetables every year so you also need to reconfigure your drip system. I am no expert, but my little drip system has been working great for me for the past 4 years. I reuse most of the pieces, just replacing them if they do not appear to put out the water I need. I buy all my parts at the Home Depot and it cost me about $30 the first year and just a few buck here or there to maintain it each year. Totally worth the investment.
When we redid our sprinkler system for the lawn, I set up a second line all on it’s own, to go directly to the garden. This is not necessary for a drip watering system, but it makes it even one step easier because I can set it up and forget about it pretty much all summer long! And if I want to take a week to go on vacation, my garden is watered properly instead of coming home to dead plants. If you do not have a sprinkler system or a dedicated line, you can always buy a timer for your hose that will do the same thing.
To start, you will need a pressure regulator that you screw right onto your hose. This will reduce the water pressure to 25 psi so it doesn’t blow out your drip system. Then you can add a back flow valve so the water will not back flow into your water supply. I added these directly on the end of my spigot that is coming up in my garden (which is on the sprinkler system). Or you can add them right at the beginning of the drip system and then you can just attach your hose to them, but if you need your hose without them you can easily remove the hose.
Then I made a little contraption with PVC pipe so that I had a straight line of drip system running down each row. I have 3 rows in the garden, but since my spigot is in the center of my garden, my PVC runs down the center with the 3 rows extending off either side. I glued it down just like you would the PVC that is in the ground for a sprinkler system. On each opening, I added a piece that I could attach a hose to. On the back I attached the hose to the spigot and on each of the rows I attached a compression fitting from the drip system accessories that took the PVC to a 1/4″ drip tubing. Then I stuck the tubing into the compression fitting and got to assembling my drip watering system!
I kept things really easy by using only 2 types of drippers: 1 GPH (gallon per hour) inline drippers and 1/4 ” porous soaker hose. I use the soaker hose to run along all my row vegetables like carrots, beets, lettuces, peas, beans, even my medium plants like broccoli, cabbage and kale.
Then I use the inline drippers set into the 1/4″ tubing at the base of my larger plants like tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, squash and cucumbers.
Because cucumber and squash plants can get so big and they tend to not withstand the heat as well, I put two of these inline drippers about 3 inches apart so they land on either side of the plant. That way they get a little extra water.
If you have row plants that need the soaker hose, then larger plants that you want to put an inline dripper by in the same row, you can easily connect the soaker hose to the 1/4″ tubing by using a barbed connector. Just push the tubing/hose onto either side of the connector and it stays put forever (seriously, they are a huge pain to get apart again, believe me, I have tried). And at the end of each row you will plug up the hose with a goof plug.
Then stake everything down so the system stays where it’s suppose to. I have found I prefer the larger stakes over the cheaper little ones that clip to the 1/4″ tubing. The little ones come out way too easily. Even though they cost a lot more upfront, you will reuse these every year.
Once you set all the pieces in place, i.e., inline drippers next to the plants that need it and soaker hose on all the row vegetables with goof plugs at the end, you can turn on your hose to check it out! Because I reuse things every year, I double check that everything is watering how it should be. I have found the soaker hose usually needs to be replaced after 2-3 years and occasionally I will have an inline dripper that will not be dripping any water or very little because it got plugged up. I will replace anything that is not working and then sit back and sip a nice cold drink while the new drip system does all the hard work for me!
During the summers here I usually water my garden for about 75 minutes 2-3 times a week. During the hotter weeks I need 3 times and during the cooler weeks I can get away with twice a week. But it seriously takes the guesswork out of watering my garden because I know all the plants are getting the water they need by me just turning on the hose. If you don’t have a timer or sprinkler system, you can still easily turn on your hose, set a timer, and then come back when everything is watered beautifully and turn it off instead of having to move hoses and sprinklers around all day!
I love my drip watering system so much I am considering setting one up for all my flower pots because they are seriously the hardest thing for me to keep watered in the summer here. Now that I feel like I am an expert on the simple, inline drip system, I think it is time I venture into something a bit more complex, don’t you?
Have you ever done a drip watering system? What are you growing in your garden this year? I’d love to hear how you do it 🙂