Posted on: 12 September 2016
Drip irrigation systems can be extremely beneficial for your outdoor needs. Because they deliver water at a low pressure and close to the ground, they are typically more efficient than sprinkler systems. If you're having a new drip irrigation system put in or if you're doing it yourself, here are four factors to keep in mind before beginning the job to make the installation go smoothly and to have healthy crops.
Time of Year
Believe it or not, the time of year you install your sprinkler system can make a difference. Obviously, most people are not going to be tackling this project when the temps are freezing and the ground is too hard for digging. But taking on this project during a time when the soil is moist and has a great chance at recovering quickly is preferred. For this reason, have your irrigation system installed during early spring or fall.
Type of System
You can invest in a system from a landscaping professional, or you can design your own kit. But keep in mind that there are different types of systems and components to that system that will meet your needs in various ways.
Under-Ground vs. Above-Ground
Underground PVC pipes or above-ground pipes and hoses can be used to feed the water through the irrigation system. Underground pipes usually provide more protection from animals, as well as from foot traffic and tractors. They also move around very little. Lines that rest above ground are very common, but they are typically only used for one season.
Tapes or Tubes
Drip tapes or drip tubes can be employed. The tapes are more common and typically less expensive, but the tubes are less likely to get clogged and, therefore, tend to have slightly more uniform water distribution.
Your watering needs will have a big impact on the type of drip system you go with, and it's crucial to have an understanding of how the spacing of the emitters and the thickness and diameter of the tube or tape can affect flow rate and output.
Water flow rate is measured in gpm (gallons per minute per 100 feet of tape), and it ranges from 0.2 to 1.0. Weather and location or soil type will determine which one you go with. For instance, if you're in the northeastern U.S. and using 100 feet of tape that has a flow rate of 0.5 gpm, your vegetables will need about 2-3 hours of irrigation a day for sufficient growth.
What diameter you need will be determined by the length of the row, and the flow rate is directly related to the diameter. For instance, anything in the 300-600 foot range should employ a 5/8-inch diameter, whereas 7/8 of an inch will be needed for 600-1,500-foot rows.
Emitter spacing varies, but the most common is 8–16 inches. The closer together the emitters are, the higher your water output will be. If you're growing crops in the northeastern U.S., then 12 inches should be adequate.
Also, thin-walled tape is less expensive than its thick-walled counterpart, but it's also more susceptible to damage from rodents and insects. If you're just getting started and putting in the irrigation system yourself, and you only need to water for one season, it's recommended to go with a 10 mil tape. This size is less likely to stretch and break—a common issue with beginners.
Delivery of Chemicals
Sometimes chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers are needed for certain plants and crops. These may be used to prevent clogging in the emitters, to fertilize the plants, or to ward off insects and other unwanted critters. If this is the case, you'll need to have a separate chemical injector installed with your system.
How often you water will be affected by soil type as well as time of year. Sandy soil doesn't hold water as well as clay, so the former will require a more frequent watering schedule. Most plants and crops will require watering 2-3 days per week during the spring, summer, and fall, with adjustments as needed. However, if you're growing crops in a hot region with little rain, you may need to water more often than that.
If your plants appear unhealthy, check the soil and adjust the watering time or frequency according to the moisture level. For example:
stressed crop + wet soil = over-watered plants.
In this situation, you will either cut back on the number of times you water per week or reduce the length of time the system stays on. For more information on drip irrigation systems and for help with installing one, contact a company like H2O Lawn Sprinklers.Share