May 13, 2017

1 – In-line drip irrigation is appropriate for some gardening situations providing efficient irrigation for your plants.

Yard and Garden March 13, 2017

Q.

The growing season is coming now. I have a question about the irrigation. What is the best and efficient way to water the plants in the garden? I heard about inline drip system from a friend and thought maybe I can give it a try. Do you have any recommendations for vegetable garden irrigation? Do you have any ideas how to install the in-line drip? Do I need to change water pressure to install? Since the water here is too hard, is it possible the holes on pipes will be blocked? Are there any ways to solve the blocking problems?

- Yulin

A.

In-line drip irrigation is useful for garden rows and other situations where applying water every 6 to 12 inches is appropriate. The in-line drip can be installed in straight lines down garden rows, in a wavy pattern in garden rows, or in circles around shrubs and trees to efficiently apply water to the plants. Different in-line drip systems provide different emitter spacing, so be sure to select the appropriate spacing for the plants you will grow in your garden.

Your soil texture will also help determine which spacing to use. Sandy soil will allow the water to permeate the soil quickly and will not exhibit much lateral movement of water, so the wet spot will be fairly narrow. Clay soil on the other hand will only slowly accept the water and will cause the water to move laterally through capillary action to wet a larger circle. Loamy soil, or organic matter added to either sand or clay will result in an intermediate pattern of moistened soil. Soil texture will also determine how long the system must run in your garden to moisten the soil to the proper depth. Running the system for a while then waiting for one or two days and digging to see how deeply the soil was moistened will allow you to adjust your irrigation times to most efficiently irrigate your garden.

Some drip emitters are designed to resist clogging. Even so, they may eventually clog. I currently use ¼ inch inline drip irrigation in my garden. When an emitter clogs, I cut the tubing and remove the clogged emitter and replace it with a disk shaped in-line emitter. This has worked well for me. It is important to use a replacement emitter that is rated for the same amount of water per hour so that the emitters further along the system continue to work properly.

My irrigation system is designed to be supplied at the highest point in my garden with a garden hose. This attaches to a system consisting of a back-flow preventer to protect the water supply in my home (this back-flow preventer should be higher than any of the emitters), then a pressure regulator to protect the irrigation system from overpressure. Where the garden hose attaches to the faucet I have a battery powered timer and valve system that turns the system off and on without requiring my presence. In several years, these battery powered timers and valves have worked properly through a whole garden season on one set of batteries. Batteries provide a benefit over power from the house in that there is no danger of electrical shock and they are not affected by power outages. It is still wise to check them periodically.

There is a bewildering array of drip irrigation systems, so you may want to visit an irrigation supply store in your area. They will often design a system for you if you will purchase the materials from them. Having professionals making the design assures a proper and safe system. You may also want to call your local NMSU Cooperative Extension Service office to see if they are offering classes on garden irrigation systems.

Your in-line drip irrigation system may be left exposed on the surface, covered with mulch, or even buried in perennial beds.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h, or to read past articles of Yard and Garden go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html.

Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith at cwsmith@nmsu.edu or leave a message at https://www.facebook.com/NMSUExtExpStnPubs.

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist, retired from New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.