How to Build A Drip Irrigation System

Many farmers and gardeners find that drip irrigation produces healthier plants, good results, and that is a very time saver. The use of drip irrigation has reduced the incidence of diseases in plants that can occur with the use of overhead sprinkler irrigation. Plus, many water-soluble fertilizers can be applied through this drip system, thus maintaining nutrients near the root zone and allowing the whole plant to get the maximum value from each fertilizer application.

Most of the component drops originally came from Israeli engineers who were great pioneers in this field. Since then many systems have been designed in the United States, which were tested in California, Florida, and Hawaii.

The advantage of the infusion system is that you can water the plants that you want to water, keep the weeds from growing. And you don’t need to worry about whether you have been standing there long enough with a hose (most of us have never done it!) Or whether there will be enough rain to keep your plants running.

If you’ve ever merged something with Tinker-Toys, you have the basic ability to put together this infusion system. As simple as that! Just get the components you need and assemble the system – most home garden systems can be assembled in just one afternoon.

Jain Drip Irrigation System Kit Schematic

How CLEAN is your water?

The main question you need to answer concerns your water quality. Although there are things that can be done to reduce the impact of bad water, dirtier water, more caution must be taken when selecting components needed to achieve low maintenance and satisfaction with your drip system.
From the most easily blocked to clogged to blocked:

  1. drip tape like T-Tape & Chapin Tape
  2. Small hole transmitters such as 1/2 gph transmitters
  3. Larger hole transmitters such as 1 and 2 Gph transmitters
  4. minisprayers & sprinklers more than 3 gph
  5. In-line emitters such as Netafim & Dripperline

In each classification, there are differences in the performance of various products (strengths and weaknesses) so don’t consider this a pretty practical rule.

The worst water is from lakes or ponds that have algae and other suspended particles. The word above is water that contains iron slime bacteria (this will not filter, they only come out of the solution when they hit the air). Equally bad is water that contains magnesium or calcium which will settle when it hits the air leaving a precipitate. Then comes the water which has a higher sand content (many wells pump sand). Believe it or not, even some city water systems have “crud” (technical terms) in their water, even though most of the city’s water is clean enough.

What Every System Needs

All infusion systems must have a filter, regardless of the source of water. This is a cheaper insurance so that contaminants in the water clog the filter, not the emitter. Some people don’t like how often they have to clean their filters – if that’s the case, get the next biggest size so you don’t have to clean too often. Some systems require filter cleaning every time the system is run and some people only do it once a year (depends entirely on your water quality).

Most infusion systems must have a pressure regulator – especially if you use city water or have a well that is set to operate between 40 and 60 psi. If you are in a spring box or have a gravity filling tank with not many heads above the drip system, you probably will not need this pressure regulator. Most emitters and minisprinklers are designed to provide gallons of 20 to 25 psi. Most rain type tubes are designed to run at 10 to 15 psi.

Drip Irrigation Systems Design

Start by sketching or drawing the scale of the area that you want to drop. Note the size and location of plants to be irrigated, and whether native plants (drought tolerant) or introduced (require more water), and location of water sources. Pay attention to the distance needed for the pipe and what equipment will be needed for the system layout (elbows, tees, etc.). Based on the size and type of plant (see the watering guide), determine how much and what type of spray is needed for your plants.

When you are designing an IV system, be sure to plan for the future. When your plants mature, they need more water. This can be done by watering longer but it is usually more satisfying to add more producers because plants grow at very different rates. Also, new plants can be added to the landscape, leaving about 25% more water capacity for plant growth needs.

Standard 3/4 standard sprinkler and garden valves will almost always provide more than enough water for most home landscapes / garden needs. To determine how much water the drip system needs, just add the total amount of emissions and the flow rate. (Example: 20 -1 gph emitter = 20 gph; 20-2 gph emitter = 40 gph; 20 + 40 = 60 gph total).

Diagram Irrigation System Design

First, design your system and add the gallons you need and the length of the main line pipe that must be run, then look at the graph to see what size hose you should use. Most landscape systems / home gardens use 1/2 hose drops. Large systems must use a 3/4 hose (or break the system into sections or use more than one faucet hook).

typical-raised-bed-layout

System Head or Manifold Assembly

At the beginning of the drip system, you must install a backflow prevention device or check the valve to prevent re-siphoning of irrigation water into the drinking water system. Most city building codes require the use of this device. If you are in a well and plan to inject fertilizer, you should use it.

Depending on what type of filter and pressure regulator you will need for your system, PVC transition fittings may be more needed to get a pipe connection from thread to hose. Use teflon tape on all pipe thread connections (not anesthetic pipes). The hose connection will be sealed with the washing machine included. Don’t use wrenches to tighten the plastic thread, only tighten by hand!

If you want to automate your drip system, be sure to choose a controller that is designed to water at least two hours per station. We display a number of controllers that are suitable for drip systems – many old controllers are tightly designed to be used on standard sprinklers and will not run long enough to be used with drip systems.

typical-garden-faucet-drip-head-assembly

Installation of Tubing

Allowing the tube to sit in the sun before installation will make it easier to work with. Laying tubing according to sketch. When installing fittings, cut the tubing with pruning scissors or a sharp knife and take care so that dirt comes out of the fittings and tubing.

If a permanent drip pipe is desired, we recommend using an underground PVC pipe and producing various riser assemblies that use flexible IPS PVC hose to connect to the drip pipe (see the accompanying picture).

Make sure not to bury the ends of the tubing. You must have access to them for periodic flushing lines.

typical-orchard-or-vinyard-riser

Emitter Placement

Punch the hole in the tubing with a punch. It is not recommended to use an ice pick or nails because the holes are not compressed evenly and often cause cracks and leaks around the hole. You can also pass on all sides!

Water must fill the drip hose in warm weather when you insert the emitter. This will help make the tubing tighter and easier to perforate and make a hole the right size for the emitter (no leakage around the spines).

Enter the emitter, and others. With enough care. For small plants, emitters are often placed close enough to tree trunks. Do not place the transmitter, etc. So the stems will get wet. This is especially important with perennials such as fruit trees and vines that are prone to root rot. A general rule of thumb is to keep producers of 12-18 away from plant stems.

The area wetted by the emitter will vary according to the type of soil. Sandy soil allows water to seep down quickly while water in the clay moves horizontally further before falling below the root zone. On sandy and coarse soils, 1 gph emitter will wet the area on the surface with a diameter of about 12-15. On clay, the emitter can wet an area with a diameter of 24. Below the surface, a large onion-shaped area is moistened as water seeps down. Emitter must be placed to cover the root zone well.

The emitter itself should not be buried because it is easier to examine and maintain it when you want to see it. Also, buried emitters can have problems with blockages due to root intrusion or suction back to the ground.

Determine your soil Type

Fill 2/3 of the quart jar with water and add soil until the jar is almost full. Attach the lid and shake well, until all the clumps of soil become a solution with water.

Start taking measurements when the soil particles have begun to settle. The first precipitates are larger particles. After a minute or two, mark the level of sand in the jar.

Leave the jar uninterrupted for several hours. Smoother mud particles will settle on the sand. Often, the color layers are slightly different, showing different types of particles. Mark the silt layer after a few hours. Leave the bottle overnight and measure the attached clay particles. It takes several days to complete some of the land.

The following figure shows the proportion of sand. silt and clay for 3 main types of soil. This is useful in determining how far the distance between emitters and rain tubes can be placed in plant water effectively.

soil-type

System Startup

After the eraser has been perforated, open all the ends of the tubing and let the water rinse the line for just a few minutes. Close the end cover and check the operation of the emitter. If you place the emitter where you don’t want it, delete the emitter and insert a ridiculous plug hole. Punch the new hole in the appropriate place and install the emitter.

Watering Quantity

Look for the type of plant material that you want to water in the chart below to determine the water needs in gallons per day. Divide the gallons per day needed by the transmitter gallons that send water to each plant to determine the hours of watering per day. Determine the days between watering from the graph above. Multiply the watering hours per day with the days between watering to determine how long to run the system. The days between watering need to be done seasonally, to account for rain.

days-between-watering

plant-water-requirements-gallons-per-day

Maintenance

Check the emitter and microtubing regularly to make sure no emitter is blocked or the sprayer is moving smoothly.

The filter screen must be watered at least once a month. It’s a good idea to check the filter screen for dirt after each irrigation for the first few times to determine how often you need to clean the filter screen. Some people have to clean the filter after each finish irrigation.

Tube lines must be watered regularly, at least once a year. Once again, water quality will determine the frequency.

Frost Protection

Whenever your temperature is below freezing, your IV system can be in danger. For most locations, this means the winter process or you will find the broken part coming next spring.

The easiest way to freeze a sprinkler or drip system is to install a drain valve that automatically drains water every time your system goes out, so you don’t need to think about it anymore. They are very cheap and inexpensive for insurance against filters, valves, and pipes that are damaged because they are filled with water when freezing temperatures come. This is installed at the lowest point in running the pipe, with gravel mounds to drain the water.

If not, leaving part of the drip or sprinkler system open will prevent water from freezing until the temperature drops to a dozen (° F), where you really need a drain valve or flush end cap to drain your system.

Troubleshooting

Proper filter maintenance will preclude most emitter clogging problems, except in the case of iron slime bacteria, minerals and other contaminants that do not come out of solution with the water until they hit the air. Clogged emitters can often be cleaned by backflushing: While the system is in operation, hold a finger over the emitter outlet for a few seconds. Jain Flag, Turbo-Key and Turbo SC emitters can be manually opened and cleaned if necessary. In a worst case situation, the old emitter can be removed, the hole filled with a goof plug and a new emitter installed in a new hole.

If the problem is more widespread—if many emitters appear clogged or are not putting out as much water as they should—check for a break in the lines. After repairing any breaks, open end-caps and flush lines for several minutes. If there are no line breaks, try turning on and off the system several times. This often helps purge debris from clogged emitters.

If the above tips don’t help, more than likely there is a design problem—not enough pressure and/or water to operate the system properly. In this case, dividing the system will generally solve the problem.