Now that my vegetable garden is established, the plan is to keep everything happy and healthy this summer. Sacramento temperatures can range from the mid 80° F all the way to the 105° F so watering the garden enough is always a concern of mine.
I knew my best bet was to install a drip irrigation system that would give my plants a consistent, efficient supply of water. Plus the drip can be automated, which is great when you have vacations and weekends away planned.
Since I didn’t have a clue where to start, I did a little research online to get an idea what I wanted to do. I also picked up an extremely handy (and free) Drip Watering Made Easy guide at Home Depot. If you can’t find it in your store you can download it.
Once I had a plan, I sketched it out. These beds will “potentially” be used year around, so I wanted a system that had evenly spaced drippers so that no matter what was planted the water would be distributed evenly.
Shopping list for drip irrigation
With my sketch in my hand, I was ready to go shopping for drip system parts. It turns out, I still had to go back a few times to get everything I needed. I am only including what I actually used in this shopping list and then explain the whole process (and pitfalls) below.
- Faucet Connection Kit
- Orbit One-Dial Garden Hose Digital Water Timer
- 100 ft of 1/2-Inch Foot Poly Hose
- 2 Packages of Raindrip 1/4-Inch by 50-Foot Black Drip-A-Long with Fittings (Saves $$ with included fittings and closures)
- 6 – 1/2″ Elbow Fitting
- 2 – 1/2″ Tee Fitting
- 2 – 1/2″ End Closure Fittings
- Compression Hose End Plug with Cap
- Hole Punch Tool
- 1/2″ Galvanized Wire Secures, 10-Pack
- 1/4″ Support Stakes – 25-Pack
How I installed the drip system
First things first – I laid all the tubing out in the sun for about 30 minutes so it was more pliable.
Then I laid out all my parts and dug a 6″ deep trench for the tubing to lay in. Once the system was in, my goal was to cover all the tubing that ran from the faucet to the beds.
To install the system, you start with the water source. I bought five faucet attachments that adapted the faucet for a drip system. They were: an anti-syphon (prevents contaminated water from flowing back into the clean water supply), 25 PSI pressure regulator (maintains the correct pressure of the drip system so you don’t blow out your lines), a line adapter (connects to drip tubing), a Y filter (to add fertilizer directly to the line) and an automatic timer (so the whole watering system was automated).
I bought all the pieces separately and then screwed them together and attached the 1/2″ tubing (my main line) to the line adapter.
You want to make sure the tubing doesn’t kink so a fitting has to be connected for each corner and direction change. Once the tubing reached the ground I cut it with pruning shears and attached my first elbow fitting to it. Then I continued with more tubing until I reached the planter box and installed another elbow fitting.
I continued this process until I wrapped the tubing around the planter box and then along the side of the house to the first raised bed. As I went, I secured the tubing into the trench with my wire stakes.
At the head of the first raised bed I added a tee fitting so I could run a second another line of tubing up and over the bed while the main line ran to the next raised bed.
The 1/2″ tubing ran across the width of the bed.
I attached the 1/4″ tubing to it by punching a hole in the 1/2″ tubing with the punch tool.
Then used a 1/4″ barbed coupling to attach the 1/4″ tubing to the 1/2″ main line.
Two lengths of 1/4″ in-line emitter tubing ran up and back along the length creating 4 rows of tubing. You don’t want the any circuit of 1/4″ tubing to be longer than 50 feet for proper water circulation.
I installed the second bed the same way except after installing another tee fitting, I then attached a compression hose end plug with cap so I could extend the drip later or attach a hose to the end.
Once all the tubing was in, I turned on the water to flush out the system of any debris that may have entered the line during the install before closing off the ends.
Everything worked well except the faucet attachments which leaked in a couple places. Drats. Before turning off the water, I closed off all the tubing with removable closures, so I could flush out or extend my lines at a later time.
Once that was all done, I went back to troubleshoot my faucet leak. I tightened, used teflon tape, reordered the pieces… but nothing worked.
After almost exhausting all my options, I scraped all my attachments and purchased a connection kit from a different manufacturer to see if maybe a different brand would make a difference. Miraculously it did. Maybe the pieces fit better? Or the line adapter had a better seal? I still am not sure, but honestly didn’t really care to find out.
With the whole system now working, I went back and buried my lines from the faucet to the beds. Then following my Drip Watering Made Easy guide for warm weather, I set my timer to water 2 days a week for 3 hours each day. If it hits the triple digits, I’ll up it to 4 hours a day, 3 times a week. So far the plants look really happy.
Hopefully soon, I’ll have some vegetables to celebrate.