Save money and water with a micro-irrigation system

In case you hadn’t heard there’s a major drought going on in a large part of the country..Fortunately, for those of us in Florida, not getting enough rain usually isn’t an issue. We’ve had dry spells, but nothing like out west. Having said that, there are a number of benefits to installing micro-irrigation regardless of where you live. Here is my experience.

In the beginning I had it in my head that I’d be able to irrigate everything with the water than came from my rain barrels. Wishful thinking. While that would have been ideal and saved some $$, a lack of storage capacity and issues with water pressure were major limiting factors.

In the end I determined a good balance was to use the rain barrels for watering my trees and shrubs when needed, while the micro-irrigation would be solely for the garden.

Here are a few of the benefits of micro-irrigation:

    • Quick set up, you can be up and running in less than an hour
    • Not reliant on rain fall
    • Uses less water than regular irrigation
    • Can be automated so you don’t have to worry about remembering if you did or didn’t water your garden
    • Easily configurable, set it up to water different types of vegetable/plants
20150315_092009
irrigation system layout

 

Drip or spray? There are pluses and minuses, spray will cover a wider area but puts the water on the leaves, drip hits the plants where they need the water the most, so you can build a good root system. The challenge is that some plants need more and some need less. I’m still working to find the right balance.

Descriptions from Mister Landscaper

Drip Irrigation

A term often used synonymously with low-volume irrigation. The reality, however, is that drip irrigation is a subgroup of low-volume irrigation. It gets its name from the fact that it does what it says: it drips. Depending on region, drippers may also be called emitters. Drippers, adjustable drippers, and drip tubing all emit small amounts of water from tiny orifices and deliver it directly to a plant’s root zone.

Drippers are hugely versatile in that they are perfect for small jobs, yet can still be used in larger, more demanding situations. Here are just a few ideal applications: Potted plants, hanging baskets, row gardens, tree rings, raised beds, and stand-alone plants and shrubs.

Micro spray irrigation

A form of low-volume irrigation which uses small diameter tubing and small orifice micro spray heads to help limit water output. Micro sprays, in many ways, sound like what they are: small sprinklers. Bigger is not always better, as in the case of sprinklers. Micro sprays deliver water in a way that is useful to your plants: The droplets land gently, delivering water more directly to the root zone.

Benefits

  • A drip or spray system can use up to 80% less water than a standard sprinkler.
  • Hand watering using a watering can is time and labor intensive. A single gallon of water weighs nearly 8.5 pounds. Multiply that by the number of trips to the faucet and back, and a romantic notion has suddenly become quite the task.

Lessons learned

Take the time to lay out your set up on paper before doing anything. I didn’t do this and had to go back several times to make modifications and re-run my lines. All of the fittings went together really easily, so other than something to trim the line to length, you don’t need any special tools.

Everything comes off of a Y fitting at the spigot, to the timer (4th picture below), and then to a small run of hose down to the PSI pressure regulator, this is required if your water pressure is over 50 psi, which it more than likely is. I’m using a 50 psi regulator for both the drip and spray, but a 25 psi regulator is recommended for drip irrigation.

Then I dug a small trench that goes under ground over to the garden bed. That was probably the hardest part.

50 psi regulator
50 psi regulator
hose run
hose run

start of irrigation

start of irrigation

 

Buy a timer. Why worry about having to remember to turn the water on? This one is battery powered, with a rain delay feature, and it will retain your settings even if the battery dies. I’ve set it up to water every other day, and adjusted the time so it’s putting out enough water to give the plants a good soaking but not leave puddles of water everywhere.

20150326_175447

irrigation timer

 

We’re planning a family trip up north over the summer and will be gone for at least a week. I’ve sort of grown attached to my plants, so I want to make sure they’re still alive when I get back, the garden is covered, but I’m planning to run another timer that will allow me to water my trees and shrubs just in case..

When you get a chance, check out the Mister Landscaper website. They have everything you need for micro-irrigation and ton of great information on how to get started. On top of that, you’ll also be supporting a company whose products are made in America…

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