Drip System Irrigation For Container Gardens
Drip System Irrigation for Container Gardens
Watering Made Easier
Recently, I installed a drip irrigation system in my container garden to help with watering.
Hauling water from the kitchen sink to the patio is a lot of work -- several times a week. It becomes a twice daily chore come summertime. Thinking about how I could lessen this burden and still provide adequate moisture had me in a quandary. There has got to be a way to make watering easier! I know that you can set up a drip irrigation system in a yard that is equipped with a spigot and garden hose -- but what DO I do about an area with no easy access to water, like my container garden?
I discussed this with several gardening pros and the answer to my problem was somewhat solved. I purchased and set up a drip watering system with a submersible electric water pump.
My drip irrigation system is still in the early stages of set up and not very attractive at the moment. When the plants grow larger, they will cover up this unsightly tubing and it won't matter much. This system will enable me to water them all at the same time and insure that they each have enough of this precious liquid directed at their root systems.
Let me show you how easy this DIY project is, what I used, and how I did this.
The Benefits Of Drip Irrigation Systems - For Watering Your Garden
This video produced by Home Depot is an excellent explanation of how your garden would benefit from a drip irrigation system for watering. I found it simple and very helpful with even more tips about this easy to assemble project. Although the system I have discussed above uses a submersible pump a more common system is attached directly to a water source as you will learn in this video.
The Benefits of a Drip Irrigation System The Home Depot
What Supplies Do I Need For A Drip System? - Tubing And Connectors
I consulted an expert at the hydroponic store near my home for the supplies I needed to set up a drip irrigation system. He recommended a few feet of vinyl tubing and connectors then gave me some pointers on how the system operated once it was assembled. He was really helpful! We lined the tubing up on the floor of the shop and he kept adding feet until I told him that looked about right!
Start your project by measuring the garden area you want to build your watering system for before you start! This could have been disastrous. Luckily I had more than enough tubing when I set it up.
One of the first things he said I would need was several feet of thick, vinyl tubing. This is necessary for the drip system's main water feeding line. This tubing will be the foundation for the entire system. The tube should be about 3/8" to 1/2" wide and sturdy enough to withstand not only the water pressure but exposure to sun, the elements, and soil. It will be laying around in the containers (or garden) and open to sun exposure so it needed to be good quality. It has to wrap around the entire garden area and back to the place where I would be installing the pump. I have a 9.5' by 4.5' area so I needed about 30'. The tubing would then be connected in a circular fashion so I would also need a 1/2" tee fitting connector. The circular design would enable the water pressure to be consistent throughout the unit.
I would need several feet of tubing to connect this loop to the water pump so I needed to make sure I had enough supply to cover the area I was installing the system in.
From there he recommended smaller tubing for the drip lines that would run from the main water supply line to the plants themselves. Each of these lines needs to be the same exact length whether the main supply water line is directly over the plant or a foot away. Controlling the water pressure so it is balanced requires even, consistent output for this to be successful.
Tools And Supplies For DIY Watering System
Diagram - Drip Irrigation System - Mapping And Setting Your Water Lines
Diagram Your Garden
If you use this diagram as an example of how to set your drip irrigation system's lines around your garden it will make it easier to place them for your specific needs. This is my container garden map. Consider them either in pots or ground from the diagram for your planning. Every garden is different. A variety of plants will have diverse needs for their watering. Use several drippers for trees and shrubs or just one bubbler for smaller herbs or vegetables.
You can see where I have extra drippers set for my peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. These plants require more water and the extra lines helps provide that for them.
This diagram is a baseline for either the pump driven irrigation or a garden hose fed. The set up for the drip lines is the same. If you want to run additional tubing from the single lines coming from the main feed, that is possible, but make sure they are all of the same length. You must keep the water pressure balanced.
The large grey line is the main tubing and the smaller tubing is represented by the arrows. I cut all of my tubing the same length before I started so I didn't have to wonder how long to cut each individual line. I measured the longest line needed and used that as a guide.
Drip System Installation - Step By Step
Using a checklist is a smart way to organize your project. Having the right supplies and information ahead of time will get your project completed and get that drip system watering as soon as possible. I would rather spend time in my garden then running around looking for tools and materials!
Gather needed tools first so they are handy for you when you start connecting everything.
Scissors or Wire Cutters - for cutting lines and a Hole Puncher
In order of how you need them -- gather and assemble the following supplies.
- 1/2" Tubing - enough to circle your garden and a line for the water pump if you need to use one for your patio garden.
- 1/4" tubing for the drip lines - Cut each line in 12" - 18" sections. Don't forget to add enough lines for several drips on trees and heavy feeding plants and flowers
- T-Connector Fitting - If you are using a water pump this connects directly to the pump. If you will be using a garden hose a hose connection will also be needed.
- Barbed Connectors - One for each drip line attached to the main water feed line. Buy several extras in case you apply a little too much pressure. They will bend and split if you handle them roughly.
- Drippers and Bubblers - Gather enough of these to supply directly to your plants. Remember - again - you will need several for trees, bushes, and heavy feeding plants. These can be a bit fragile. Have an extra supply on hand if you damage one.
Drip System Assembly Pieces and Tubing
Assorted Bubbler Choices for Drip Watering
There are several options when it comes to water disbursement in a drip system. I could use a bubbler with a stake built in to it attached to the smaller lines or I can couple a dripper in between the line to create a more streamlined unit. The first choice is the one I agreed would fit my container garden's needs. Having the bubbler feeding directly to the plant I would not have to angle the main line around where the water supply would be most adequate. I would only have to place the stake near the root of the plant and I would know for certain the plant would get its proper amount of water.
The advice my pro gave me on the lines was to cut them all the same length and to space them at even intervals through out the main line. I was to punch a hole in the main and drive in barbed connectors in order to attach the smaller lines to it. From there your bubblers will be connected to the ends of the smaller lines.
The reasoning behind the even spacing is to balance the flow of water through out the line. As the lines are fed by the pump there will be a steady output and this keeps the pressure consistent from start to finish. A line that is shorter or longer than the rest may interrupt the water flow and plants at the end side will not get their fair share. Gravity will draw out to the easiest path and flood one plant and starve the other.
Barbed Couplings, Bubblers - Hole Punch For Tubing
The barbed connectors will be about 2" long and will settle snugly into the smaller lines of the drip system. You will need to punch a hole large enough for the connector to fit.
There are separate requirements for trees and shrubs than one would use for a container garden like mine. Trees and shrubs may require up to three or four bubblers where a small herb in a container may only require one.
Raindrip And Rain Bird - Watering Made Easy - Drip System Components
If you have an odd set up to your garden area, it would be best to order the pieces separately and assemble it yourself according to your garden's needs and design. Raindrip and Rain Bird make watering very easy with the products available for adding a system to your yard.
Drip Irrigation System TIP: Draw up your garden with the plants you have set already and ones you want to add later on. This can give you a visual for the list you need to make sure you have the right length of both tubing and the smaller parts. Remember 2 to 3 spouts for trees and larger shrubs, 1 for smaller items such as ornamental flowers or vegetables.
If you would rather not have to wander your local hardware store in search of all the components needed for this project, there are pre-assembled drip irrigation kits available. This image is the Rain Bird Patio Kit.
The Rain Bird Patio watering kit is a great way to get started with a quality set up and it has many elements that would enable you to tailor fit a watering system to your gardening area. The kits come with a length of 1/4" tubing. This system also includes a hose attachment if you do have a garden hose near by. The connectors and stakes that come with this package will feed 10 planters.
I used one of these a few years ago and I was amazed how easily it all fit together.
Rain Bird Patio Watering Kit - Great Starter Kit
Adding The Drippers - And Bubblers
Ecoplus Submersible Pump - For Drawing Water
The electric water pump we decided to feed the drip system with is a submersible model. The unit is dropped into a barrel or container large enough to hold the pump and a lot of water and it is let run for a few minutes. I was advised not to this piece of equipment ever run dry so it would continue performing well for me over time. The pump is quiet. It runs a steady stream of water through the main hose efficiently enough to supply all of my plants with a good dose of water in a short time. I have it set in a deep container for the moment. I will upgrade when I can to a small water barrel so I can use it to eventually pump rainwater.
Drawing water into the lines of my drip system was a large concern with this project. This Ecoplus Submersible Pump solved the riddle for me. I mentioned above that I have no supply on my patio for convenience. Attached to my container garden's drip system this pump will adequately supply the water I need in a consistent manner with little inconvenience. I just drop it in a deep welled container and turn it on. Make sure you are careful when you are operating this pump. Water and electricity do not go well with one another. Unplug and drain when not in use.
This water pump will process 396 GPH (or gallons per minute). The supply it draws from has to be above the pump vents or it will burn out the motor. Never let this pump operate with out water. Disconnect power supply as soon as the water reaches a low level just under the top of the unit. If you can see the sides it is already too low to operate.
You see the fitting on the top? Here you will attach your system's mainline. It can be removed once the watering process is complete. Drain and store the pump for the next watering cycle. I choose to pack mine up but you may want to leave yours accessible.
Watering Garden Before Drip System And After...
Garden Showing Drip Irrigation System Set Up
The Watering Cycle
For Your Garden Plants
Because my garden is in a desert, I have a water cycle that is twice a day during the summer months. I do notice my plants drooping in full sunlight but standing tall when the sun passes over for the day and the temperatures start to fall. This is normal in very hot regions. I can tell you the best times for watering any plant is early in the morning around 4:30 am. This is when the roots are most productive.
Helping them along with a good supply of water in balanced supply will help them grow strong, produce desired flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Over watering can be as harmful as under watering, so pay attention to what your plants are telling you. It is common practice to check the soil about 5" down to test for moisture. If the dirt is moist, skip watering for the day. Obviously if it is dry, watering is recommended.
I still am soaking the pots every couple of days by hand with a sprinkler can, but the drip system is delivering a three time a week drip watering which adds to their development.
The container I have the pump set in is filled twice when I do my watering and it goes rather quickly. The pump forces a lot of water through so I have to keep an eye on it. I let it feed the first fill of the reservoir then shut it off and refill it again. I have the container tipped so the water level is as deep as possible. I would love to drop a barrel on the patio but I have some new arrangements to make before that happens!
I have installed this drip system and it is working almost perfectly. I do not have a great deal of experience with a project like this but it is working just fine for what I needed it for. I say it is almost perfect because -- like I said in the opening -- I have somewhat solved my problem. By somewhat I mean my plants have their watering tubes but I am still having to haul water to the container for my water pump. This is not a that serious of an issue as it means I will no longer be disturbing tender roots with heavy loads of water and soil erosion will be reduced.
I mentioned above that I live in the desert. This brings an added hazard to my garden with heat and sun exposure. While I would love to tell you that this maintains my garden all year round, I cannot. The summer sun here blisters my plants and kills a few of them by the beginning of the hot months. Through out the cooler months this drip irrigation system works like a charm and I am able to keep veggies and flowers producing until the weather changes again.
Your results will vary depending on your climate.
Check back after a bit for updates and new information. This is an experiment at the moment and I will be working on perfecting it so that it benefits my garden and yours for years to come!
Thank you for your visit today!