Having done that, let me mention a few things.
1) drip is no good for thickly seeded vegetables, such as carrots or
garlic. Drip is good for larger plants with a spacing exceeding 12
inches. For carrots, you will have to water the usual way. This will
generate an extra variable in your crop rotation. Now garlic, carrots,
lettuce, parsnip, small greens all have to go together in one bed that
may or may not have drip and you may or may not want to make provisions
(extra valves in the lines) so that that bed does not get watered (if
you want to save water).
2) I bought online, and it was high quality piping. But then I needed
connectors and adapters which I had not ordered, so I had to find a
local supplier. They had everything the onlinestore had, cheaper and
slightly worse quality. Buy locally.
3) Think before building the drip system. I just switched from 2
lines/bed to 4 lines/bed, and pulling those pipes out of buried joints
was hell. No wonder they don't leak at the joints. You want one line
for each foot of bed width (I have 4 for five feet, as a matter of
Good advice I had not thought about much of your points.
Where locally, what type of store? (hardware, farm, nursery, plumbing)
Sometimes, Home Depot (any big box) are not the cheapest guy in town
nor do they have the best quality for price.
Look in the Yellow pages under "Irrigation Supplies". Don't go to Home
Depot. All in all, drip is warmly recommended, specially if you know
what to expect going in. Also, don't leave the store without trying
all the pieces together. And use the cap terminators for your lines, so
you can unscrew the cap in october and flush the line clean.
I have drip irrigation for my flower beds and like it because it
delivers water precisely where I want it, but doesn't get the foliage wet.
For my vegetable garden, however, I went with pop-up sprinkler heads
along the edge. They deliver more water in less time, and my vegetables
don't care if their foliage gets wet. The main reason, however, is that
I want the flexibility to rotate my "crops", and I frequently add
organic material and till it in; with a drip system, I would have to
remove all the lines to till, or risk cutting them.
I see a lot of drip systems in the catalogues I get, but none of them is
automated enough for me. I like to have the irrigation done very early
in the morning so the water soaks in rather than being evaporated by the
sun, and a controller is very useful for this. Mine has a device that
is supposed to prevent sprinkling when it is raining, but it looks
pretty unsophisticated and I'm not sure it works since I'm never up that
For the best equipment, go to the web sites of the manufacturers like
rainbird, toro, or hunter (I'm sure there are more; I'm only familiar
with rainbird) and review their tutorials on planning a system. Then
decide whether you want to do it yourself, or hire it done. The web
sites usually have references to irrigation supply centers near you,
where you can get a better grade of equipment, and good advice, than you
will find in the home centers. They should also be able to recommend an
installer if you want one.
Setting up a system may involve quite a lot, including some modification
of your plumbing, so unless you are handy, I think an installer is a
good option. I watched the installer put in my system in the back, then
put in the one in the front myself, using the knowledge I gained from
watching the pro. Two suggestions I have are to keep a good map showing
where everything is buried, and have drains build into your system, so
you don't have to pay someone to blow it out before freezing weather
all good advice. I have very sandy soil, so I don't ever need to till.
At any rate, if I need to lift the lines, I have hooks on the trellis
in the back of the beds precisely to hang the lines high while I work
the soil. I dump compost directly on the bed, so the lines are mostly
buried most of the time (this may extend the life of the lines, no UV
damage). I only need to see one or two drip holes to be sure it works
properly. I installed it myself, because there was a page from Mary
Tiefert that explained exactly how, but that page no longer exists. But
one needs quality instructions, so before you embark in it, get some. I
found it a fairly easy project. And I have a slight depression in the
ground between faucet and garden, and there I installed my drain. It
works like a charm and the lines are emptied in october with a simple
twist. If faucet and garden are far from each other, renting a trencher
may make sense.
The sprinklers, however, may be bad advice in some cases. My tomatoes
would get blight, and my squash would be mildewed beyond recognition.
The beans and peppers would get sick too. Only the cool weather
vegetables would take that wetting without dying, and not even all of
You must plant very delicate vegetables if they would so so poorly if
they got wet. Do you shelter them when it rains? We grow tomatoes,
asparagus, strawberries, two or three varieties of beans, two varieties
of squash, green peppers, carrots, beets, and corn, and all prosper with
Further, the farmers around here and in Michigan who irrigate use
sprinklers, without apparent adverse affect.
Some of them are delicate. I have one heirloom tomato (Costoluto) that
catches diseases quickly. The other tomatoes are also all heirlooms,
though they get sick only if I let them touch the ground for prolonged
periods. I rotate them only on a two year basis and there is some
blight in the soil clearly. Favas regularly catch the chocolate disease
when the weather gets warm. Squash does have mildew, and no mildew is
better. And chard gets some brown spots in wet weather. Probably only
for tomatoes (and favas) the difference is between producing and not
producing, and I realize that by switching to hybrids I would fix that
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