Garden Irrigation

I have a typical 1500 sq ft ranch home in the Milwaukee area of Wisconsin. The previous owners let all plantings get wildly out of control and quite honestly, the entire perimeter of the house was surrounded by larger shrubs that were not my style.
I removed all the old plantings and started from scratch last year. On all 4 sides of the home there are flower and small shrub beds that basically surround the home and project about 10 ft out on average. I have re-planted the majority of this area with new, young, and small plantings. Some shrubs, some flowers, some grasses, plants, etc.
I also have two larger garden areas in the yard and a vegtable area behind a shed. These also need revitalizing but I've only gotten to these areas slightly right now.
Now the fun - the home only has one outdoor water spigot so to date all my watering has been by hand and with 400ft of hose to reach all areas. Yes, all that hose is a pain, but not bad compared to the time it takes to just water these areas. I can and likely will install a 2nd and potentially 3rd outdoor spigot which means less hose handling at once. However, it really won't cut down my time.
I need to find a way to keep the young plants well watered in much less time. I have never used soaker or drip arrangements and such and I'm lookin for info. I would like this year to setup say the soaker arrangment to loop around and water the perimeter of the house.
How well do these work? How much lenght can I do? Pressure concerns? Can one splice in non-soaker type tubing when running across areas that need no water? I'd like to bury it under my mulch and leave it. Is this problematic or generally ok? Will these things survive well over a winter? I'm willing to take the time to install a proper system that works well and looks good while not shifting my time effort into having to maintain the water lines and connections. I would either via timer or personal effort turn on the water flow and let it water the perimeter of the house while I water other areas. I do not want to extend the system to other areas beyond the perimeter of the house at least for another two to three years. I enjoy tending to the other areas, just can't handle it all time wise due to circumstances. Can anyone point me to resources or websites that might help me learn, install, and answer questions on this? Any good pointers or bad experiences?
thanks!
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Soaker hose comes in two types: a regular hose with holes poked into it and a hose made from recycled tires that is moderately porous, so it leaks everywhere. The first type will send small jets out either in one direction or in all directions, depending on how the holes are punched. These jets can create small erosion areas, but they're not generally serious. The recycled tire type is good for soaking an area, but has a finite lifetime of only a couple of years on the average. Being on the surface, it gets chewed by rodents, particularly during times of drought.
If you're going to bury something, it might as well be more conventional inground irrigation tubing. Home Depot carries it, as well as the emitters, which range from sprays to rotary jets. You can also get drip emitters which can be placed adjacent to each shrub, so you aren't wasting water on the weeds in between. You can get really fancy and install a timer valve to do it all automatically. However, this wastes water since it waters on a schedule, not according to need.
While you're about it, it isn't that hard to install more outdoor spigots unless your basement is completely finished and you don't want to run pipes through it. Put in as many as you can. I generally double them up, placing two spigots right next to each other. One can have a hose permanently attached and the other can be used to fill a bucket.
The soaker hose is the easiest thing to do, but the permanent installation is the longest lasting thing to do.
If you bury something, you will want to provide for drainage so you can empty it in the winter. An air compressor is not not necessary if you have a low spot somewhere. Put a valve at the low spot, unhook the feed lines at the high end and open the valve. Be sure that you provide somewhere for the draining water to go, since you want it to drain all at once. This ensures better drainage of the entire system without leaving pockets of water. Note that polyethylene tubing will handle occasional freezing of water, while the pvc pipe will not.
You might want to run a polyethylene tube out to the garden area. Mine is buried about 2" deep. I drain it for the winter. At the house end I put a male hose connection on and just attach it to the spigot with a short length of washing machine hose (double female connections). On the garden end I put in a short length of pressure treated 2x4 and tie the hose to it with some plumbing, including a T and two spigots.
Steve wrote:

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Thanks very much for the info. It sounds like my best approach is the polyethylene tubing and various emitters.I know its going to vary based on # of emitters, spacing, water pressure, etc. However, is there a general rule of thumb to how long of a tubing run and how many emitters one should have in a single run?
Are there any good online sources for purchasing the various components and/or for reading up on the different components available? I've searched and found many, many resources, but looking for a good starting point.
thanks!

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On Wed, 16 Feb 2005 12:43:46 -0600, "Steve"

I have soaker hose that has been in the ground for 13 years with no problems. It is the recycled tire type. I use it in rows of raspberries and strawberrys where I really prefer a ground soaking rather than a spray on the plants - that encourages fungal problems.
John
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John Bachman wrote:

I started with a combination of recycled tire soaker hoses, and drip irrigation. I have removed all the drip irrigation, and replaced it with the soaker hoses.
Why? Well, the drip emitters were constantly getting clogged. I had to be super careful when working around the tubing. I had to drain the tubing for the winter. It just all got to be too much trouble.
The soaker hoses are pretty tough. If I bump them with a hoe or rake, they don't need to be repaired. They don't clog. I can leave them out for the winter without draining them because they are essentially self-draining. Initially they were more obvious in the beds, and less aesthetically pleasing, but as plantings around them became more mature, and mulch built-up, they've disappeared into the landscaping.
These days every bed has soaker hoses snaking through them. I have a big spiral that I lift out of the way when preparing the summer vegetable bed, and then drop it back into place before putting in the transplants. The only place I still use overhead watering are the containers I water by hand, and the only section of the lawn that I water during the summer. I have quick disconnects on everything, and a small collection of meters and timers that I move around as needed. (I especially need things to automatically turn-off zones as I always forget what I started.)
Every spigot has 2-way or 4-way splitters, and during the summer I have one 100' length of hose that's always under pressure going to a splitter with quick-disconnects in a far corner of the yard. Some of the soaker hoses also have segments of regular hose running between the start of the soaker zone, and the water source. Those get drained for the winter, but are left in place. Nearly every connection has a quick disconnect to isolate zones, and insert timers or meters as needed.
What I do may not work for everyone -- especially if you're not someplace with mild winters. But I'd never go back to drip irrigation, and clogged emitters. I want to spend time deciding where to water, and how much. With drip irrigation I needed to do that *and* spend a lot of time maintaining the system. Too much of a pain.
--
Warren H.

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Drip irrigation requires a filter on the line to avoid the problem of clogged emitters. Public water supplies are not immune to debris in the line that can clog the drip emitters. I use the disk filters: they're cheap and when they get clogged they can be cleaned and reused. A filter for a 3/4" water line (~10gpm) is around $15-20 and lasts for years (has to be drained in the winter [I'm in New England, so I can't count on mild winters]).
I have had voles chew on the soaker hoses, both above and below ground. I have had hoes cut the hoses (I keep my hoes sharp). IMHO the drip irrigation is more cost effective for me.
Draining the tubing for the winter takes me about 10 minutes for about 700' of tubing. I open the high spot, then open the low spot and the water is sucked out of the line. When it's drained I go around and open all the other valves (I frequently use ball valves). The low spot is buried in a valve box and I also buried 20' of 4" perforated pipe. That gives the water someplace to go while it's draining and lets it soak into the ground when it's done.
I use 2-way splitters on spigots occasionally, but I'm cheap, so I buy the cheap plastic ones. They break from rough use. It actually costs less to buy a spigot at Home Depot than it does to buy a brass splitter, so I use double spigots whenever I'm putting in new plumbing. My opinion of quick disconnects is that they reduce the flow, but I have no real basis for that opinion since I don't use them.
This is what works for me.
Warren wrote:

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wrote:

Mild winters are not required for soaker hoses. Mine have survived 13 years in New Hampshire.
John
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My advice is to use drip. There are many fine websites that will help you through the installation. Here is the one I used
http://stores.tiefert.com/garden/irrigation.html
I followed its advice to the letter, and I got high quality material coming in through the mail. The only problem I had was that my only outside faucet and the irrigation threads did not match properly. I solved that with a trip to the local irrigation store. I, too, was concerned about pressure, but if I can run 450ft of connection tubing, attached to 200 ft of drip lines (eight in total) so will you. I have, of course, a four faucets multiplier attached to that thing now.
Soaker hoses are not as good. Those I have tend to clog (the drip system has turbulent flow, and can be washed at each end of season), water unevenly, they don't branch easily, and they are very short for my purposes. They were a waste of money. The drip system is gold. All I need to do is turn on the water when I get home, and turn it off before coming in for dinner.
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Steve wrote:

less
lookin
to loop

to continue my previous post: the other thing about soakers is that their jets spread water a bit more than drip but will wet leaves as well. soakers and tomatoes, for example, won't mix (same for squash). and of course they tend to use more water. The cons of drip are that they tend to deposit water in a very concentrated way, basically a narrow cone under each hole. It is a problem with sandy soil, much less so with clay.

Can one

no
problematic
in winter any leftover water will freeze. If the pipe is full anywhere, it may shatter. I take out the end plug of the drip lines, run water for a minute or so through each (secret is to open only one at a time, so all flow goes down that line)to clean them for the season, then replace the plug, hold it high while coiling it (to empty the water back into the main line). I have a gently undulating yard, and I placed a valve at the lowest point in the main line (within a concrete housing to allow easy access, I should have just used a single cinder block). I purge the main line there for the winter.
Two more things. The first is backpressure. If you run the water, then turn it off, the line will develop a backpressure and will suck air and debris through the pinholes, contributing (a lot) to clogging - more so if line is buried in mulch. Two ways to eliminate it: use a backflow preventer, which I have but no longer use, or make it a point, as I do, to open another of the four spigots when you turn off the water. Air will then come in through the other spigot and quickly balance pressure.
The other thing to watch for are rodents. I have wrapped my main line in chicken wire in two places with high rodent activity. I also cover my drip lines with mulch to eliminate UV ageing.
So, a good preparation makes for a fairly maintenance free system. prevent clogging, prevent freezing.
I'm willing

good
lines
the
other
enjoy
might help

bad

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simy1 wrote:

Jets? Spread water? Use more water?
I think we're talking about two different things here.
The soaker hoses I'm talking about weep water. They have no spray at all. They simply weep water and soak the ground.
Maybe you're thinking of those flat things with the pinholes that spray water along their length. I've heard some people call them soakers because you can get soaking wet when you're around them, but I'm talking about the recycled rubber hoses that weep.
--
Warren H.

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While the recycled tire soaker hoses just ooze water generally, they sometimes do develop (manufacturing defects?) pinholes that can spray out 5' or more. This is moderately common with the ones I've used, but not a real problem unless you are trying to keep your foliage dry. Then Murphy steps in and your hose will leak more. I estimate that less than 1% of the water is lost in unwanted jets.
Warren wrote:

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wrote:

I use tire-type soaker hoses in my perennial beds at lengths up to 100 feet. They are buried 3 or 4 inches in the soil, and remain there year 'round. I keep several inches at the distal end above ground, so that when I turn on the water, I can see when the hose is weeping along its full length. When water is below the surface, gravity no longer determines the direction of flow, and the water disperses horizontally, by capillary action, I think, wetting an area about a foot to two feet on either side of the hose. I rely heavily on a moisture meter to tell me when the beds are sufficiently watered, since the soil surface ofter appears dry even though the soil below is soaking wet. I also use this method in my vegetable beds, but it can be a real pain because food gardens are frequently cultivated during the season. I'm exploring the possibilities of switching to a surface drip system, so this thread is most interesting to me.
-- Mr Gardener -- Zone 5 - On The Maine Coast
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On Fri, 18 Feb 2005 07:57:50 -0500, Mr Gardener

I use the soaker also, permanently in the ground for permanant plantings such as raspberries and strawberries.
I take the soaker up from the vegetable garden every fall. I fabricated a reel similar to the large cable reels and wind them up on that. It makes the seasonal installing/removing much easier and I can easily rototill the garden in spring and fall.
John ------------------------------------------- All of my dumb opinions are my own. If I ever have a smart one it will be wife's.
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Mr Gardener wrote:

Not quite. While capillary action disperses the water better from a buried hose, gravity acts on it all the same. The advantage to a buried hose is that the water can go up as well as out. However, if you try this in pure sand, you fill find the moisture goes predominantly downward. The extent to which the moisture will spread depends strongly on the type of soil you are using.
On the subject of soil type, I ran across a simple test to find your soil's place on the old soil triangle. http://everything2.com/?node_id 98166
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I missed most of this thread but perhaps this was not mentioned before.
Go to google and enter http://www.dripworksusa.com/ . Then at the left side of their site request their mail-order catalog. It provides lots of instruction and covers all types of irrigation supplies. Also go to google and enter http://www.berryhilldrip.com/ . Request their mail-order catalog. Both are good companies to deal with. Drip Works will design a system if requested and its free. Berry Hill does not have the largest selection of parts for home use. Get both catalogs and you have both coasts which may mean lower shipping costs.
Do not buy the drip kits sold at retail big box stores. They seldom include a filter and a pressure regulator which are needed for long-term survival of the drip lines and emitters. Yes, city water does have "lumps" in it which will clog the emitters. These retail systems need a pressure regulator to lower the city pressure and avoid the opening of new holes (blowout).
I have several thousand feet of drip lines from NetaFim which have been in for 16 years in beds of perennials, shrubs and trees. These drip lines are above ground. I tried some underground but the joints (lock fittings) do loosen over winter and also by roots growing in and opening the joint. In the spring do a one time check to tighten loose fittings. Winter freezing is not a problem in the drip lines but the filter, pressure regulator and automatic valves need to be removed in the winter to prevent damage.
I tried some soaker hoses but over time new larger openings appeared and allowed water to spew out (over-watered spots). Some problems are reported with calcium blocking the holes in soaker hose. The emitters in drip lines are designed to create turbulence in the emitter which reduces clogging. Also if soaker hoses are used on hilly ground you do not get uniform watering (lower is wetter). The drip line systems do provide uniform watering and I have never had a drip emitter clog.
Drip works and it beats the heck of dragging a hose around in hot weather.
Mr Gardener wrote:

Not quite. While capillary action disperses the water better from a buried hose, gravity acts on it all the same. The advantage to a buried hose is that the water can go up as well as out. However, if you try this in pure sand, you fill find the moisture goes predominantly downward. The extent to which the moisture will spread depends strongly on the type of soil you are using.
On the subject of soil type, I ran across a simple test to find your soil's place on the old soil triangle. http://everything2.com/?node_id 98166
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I missed most of this thread but perhaps this was not mentioned before.
Go to google and enter http://www.dripworksusa.com/ . Then at the left side of their site request their mail-order catalog. It provides lots of instruction and covers all types of irrigation supplies. Also go to google and enter http://www.berryhilldrip.com/ . Request their mail-order catalog. Both are good companies to deal with. Drip Works will design a system if requested and its free. Berry Hill does not have the largest selection of parts for home use. Get both catalogs and you have both coasts which may mean lower shipping costs.
Do not buy the drip kits sold at retail big box stores. They seldom include a filter and a pressure regulator which are needed for long-term survival of the drip lines and emitters. Yes, city water does have "lumps" in it which will clog the emitters. These retail systems need a pressure regulator to lower the city pressure and avoid the opening of new holes (blowout).
I have several thousand feet of drip lines from NetaFim which have been in for 16 years in beds of perennials, shrubs and trees. These drip lines are above ground. I tried some underground but the joints (lock fittings) do loosen over winter and also by roots growing in and opening the joint. In the spring do a one time check to tighten loose fittings. Winter freezing is not a problem in the drip lines but the filter, pressure regulator and automatic valves need to be removed in the winter to prevent damage.
I tried some soaker hoses but over time new larger openings appeared and allowed water to spew out (over-watered spots). Some problems are reported with calcium blocking the holes in soaker hose. The emitters in drip lines are designed to create turbulence in the emitter which reduces clogging. Also if soaker hoses are used on hilly ground you do not get uniform watering (lower is wetter). The drip line systems do provide uniform watering and I have never had a drip emitter clog.
Drip works and it beats the heck of dragging a hose around in hot weather.
Mr Gardener wrote:

Not quite. While capillary action disperses the water better from a buried hose, gravity acts on it all the same. The advantage to a buried hose is that the water can go up as well as out. However, if you try this in pure sand, you fill find the moisture goes predominantly downward. The extent to which the moisture will spread depends strongly on the type of soil you are using.
On the subject of soil type, I ran across a simple test to find your soil's place on the old soil triangle. http://everything2.com/?node_id 98166
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The bottom line is that drip works for some folks and soaker for others.
Never had a problem with "clumps" in my soaker. But then my land is level.
John
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