There are different ways to choose from for your bed irrigation project. Two popular types of bed irrigation are the sprinkler system and drip system. While sprinkler is still used by some people to irrigate their beds, it is less effective and its basic setup is simple and direct. You will just need to connect the sprinkler to the water source and turn it on. It is not possible to limit the wastage of water completely while using sprinkler and its effectiveness will always range between 70-80%.
Most people prefer the bed drip irrigation method, which is almost 100% effective. It also allows you to save on water and time. It ensures the right amount of water is provided to your plants. Dripping mostly goes directly to the plants’ roots at a slower rate and does not make leaves watery. The slow-rate helps prevent any moisture-related diseases or formation of maladies-like mildew in the leaves. The water is also delivered to the plants only hence little chances of other weeds surviving. Below are the basics of the bed irrigation using the popular and highly effective drip system:
The basic drip system components consist either of single water emitters connected by to 5/8 inch polyethylene mainline tubing by ¼’ feeder tubing or the ‘built-in’ emitters at equal intervals in a 5/8” tubing. Both systems are then connected to the source of water. Emitters work is to ‘emit’ controlled water amount and they are small plastic parts. They come in standardized sizes in gallons per hour or gph and they include ½ gph, 1gp 2 gph and more. Other parts of the dripping system include a pressure regulator, valve, tubing adapter, and drip tubing.
Basic Installation Technique
Installing the drip system is straightforward and simple for most homeowners. It involves connecting the 5/8 inch mainline into the water source and uses a filter if the water is coming from a well. For the ¼-inch feeder tubes, there are ‘tee’ and ‘el’ fitting whose work is to direct water to individual plants. The water source fits into the feeder tube which is then poked into the main lines and then into separate plants. The 5/8 mainline emitter also, works similarly like 1/4 “ feeder and you have to pass it through your bed and then connect with regular main lines.
You can also fit underground piping for your drip system by converting an existing above ground-pressurized system by using parts that are more plastic. You can seek help from experts to set up your drip bed irrigation quicker and to avoid destroying various parts if you are uncertain on how to go about it. The drip system applies water slowly and directly and allows the soil to soak water before it runs off or evaporates.
Basic Usage of the Components in Drip Irrigation
Depending on the sizes of the plants, 1 or 2 emitters per plant is mostly preferred. However, if you have planted tree seedlings, you might need more. You can use two emitters and allow one to act as a backup in case one clogs up which is a common occurrence even for the best-installed and maintained drip system setups. Also, avoid using more emitters to avoid wetting the soil area. Use less than two emitters if the plants are close together to maintain enough space between emitters. Depending on the soil and its permeability, you should ensure the emitter installation is 24 inches apart and between 12-18 inches for soil with high permeability.
Most drip systems will require one mainline or a lateral to use for bed irrigation. However, you might also use both the mainline and the lateral and in this way, you will connect the mainline before the control valve while the lateral is connected after the valve.
Backflow Preventers are also very important to avoid water contamination by bacteria and soil-borne diseases since drip emitters rest directly on the topsoil. There are several types in the market and you will choose based on your local codes or situation.
For the fittings, use the correct size that will have the same size as the drip tubing. If you do not check the correct size, you will have trouble while instating or the tube might also blow off the fitting. After one week, the tube will start to come loose and if you had connected a fitting that is larger by even by 1mm, there are very high chances it will come off eventually.
You can also decide whether you wish to stake your drip tube or not. The stakes will prevent the tubes from wandering, especially when the drip system is on during irrigation. You should stake your drip tubes once every 3m to the ground. The metal stakes are widely used but you can also go for the wire that rusts since rusts help in binding the wire to the soil firmly. The stakes will also help protect your tubes from being damaged.
Zoning or Water Zones
For any drip irrigation design and project, you will need to perform zoning. It is dividing irrigation areas in your bed and arranging plants on different zones based on the level of water needs. The plants that require the same quantity of water are put into the same zones. Depending on the types of seedlings or plants on your bed, you might have those that require water regularly or those, which needs watering at intervals of one or two days. Alternatively, you can zone your plants based on growth level since older plants might require frequent watering or vice versa.
Maintenance and Monitoring
The drip irrigation setup requires regular monitoring. Failure to which, plants will suffer severe water stress or die altogether. Tubes pull away from their fitted position, lines break, emitters tend to plug and shovels make unidentified cuts. Whichever the case, always check for leaks, listen for geysers, inspect wet areas and check every spot or plants in your bed to ensure they are getting the required amount of water as expected. In addition, pay attention to the soil to ensure it is getting the right amount of mixture as planned.
The most appropriate way to ensure you are set up and ready for the eventuality is to learn basic repairs and store a toolbox with useful tools and spare parts. The toolbox should include things like emitters, emitter tubing, hole punch, sturdy scissors, connectors, bubblers, goof plugs, sprayer heads, regular pliers and wire cutting pliers. These tools are easy to identify and fixing is easy. However, do not hesitate to look for professional help if you find it a little bit complicated to repair successfully.
At one point, adjustment is required to either reduce or increase the water amount to different types of plants. You might also need to add more sections or replace plants and it will require adjustments on the use of water. Using drip irrigation to supply water to the plants in the bed is effective and easy, you just need to switch on the water source and occasionally check if everything is okay with the drip system. If you wish to change the layout of your bed or rotate plants, it is very easy to adjust the drip irrigation system to suit changing needs. Since the spacing in most beds is limited, the drip system discourages the growth of weeds and will greatly benefit you in terms of your plants’ development and growth.