Drip Irrigation Systems Save Water!
There’s a new “p-word” for gardening. Besides “planting” and “pruning,” there’s “plumbing.” The new p-word keeps both gardens and wallets looking nice and green. Here’s how: convert a nearby sprinkler head into a nifty new drip-irrigation system. It will save wear and tear on tender young plants and will lower your monthly water bill. Replace your regular sprinkler head with a low-cost drip-watering emitter. Then plug one end of a piece of drip tubing into the emitter head, and run the drip tube along the base of your plants, securing the other end with a rock or small stake. Turn it on. Instead of a flow, you’ll see only a tiny little drip that will be gentle on both blooms and plants.
When most of us think of outdoor watering, we think of a hose with a sprinkler on the end or a sprinkler system. We think of covering lawn and garden with an ample spray of tap water. Unfortunately, spray watering can be extremely wasteful. An average landscape can consume more water in a day than a family of four needs in a month. And, this type of watering is not effective for many kinds of plant growth. Lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers all have different needs. What’s worse, conventional sprinklers that irrigate planting strips bordering a home can be the origin of a host of water-related problems, which range from mold and mildew, peeling paint and even a shifting foundation. The latter is particularly serious since it can result in out-of-level floors, cracks in walls and ceilings, difficult to open windows and doors and even a cracked foundation.
You can save water and your foundation by converting the sprinkler system bordering your foundation with a drip irrigation or drip watering system.
Actually, drip watering systems have been around for a long time, but not until recently have they become readily available and priced to sell. Now you can find an entire area dedicated to drip watering systems in your local hardware store or home center. Better manufacturers offer accurate water-pressure regulators, high quality filters, automatic in-line fertilizing devices, a broad selection of water emitters and connectors, solid and perforated tubing and a variety of watering heads and flow reducers.With the right parts you can control water usage to within amazingly accurate tolerances and fertilize at the same time without even being there. And a great advantage of drip systems is that they don’t have to be placed deep underground so installation is easy.
It isn’t necessary, but if you can afford to include it in your budget, the place to start is with an electric timer. Most yards can be controlled with a 6-station unit and they can be purchased on sale for under $40. Timers operate on 110 volts, but use a very small amount of electricity. Secondary wires from the timer are low voltage and run from the timer to electrically controlled sprinkler valves. In-line timers are also available for single line systems.
When considering a drip system, a water pressure regulator is a must and should be installed in the water line between the water supply and the control valves. Good drip systems rely on constant, well regulated water pressure. Proper pressure ensures that the emitters (water distribution devices) will supply the desired amount of water through each water supply tube.
After the control valve, the next item in line is the emitter. The emitter regulates water flow and acts as a distribution center for the drip tubing.
Emitters are available in a wide variety of gallons-per-hour flow anywhere from one to twenty gallons per hour. A one-gallon-per-hour emitter will supply one quart of water in fifteen minutes with very little waste.
Emitters are also available in several different distribution configurations. Some will supply a single tube only. Others have two, four and even twelve outlets. That brings up two questions: What do you do if you only need three drip lines and you want to purchase just one emitter? And, what do you do if you want each of the three tubes to supply a different amount of water?
If you need three lines, buy a four-port emitter and one-port plug. Port plugs are removable so that tubes can be added or subtracted as the landscape is altered.
If you want one emitter, but need varying volumes of water, select an emitter that supplies the maximum amount of water that will be needed at any one tube and then add flow reducers to the tubes where less water will be needed. A drip-irrigation system is a conservation measure that will improve the quality of the landscape and reduce the water bill.
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