Sunday, June 21, 2009

Shovel-Ready Project – Installing a Drip Irrigation System – Part Two

Part Two: Installation.

95 degrees and not a cloud in sight – what a perfect day to install a drip irrigation system! The plants in the front yard are going to be thrilled, except for the fiber optic grasses, which appear to have succumbed to the dry conditions already. Maybe they’ll bounce back with a little water. We’ll see. If not, oh well. “Survival of the fittest” reins supreme in my garden.

The DIG installation guide recommended unrolling the 1/2" polytube and laying it out in direct sunlight to warm it up and make it easier to work with. Did someone say direct sunlight? Because we have lots of that here.

Next, I screwed the backflow preventer onto the faucet, followed by the pressure regulator, then a short line of garden hose.

I used a part called a swivel adapter to connect the end of the garden hose to the 1/2” polytube. It has a washer with a little screen inside it.

I started laying out the 1/2” polytube along the east side of the garden, much like a soaker hose.

When I got to the corner of the bed, I cut the tube and attached the cut ends together with an elbow connector.

I continued laying out the 1/2" tubing, repeating the above step at each of the next two corners.

The tube cut easily with a standard pair of utility scissors.

Once I had 1/2” polytubing laid out in a square around the bed, I laid out additional tubing in a series of rows, next to as many plants as possible. I used tee connectors to hook up the additional tubing to the main tubing. It was easy to cut the tubing, insert a tee and hook up the additional rows.

Initially, I was going to set up separate systems on each side of the stone walkway, but I lost one of the connectors I needed to attach the water hose to the tubing, so I decided to hook the drip irrigation systems on both sides of the garden together. The 1/2” polytubing fit nicely under the flagstone at the end of the stone path.


The way the plants were arranged on the west side of the garden didn’t lend itself to rows, and I was running low on 1/2 inch tubing, so I snaked the remaining tubing around the garden as close to as many plants as possible.

After I had all the 1/2” tubing laid out and connected like I wanted it, I turned on the water to flush out any dirt that might have snuck inside, then capped off all the ends with figure-8 closures.

Now it was time to insert the drip emitters. The kit came with a little manual punch to make holes in the 1/2” tubing next to each plant. I pressed the barbed end of each drip emitter into a hole; a satisfying “snap” let me know I had the emitter in place. Because these are drought resistant plants, I used 1GPH (gallon per hour) emitters.


A handful of plants were located a bit too far from the 1/2” tubing, so I had to run 1/4” minitubing from the 1/2” tubing to the plant. The kit came with little connectors with barbs on both ends; one barb went into a hole made in the 1/2” tubing, the other into a piece of 1/4” minitubing. A drip emitter went on the opposite end of the minitubing.

After anchoring the tubing with stakes, it was time to turn the water back on and test the system to make sure everything was working properly, with water dripping from each emitter.

Ta da! Everything works!

Drip, drip, drip...

Can you tell which lucky plant got a 2GPH drip emitter?

Done--almost. A layer of mulch will go on top of the irrigation system, to hide the tubing and keep the water from evaporating. We still have stone edging to complete, flagstones to level and boxwoods to trim. But it's getting there!


  1. Wow! That's really impressive! I'm still hand watering all our xeric front yard stuff, but have a drip system on the veggie gardens. I think you've inspired me to figure out a drip system for the front.

    It looks great!

  2. you've sold me! i'm definitely going to home depot this week and seeing if i can find the dig system. we've been talking about it for awhile now and your great tutorials are a huge help in getting us moving in that area..:)

    soaker hoses don't work for us for the same reason as you...between water pressure and heat, they just don't last....

    so thank you so much!!!

  3. Thanks, Iris and Cat! You wouldn't believe how much the plants have grown in just a couple of weeks. I watered them for two hours twice daily on Wednesday and Saturday, then skipped a full week (we went out of town on vacation). Once the plants are established, I hope to water even less frequently. The other plus: the weeds between the plants get no water at all!

    Oh - and I ended up taking back nearly all the extra parts I bought.

  4. Looks good! I put in a drip system in my front beds last year and I love it ... love it ... love it now that the hot weather is here.. no more spending hours hand watering. I also added a timer which makes it even bettter (and avoids those depressing back-from-vacation plant deaths)! Now I need to get around to installing a system in the back and for the veggie garden. You've inspired me to get going on that.