How to Install a Simple Drip Irrigation System

Installing a drip irrigation system is something you can do yourself! Don’t believe us? Check out this video with HomCo’s plumbing expert, Aldo, as he takes you through how to connect a drip system.



The History of Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation has become one of the most valued agricultural innovations since the impact
sprinkler because it provides a viable alternative to the surface irrigation of a sprinkler. The
origins of the drip system can be traced back to around Ancient China in the first century, BCE,
where farmers used buried pots with water to control irrigation. Development remained stagnant
until about the 19th century, when researchers experimented with burying clay piping before they
moved onto plastic in the 1900’s.

There are drip systems used above the surface, with tubing, drips, and misting heads. There are
also systems used under the soil, being the surface and sub-surface drip irrigations. The
surface irrigations are just below the surface of the soil, and are meant to be moved and
adjusted each year. These are mostly used with high-value crops. The second, subsurface, are
much deeper and are meant to be permanent. These systems live a lot longer and are generally
used with row crops. All in all, the development of drip irrigation has been incredibly
instrumental in controlling crop growth and water loss, and can now be utilized in a small scale,
right in your backyard.

Parts of the Whole

There are two main differences in irrigation systems. One utilizes drip tape, and one utilizes drip

Irrigation Systems Using Drip Tape vs. Tubing

Drip tape generally releases less water per hour, while the tube can carry more. Drip
tape comes pre-punched with holes, whereas with the tubing you can either buy pre-installed
emitters, or install some yourself and choose where the emitters go. Drip tape is cheaper and
less difficult, but if you are looking for a system that will last a while, drip tubing may be the way
to go. There are timers that you can purchase to hook up to the system that will water your
plants for a specified amount of time and turn off when the time is up. It may take a little to
determine which flow of water is the best for your plants, but play around with it. Once you find
that happy medium, you won’t need to worry about the water flow again.

Some of the micro irrigation systems include micro spray heads, which sprays water instead of
dripping it. This is usually used on trees and vines because of their larger root spread and need
for more water. The subsurface drip, a deeper piping system, is used mostly for row crops,
especially in drier areas and for using recycled water.

Save Money By Installing a Drip System

Though the initial cost of a drip irrigation system may put you off from purchasing one, the eventual money you will save on water, electricity, time, and other costs make the drip system worth the initial time and money invested. Not only does the system save water, but it is adaptable to different garden structures, like raised garden beds. They also prevent a lot of weed growth due to the water being fed directly to the plants, and saves energy doing so.

The most important part about choosing the way you plant your piping is the type of soil that you will be using. Potting soil, compost, and related gardening plots have an even distribution of water, so a drip system may work the best. Clay retains a lot of water, so a constant stream of water will drown the plants, so the timer should be stricter. Sandier soil has the best drainage, so this soil type is the one that best utilizes a steady stream. If the water you use has more minerals and deposits in it, the irrigation system will need to be flushed more often to prevent any stoppage or wearing of the pipes and drip heads.

Drip irrigation systems, especially the ones below the surface, will save a lot of water, especially when compared to the above-ground counterpart. Statistics from multiple studies give estimations of anywhere from 30% to 50% less water used, due to the water reaching the roots directly and not being evaporated before the plant can find use of it. Normal spray misters will wet leaves, and since those can spread disease, the drip irrigation systems also prevent it from spreading, and improves the health and longevity of the plants.

Drip Irrigation Systems Maintenance

Depending on the location, drip irrigation may need a lot of maintenance or hardly any. In Flagstaff, due to the hard water that we have, it may err on the side of needing a bit more than the average. Make sure to check that the heads and tubing have a good flow of water and the mineral deposit is not blocking any of the exits. If you use the irrigation system to send fertilizer and pesticides, make sure to monitor the process and make sure that the exits are not being stopped up. In the beginning of the growing season, you should also do an entire flush of the system to make sure that it is functioning well.

During the winter, the system needs to be protected against the freezing temperatures and the elements. First, shut off the system and remove the hose from the water source. Drain everything either manually or by using an air compressor. After you’ve done that, take the system inside so that it doesn’t freeze. Make sure to replace the end fittings after everything drains.

This will only take one to two hours depending on how large your drip irrigation system is, but is a great way of ensuring the integrity of your system over the cold winter months.

Should I Install a Drip System?

All in all, drip systems, especially ones below the surface, can save you a lot of time, water, electricity, and money in the long run. While they may take time to set up and maintain, you can be sure that your plants are getting the right balance of water for them at a consistent interval. Not only will your plants be healthier, but you will also spend less time watering them and more time enjoying your garden harvests or the shade of your trees. Check out HomCo Lumber and Hardware’s Plumbing department and Lawn and Garden department for your irrigation needs. Our associates are always happy to help with anything you may need to know, or anything you may need done.

About the Author

Rhianne is one of HomCo's valued experts. When she's not writing a DIY blog or sharing more about hardware with our customers, you can find her in the Carhartt department. Stop by to say hi!