How To Install Dripline Irrigation

Nov 10, 2015

passive water harvesting, hand watering and using sprinklers strategically to irrigate our growing garden. However, the plan has always been to install dripline irrigation, as it’s the most water efficient and time saving approach available.

IMG_4636Hand watering…. And over it!

But before we could do that we had to replace some significant water pipes, build a series of retaining walls (which pipes had to be integrated into), build some steps (which some other pipes had to be integrated into) and upgrade another mains water line. This took a while. So it was only a couple of months ago we finally got to install our driplines, suffice to say we love them. Here’s an overview of how to do it so you too can be liberated from hand watering. Before you start *anything*, the first process to go through is the design stage. Map out your garden and measure the areas you need to irrigate. From here, you can create an accurate shopping list and be super efficient with resources and time – a big theme for us. IMG_4644 But before you can start shopping, some basic information… What is dripline? – well, it’s a line of plastic tubing that drips. There are a range of variations, with soaker hoze, leaky pipe and 13mm poly pipe with drippers that you punch into them at desired intervals.  However we have been eyeing off dripline with the drippers pre-installed in the line.  With products such as Toro and Netafim being popular brands – in terms of budget and quality, these seem to be some of the best. The Toro pipe we’ve used has drippers every 300mm (one foot in the old scale) – each dripper releases 2 litres of water per hour. How does it work?  The drippers drip onto the soil, from the place the water hits the soil it spreads in a cone shape.  With sandy soil the drip is a very narrow cone, pretty much just wetting the soil immediately below the dripper.  With clay soils the cone has a very wide angle, effectively watering a larger area.  As a result, the spacing using drippers will change depending on your soil type. Pressure compensating Vs Non Pressure compensating drippers?  If you are buying dripline you will come up against this terminology.  Basically pressure compensating drippers can work over a range of water pressures.  Why does this matter?  Hilly and steep sites create different levels of water pressure.  Thus using non-pressure compensating drippers could result in the bottom of the hill getting more water than the top.  I have heard it recommended to use the pressure compensating drippers if the irrigation slope is over 2 meters or if the runs of dripline are very long.  There is a whole science to this and this site has a great overview of the topic.  Given our steep slope, we used pressure compensating drippers. Calculating the dripline length: First we measured the bed length and width.  Then calculated the number of driplines per bed.  We have spaced our drippers around 300mm apart, from this you can calculate the length of dripline you need. Draw a map of how it will work on the ground.  From this you can calculate all  the T connectors, elbows, 13mm plain line, clips, ends and valves you will need.  Once you have worked out how many you will need, add another 20% to these.  Plans change and having them on hand lets you adapt and change the design as your garden evolves. Buy the bits.  Word of caution, avoid the mainstream, heavily over priced hardware stores.  Go to an irrigation specialist in the “industrial” part of town.  In Hobart we use Hollander Imports or Irrigation Tasmania. If you are buying online these people have very good prices and products. Each section of our garden is watered by a manual tap which is in turn directed to 3 or 4 sub sections of the garden. In this way we can water fruit trees differently to our vegetables as their water needs are drastically different.  To do this, we create a “manifold” using a variety of connectors – the image below shows the items required. IMG_4646 Prepare the connectors in plain 13mm poly pipe.  You can use pliers or the tool below – a razer blade with leverage, affectionately known as the finger cutter. IMG_4650 An incredibly helpful tip is have some hot (almost boiling) water on hand to place the pipe in, this helps the pipe stretch to attach each piece together easily. We fill a thermos of hot water and pour it into a cup as needed – this little trick will save you a lot of time and frustration. IMG_4651 Attach the bits together to test it will fit the area it is made for (always test first). IMG_4655 Clip the fittings together and attach in place. IMG_4658 So we could still use each tap we installed a tap splitter, make sure you use plenty of plumbers tape so the tap fittings don’t leak.

IMG_4641Plumbers tape will make sure you don’t have any leaks

IMG_4642 The dripline is attached to the tap using a standard hose tap fitting, simply put the poly pipe in hot water then attach the tap fitting – too easy. Next we need to lay out the driplines for the beds, you can see in the bed below we have set four driplines in total. IMG_4663 At the manifold/tap end of the driplines, we have created another set of T’s and elbows that distributes the water into each dripline.  This is measured out so that the driplines are in the correct position on each bed. IMG_4654 Once all of the above is clipped together we run water through the system.  This is to flush any dirt or plastic scrap that may be in the pipe.  Once this is done, we put the ‘end caps’ in place to block the end of the pipe – alternatively you can put valves at the end so you can flush the system in the future.

IMG_4660Flushing out the pipes to clean out any ‘bits’

Because we’re often working vegetable beds where we do seasonal mulching/planting/digging we had to make sure the irrigation is easy to move. To do this, we attached one end to a timber strip at the end of the bed so we can just pick the whole thing up together. You don’t have to do this, indeed,for some contexts it might be easier to have them loose and just pick them up one by one. IMG_4932  IMG_4935 Oh, and if you run out of connectors or don’t like chopping the pipe up, you can always put it down in a spiral. Just know that if you have seeds or young seedlings you’ll need to do a bit of hand watering to make sure they get enough water in the early days. IMG_4938 So that’s the basics of our dripline system.  We have spent around $500 and have around 1/2 of our 1/4 acre block under dripline now.  We think it’s more than worth it as It’s a great time saver. And if we where to do this again? We would think a bit harder about the original main water pipe layout (a 20mm blue line poly pipe).  We would duplicate the system so there was a “dripper” dedicated pipe and a “tap” dedicated pipe.  That would mean we could then just turn one valve and water the whole garden. This would be specifically for when we go away and we get our awesome neighbours to water the garden…. And of course you can put an automatic timer on some/all of your irrigation system – we haven’t gone there yet but it is a consideration in the future. We see what we’ve done now as an awesome stage one that fits within our context and capacity.]]>

your thoughts:

9 Comments

  1. John Newland

    When designing a garden water system, always create a loop for your main pipes, rather than dead ends. This will provide a more even pressure at each outlet.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Makes sense John, I think I’m used to working on large market gardens where that isn’t always possible.

      Reply
  2. Braden Bills

    I would love to have a dripline irrigation system in my garden. My main problem is that I’m just not very handy at all, and I’m not sure if I could do it! I think I’m going to hire a professional who can help me out with this.

    Reply
  3. Dan

    Out of curiosity, is the system gravity-fed or using a pump? I set up a small drip-line system in my veggie garden. Initially I planned to gravity feed the kids bath water into the system but it was very uneven watering, no matter how much I elevated the water drum feeding into it. I ended up having to connect to our pump-driven tank, which works great but unfortunately uses our scarce household water. Great site by the way!

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      We’re connected to mains water Dan as we’re in town 🙂

      Reply
  4. Steve Scott

    My name is Steve i grow Garlic in Tenterfield NsW. Im going to do the drip feed this year on the garlic and grow veggies on the fellow acre i just harvested it from, again with drip feed under the mulch. We can pump water from the tenterfield ck with our licence. But want to be efficient with water. We are organic certified and using biodynamic preps. Great site, encourages me i am on the right track. Got lots of over head irrigation but very wastefull and in efficient.

    Reply
    • Hannah Moloney

      Sounds like you’re doing great work Steve! Glad you’re enjoying our site 🙂

      Reply
  5. Garth Coghlan

    I’ve finally gotten around to putting an irrigation system in at our place. I discovered that Waratah in South Hobart stocks irrigation products for incredibly good prices. Poly pipe connectors are only available in bags of 25, but they are a quarter the price of the hardware store! Perfect for bigger systems. Poly pipe and dripline is good value too.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You might also like…

Home Harvest 2022

Home Harvest 2022

We’ve just wrapped up our third Home Harvest. It was so good that I’m sharing it with you here. But first, what even is it?? Funded by the City of Hobart and supported by Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania, Home Harvest is a one day self guided edible garden tour around the nipaluna/Hobart […]

Home Harvest Host Call Out!

Home Harvest Host Call Out!

We’re happy to announce we’re working with Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania to hold our third annual “Home Harvest” garden tour in the Hobart region!  Special thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this great initiative. Home Harvest is going to be a one day event on Saturday March 5th, 2022 in and around Hobart where […]

The Hot Box

The Hot Box

When it comes to energy efficient hacks, the humble hot box is as simple as it gets. The hot box is exactly what it sounds like, and is how you can cook quite a lot of your food after being initially heated on the stove for a short time. But why bother? Australian households are […]

6 Hacks For Easy Chook Keeping

6 Hacks For Easy Chook Keeping

If you’re looking to start keeping chickens, or are wanting to tweak and refine your current system, this video is for you. I’ve summarised just six hacks which will transform you and your chicken’s lives and included some more links to other highly useful things you can do in the resources list at the end […]

Managing Your Perennial Kale “Trees”

Managing Your Perennial Kale “Trees”

This week I’ve put together a little follow up video on the “Perennial Kale Trees” video I did around a month ago.  I explain how you manage the plants once they go to seed or get invaded by aphids – which happens to us all! This little video shows you a simple way you can […]

Edible Flowers

Edible Flowers

You may not realise that so many of the flowers in your garden can actually feature in your next meal.  In this latest Good Life For All video I take you for a stroll through our garden where I harvest and eat seven different flowers. This is the 12th video in our Good Life For […]

Food Forests

Food Forests

Come for a tour of a few of our small food forests to learn what they are, the plants we’ve included and how they play a key role in our steep landscape. This is the 11th video in our Good Life For All series. Each Monday I’ll pop up a video to help inspire folks […]

How To Manage Codling Moth (video)

How To Manage Codling Moth (video)

While some pest and diseases can be tolerated in small amounts, codling moth is not one of those as it will devastate your apple crops and make you cry.  This latest video builds on one of our older blogs and shows you exactly what you can do to keep codling moth out of your apples […]

How To Grow Kale Trees

How To Grow Kale Trees

We grow a lot of leafy greens in our garden including kale. But we treat it a bit differently by pruning it to turn it into a perennial plant where it can keep feeding us for a few years. this little video shows you how… Also – In the video I mention that we make […]

A Reading From My Book, ‘The Good Life’

A Reading From My Book, ‘The Good Life’

This past week I launched my book in nipaluna at the Town Hall with Kirsten Bradley and 300 other new and old friends. It was very special for me to be able to share this moment with so many beautiful souls. Dear friend, Kirsten Bradley and me 🙂 To celebrate the book coming out into […]

Worm Farm Tour

Worm Farm Tour

As part of our Good Life For All videos we’re uploading to Youtube weekly, I filmed a little tour of our large worm farm to show folks how it works and why we love it so much. Enjoy! DID YOU KNOW: Keeping food scraps out of landfill and returning them to the Earth isn’t just […]

How To Prune A Young Fruit Or Nut Tree

How To Prune A Young Fruit Or Nut Tree

For our second video in our Good Life For All series I show you how to prune a young fruit or nut tree. This method can be used for most fruit trees to shape them for maximum yield. Pruning can be confusing For anyone who’s researched pruning, you’ll notice there’s an overwhelming amount of ways to […]