The basics of drip irrigation

Two months ago I knew little to nothing about drip irrigation. I knew it was a way to get water from a spigot to your plants, but I thought it was magical and complicated stuff. After a lot of research and experimentation I think I finally have a grasp on the subject, and it’s not magical or complicated. John from growing your greens has several super useful drip irrigation videos that you can use to get started with drip irrigation.

Here is his overview of the pieces that go into a drip irrigation system:

Here is his video on drip emitters:

And here is his video on installing a drip irrigation system:

In addition to watching these videos I spent countless hours reading about the various drip system parts and pieces on the Drip Store website. The system I am installing is based on 1/2″ main line, compression adapters, clog free emitters and a special Earthbox drip irrigation attachment. I have drip emitters stationed near my berry bushes and fruit trees, and I’m in the process of rolling out 1/2″ line to all of my raised beds. I’m going to put up several posts in the near future that describe my system. Drip irrigation is super easy to install once you get the basics down.

Hooking your Earthbox Automatic Watering System (AWS) to 1/2″ drip line the easy way

It’s no hidden secret that I’m a big fan of the Earthbox. The self-watering design works great, and it’s the only way I will grow Tomatoes and Peppers (check out this link to see why). The only downside to the Earthbox is watering. When it’s really hot in the summer you often need to fill the reservoir two times a day or your plants will suffer. This year I decided to simplify my life and install an Earthbox Automatic Watering System (AWS). I’m hoping that the constant stream of water during the hot months will decrease work and boost production!

Based on an Earthbox forum post I decided to make some changes to the AWS. I wanted each box to be independently controlled by a ball valve so I could turn the water on, off or reduce the flow. I also wanted a quick detach method so at the end of the season I could bleed the lines, unscrew the drip tube from my 1/2″ line and store it away until the next growing season. After a LOT of research I decided on the following design:

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This set up starts with a compression T that has a threaded end. I attached a ball valve to the threaded end and a threaded 1/4″ compression adapter to that. Since the 1/4″ compression adapter screws into the ball valve, I can unscrew this at the end of the season take the line and emitter inside for storage. From the 1/4″ compression adapter I branched out with 1/4″ line, added a 1/4″ to 1/8″ barb and then ran a chunk of 1/8″ line to the nipple on the AWS emitter. I tested everything yesterday and it worked (more testing is needed though).

When assembling this stuff there are a few items to be aware of. First, soak the 1/8″ line in boiling water for 2 – 3 seconds before attaching it to the nipple on the AWS emitter. With a few simple twists it will go right on. Second, make sure to leave some extra slack in your 1/4″ and 1/8″ line. That way if you need to alter these down the road you won’t need to remove the 1/8″ line from the AWS emitter (I’ve read that they have a tendency to break). And lastly, you need your boxes to be level. This was a bit of a pain, but after a few hours with a level we had the concrete pads they sit on perfectly level.

I can’t wait to see how well this system works this summer. More importantly, I’m looking forward to NOT having to water each individual box 2 – 3 times a day. That eats up a lot of time, and I noticed last summer that some of tomatoes got blossom end rot during the hottest months. There was plenty of calcium (viva la snack!) so I’m pretty certain that the plants didn’t have a steady stream of water. I’ll keep the blog updated with my progress and post pictures of my veggies once they get into full bloom. Can’t wait to start eating them!

Parts list for folks interested in building these:

Ball Valve
1/2″ Compression Tee
1/4″ compression Adapter
1/4″ Barbed x 1/8″ Barbed Connector