Improve with home garden irrigation


story tease

By Bob Eister

OSU Ext. master gardener volunteer

I am always looking to improve my garden, starting with building some raised beds and using straw bale techniques to save some backaches.

Now is the time for me to address watering methods since plants need an adequate supply of water to grow. This should be at least one inch of water per week for vegetable gardens.

When I was a young man, I carried the heavy containers of water to my plants. Later, I switched to irrigation by sprinkling. I tried to adjust the sprinkler so it watered only the area of my garden. However, I still wasted over 40 percent of the water as it evaporated from the plant leaves and pooled in the compacted walkways of my garden. Sprinkling water on top of a plant can also create the perfect environment for disease development. Plants get their water from the ground through the roots, so I researched ways to place the water there first.

I decided to create a drip-irrigation system that supplies water directly to the roots using supply lines, emitters, tubing, a soaker hose, and PVC piping. The emitters supply the water directly to the base of each plant or between two plants. Supply lines bring water to the emitters. The cost was about $50. It depends on the run lengths to cover the beds.

Soaker hoses or PVC pipes can be set up to allow water to seep out slowly over the entire length. PVC piping is similar to the tubing method but uses small 1/16 -inch holes drilled in the PVC lines instead of emitters. This is good for crops like corn that are planted at regular intervals. I will start by drilling holes every 6 inches in the length of the PVC pipe. The hole pattern may change due to the water pressure setting and the crop type that is planted.

I assembled and glued my PVC manifold to supply three PVC pipe runs and an emitter supply line. The PVC running pipes have the holes drilled to drip the water out. The running pipes are just pushed in to the manifold and a pipe cap pushed on the end. The pipe cap can be removed for line cleaning. Pressure is varied by the valve to get the desired flow rate. The emitter line will have flexible tubes to carry the water to emitters placed near the base of each plant.

I also plan to add a liquid fertilizer dispenser to the drip-irrigation systems. I also decided to install a timer, which can be set to water in the mornings, giving the plants the water they need to survive the heat of the day.

Drip-irrigation systems must be carefully maintained as they can clog up if the water source is not clean and they can also be sensitive to water pressure. Most systems use a water filter or fine screen and pressure regulators.

Different plants and weather conditions determine how much water is required, but in general, plants need 1/4 inch of water per day or 1 inch of water every four days. A deep soaking is usually better for the plants to develop a good root system. Remember to use mulch to help retain the moisture.

To plan your irrigation system, visit: http://go.osu.edu/homeirrigation.

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