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Drip irrigation installation on various crops (toggle)

How to install a drip system in a vegetable garden

Most vegetable gardens are grown in rows and consist of two types of plantings. These are evenly spaced , or densely planted.

For each of the methods above, to install drip irrigation you can select one of the systems below:

  1. Basic Layout Tips:
  2. Before we get into the actual layout of the drip system we need to understand the underlying reasons for making layouts in different ways. We should address the different types of vegetable gardens. We may not name your specific type of planting method but a review of the most common should provide a good starting point.
    • Evenly spaced: Use with corn, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, melons. Normal layout of the plants is in a row with all the plants spaced equally between 12" and 60" apart. The drippers should be spaced one per plant.
    • Densely Planted: This would include plants like carrots, radishes and most herbs. When growing these types of plants some "thinning" may be done but the plants will normally be very close together. With very closely grown plants you need to make sure that the entire area around the plants gets water. To do this the drippers need to be placed 10" to 12" apart to ensure a very even distribution of water.
    • Button drippers inserted at various spacings on 1/2" drip line This is definitely the most versatile method available. The basic installation is to lay out one drip tubing per each row (see picture). You can install the drippers at any spacing you like and you can use any dripper flow rate. We suggest that you select one flow rate for the all plants. The tubing can be used year-after-year. The only real disadvantage with this system is the labor of installing the drippers, and that it is not as easy to pick up and store for the winter as drip-line and drip tape are.
    • 1/2" or 1/4" Drip Line with Preinserted Drippers at Preset Spacing This is the easiest way to install drip irrigation on rows in a vegetable garden. The drippers are preinserted in preset spacing inside the drip tubing. The 1/2" drip line can be run in very long lengths but the 1/4" has length limitations. Consider it for smaller rows of up to 15 ft only. See detail specifications on 1/4" drip-line. The advantage of this system is that all the drippers' flow rates are the same, allowing you full control of the system flow rate . It is also easy to take up and store for the winter.
    • Drip Tape with Preinserted Drippers at 12" spacing This is the most economical method and the easiest method to pick up and store during the winter. The drip tube(tape) is a thin walled tube with the drippers installed inside in a 12" spacing. The drip tape lays flat when the system is off and expands under water pressure. It works great for straight rows which can be very long. Drip tape uses a special type of fitting that is used only with the drip tape. See Fittings. The drip tape flow rate is 32 gallons per 100' per hour at a pressure of about 10 PSI ( use with a 10PSI pressure regulator. The drip tape is not made for the same lifespan as the thicker walled tubing but it can last for up to 5 years. No drippers can be installed into this tape as the wall thickness on the tubing will not support them.

No matter which layout you have, you can choose any of the above systems. You will have a number of parallel rows of plants with the drip lines running down them. You will supply water to each of these rows by having a main supply line running across one end of the rows and tapping into this line to supply the drip line running down each row. See pictures to get a better idea. Don't forget that the main supply line running across all the rows must be able to supply enough water for all the rows' requirements. Add up all the drippers' flow rates to get your total water requirements. Maximum recommended flow rate from a single 1/2" poly tube is 220 gallons per hour (GPH). If your total water requirement from is more than this then you might want to use 3/4" poly tube or a 3/4" or larger PVC main line. As with all drip systems, be sure you start with a filter and then a pressure regulator and if you need to automate the system use one of our battery control units.