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Laying out tubing

Tips Before You Start
This whole section might seem like a lot of nothing at first glance. You may be surprised at just how much information will be given here and how the simple job of laying out your tubing relates to many other things on your system. As always planning beforehand is very important and knowing a few tricks helps also.

  1. Warm the tubing in the sun before you start. Polytube is flexible, but it is even more so as it gets warm. Having the tubing warm in the sun is quick because it is black and collects the heat. Even on cool sunny days it will warm up more than the air temperature.
    Once the tubing is warm it will lay flat much easier and you will not have to fight with it. It will also need fewer stakes to hold it in place. Once the tubing is in place and has been there for a few days it will form to the shape it is in and not want to twist or move anymore.
  2. Unroll the tubing!!! We cannot tell you how important this is. If you just pull one end out of the coil without unrolling it you will have many "kinks" in the tubing and these are very hard to get rid of! Remember kinks in the tubing will block the water passage and if bad enough will not allow any water past them.
    Take the coil of tubing and place one end under a large rock or cinder block where you want the end to be. Then roll the coil of tubing along the ground. This will allow the tubing to be dispensed the same as it was coiled at the manufacturer which helps avoid making kinks in it. You can also hold the coil in your hand and unroll it as you go.
  3. Have a good sharp pair of pruning shears to cut the tubing with. You need to make good clean cuts on the polytube. Also make sure your cuts are square and not angled. This will make inserting the polytube in fittings much easier. You may think of using a knife.......not a good idea, we have tried and we were lucky to come away with all our fingers!
  4. Grab a cinder block to hold one end of the tube as you lay it out, small bricks or stones also help when placed on the tube where you need to make a turn. Use the S006 1/2" tubing holder stakes to hold the tube in the final position; they can sometimes pull up easily on the initial laying of the tubing, too. Be patient and push them down again. Soon they will hold the tube without assistance.
  5. Always lay out lengths of polytube longer than you think you need. Once you do the final adjusting, still leave the ends longer than needed until all drippers and microsprinklers are all installed, tested and you are happy with the system layout. Then cut the ends at the final length. This can lessen the "frustration" factor by about 10 points! Make sure to give yourself extra tubing at the head assembly, also. (Another 10 frustration points gone, sometimes more!).

Landscaping Layout
This section talks about laying tubing in an area of mixed plant types and trees. This is the general layout most homeowners will have.
When making your zones, try to have all the same types of plants on the same zone. Sometimes this just does not work and you will end up with different types of plants on a single zone. There is nothing wrong with this, but you need to take your time when laying out the tubing.
What you are trying to accomplish here is the most economical way to lay out the tubing. This means you want to have the 1/2" polytube lay next to as many plants that need drippers on them as possible. It is better to have most drippers inserted directly into the 1/2" polytube. This prevents us from having a spider web of 1/4" microtube laying all over the ground  saving time, money, and frustration points!
Make sure to use Tee's and elbows wherever you need them so you get as many plants watered with drippers in the 1/2" polytube as possible. Remember not to get crazy about this, not everything can always be done with just the 1/2" polytube, but it is best to do as much as you can with it.

If you will be using some microsprinklers along with drippers, try to have a section of the 1/2" polytube in the general vicinity of where the sprinkler will be. The sprinkler can be several feet away from the 1/2" polytube because it will connect with a bit of 1/4" microtube anyway. This is covered more in depth in the "Microsprinkler" section of the tutorial
Once you feel you have the tubing laid out as close as possible, walk along or follow with your eyes the entire length to see if you can spot anything that looks wrong.

After this you will need to flush the tubing. After flushing the tubing, place drippers and microsprinklers as needed. As you install the drippers and microsprinklers place S006 1/2" polytube holder stakes in the line to keep it from moving. This will keep the drippers in place next to plants.
If you run into plants the 1/2" polytube cannot reach, use a bit of 1/4" microtube attached to the 1/2" polytube to reach the plant with a dripper in the end of the microtube. Use a S003 or S005 1/4" stake to keep the 1/4" microtube and dripper in place next to the plant.

Vegetable Garden Layout
Most often, a vegetable garden is planted in parallel rows. This makes the layout of our drip system very easy.
What you do is run a single mainline along one end of all the rows and place a Tee in the mainline at each row. You would then run the tubing down each row.
This concept applies to *ALL* the different types of tubing, 1/2" Dripper Line ,1/2" Soaker Tape ,1/4" Dripper Line and 1/4" Laser Drilled Soaker Line . There are some special layouts which apply to each of the different types listed above but the concept of the initial layout remains the same, you want to supply each row via a main line.

  • Mainlines
    If you have a very large vegetable garden you may run into the limitations of the maximum flow allowed on a single 1/2" .700 polytube of 220 GPH. If so, you can change the mainline to a larger polytube or even PVC. In this case you will want to have a mainline size no larger than what can be supplied by your water source. In very large applications it becomes necessary to use a large head assembly and mainline. In this way you can supply water not only to many more rows but also have much longer individual rows. This is getting away from the homeowner aspects, but it is handy to know as some of our customers do pretty large vegetable gardens.
  • 1/2" Dripper Line
    Dripper Line can be done just as described above, but two other ways could be used, which are just variations on the same theme.
    The first is to make what is called a "closed system". This would have your row connected to the mainline at one end, run down the row and then loop back running up the next row to attach back into the mainline at the start of the second row. This method is used mostly for very long rows to help keep the pressure up. It is not something needed for most homeowner systems.
    The second is to run each row with a flush valve at the ends. This again is used most often where the rows are very long and there also is worry of sediment accumulating over time.
    Make sure that each dripper will be next to the plant to water. You will need to stake down the line ends so that heat and cold do not cause it to move because of expansion and contraction of the tubing.
  • 1/4" Dripper Line
    This is a much smaller diameter size tubing so the maximum line lengths are much less than with the 1/2" size tubing. It should only be used for shorter single runs. The nice thing about this is that the water flow can be in any direction so laying down the lines takes no special care on the flow direction. Make sure that each dripper will be next to the plant to water. You will need to stake down the line ends so that heat and cold do not cause it to move because of expansion and contraction.
  • 1/2" Soaker Tape
    Once again this is used with the same mainline layout. The main difference between Soaker Tape and other Drip Lines is that the tube walls are much thinner. This allows the tube to "collapse" when there is no water pressure. This is important because you can take this tube up at the end of the growing season and store it much easier than normal polytube. For the purpose of installation, though, you must be careful not to make anything but the most gradual turns with this product. If the turn is enough, the tube will kink and stop the flow of water. This tube is also the most prone to expansion and contraction, so make sure to stake down the line ends to keep the tube from snaking and drawing away from the plants.
  • 1/4" Laser Drilled Soaker Hose
    This product will allow the shortest single line lengths of all the above products. Where this product may do the best is to circle individual plants like pumpkins or squash, which grow not in a closely planted row but much further apart. You can run solid 1/2" polytube down the row and come off of it with a 1/4" fitting. Then circle the base of the plant with the laser drilled hose. This will give you a good amount of water all around the plant.
  • Densely Planted Crops
    Many people are now using planting methods that place plants closer together than before, maximizing the production per square foot of garden space and minimizing the penetration of weeds. In this situation, you would not do well trying to water each individual plant, it would be silly if not impossible.
    What you would want to do in this instance is to soak the entire area, not individual plants. To accomplish this you will need to have the drippers no more than 8" to 10" apart. What this means is not only having the drippers close together in each line but to also have the rows closer.

    Here are a few tips on doing this.
    The common rule on any type of dripper line is not to have the drippers closer than 12" inches together. If they are closer, performance might be affected.  You can find some special order tubing with the drippers down to 8" apart, but this is not the norm. To get by this effect we can still use the 12" spacing, but the lines need to be placed closer together. It is also helpful to alternate the starting position of the first dripper in the line row for row in a staggered set up. The first row would have the dripper 12" from the mainline and the next row would only have the first dripper 6" from the mainline. In this case if you make a grid with row lines spaced about 10" apart you should be able to wet the entire area.
    Some of this depends on your soil type; sandy soil needs closer spacing while very good loam type soil needs lesser spacing. You will have to do a little testing to see exactly what works in your conditions.

    Remember this may not be practical on very large areas so if this is the case microsprinklers may be a better choice.

Trees & Shrubs
Trees and shrubs are by far the easiest to lay out but there are a few different ways of doing it. Here are the most common.

  1. For shrubs that are planted close together like a hedge, the best way is to run your 1/2" polytube is along the base of the plants and install a dripper next to each plant. Or if they are very close you may want to just place a dripper between each plant.
  2. For shrubs that are separated by more distance you should start by running the 1/2" polytube close to them. You have the option to either place a dripper directly into the 1/2" polytube next to the plant, or you can circle the plant with the 1/2" polytube and place two or more drippers around the plants base. If circling the plant and using more than one dripper be aware of how much water this will give the plant in the duration your system will run. Use lower flow emitters if you need to.
  3. For trees much depends on the size of the tree and you need to keep in mind the future growth of the tree. For some trees it is common the run the 1/2" polytube near them and then to use a microsprinkler to water a larger area.
    You may also decide to use just drippers rather than microsprinklers. With drippers you will need to circle the tree's trunk about midway between the outside leaf canopy and the trunk. The drippers will be evenly spaced around the circle so the entire area will get water and not just one side.
    There are two methods to circle the tree with 1/2" polytube. The first is to place a 1/2" tee in the mainline passing the tree. Then circle the tree with the 1/2" polytube starting from the tee. Next, place an A006 line end at the end of the polytube circle. You should make sure to circle the tree about 1-1/2 times to allow you to expand the circle as the tree grows. This is a very easy method allowing for future growth and the adjustment of the polytube as needed. This method will use more components, but the trade off is worth it most times.
    The second way is to take the mainline and circle each tree as you go. This will not allow for future expansion of the polytube if the tree will be growing a lot, but if the tree is mature already your just fine! This way you will save on the extra fittings needed in the above example.

Potted Plants
This subject could be a section on its own! The basic concept is the same as any of the layouts with 1/2" polytube......with the exception that drippers can only be placed at the *ENDS* of the 1/4" microtube! Then the dripper is placed in the pot. This fact is important so please remember it! Now there are some exceptions, but very few, and you will read about them below.

  • Concept
    Because potted plants are much smaller and more contained then garden plants, you will use much less of 1/2" size polytube. It can still be used for a mainline, but all the feeder lines going to individual pots will likely be 1/4" microtube with a dripper on the end. You can use a complete system of just 1/4" microtube but remember there are limitations!
      Limitations of using 1/4" microtube ONLY for potted plants:
    1. Maximum flow through 1/4" microtube is 35 GPH (Gallons Per Hour)
      This will limit you to 70 - 1/2 GPH drippers or 35 - 1 GPH drippers or 17 - 2 GPH drippers ect.
    2. Try not to exceed about 75 ft. of 1/4" microtube.
    3. You will still need all the normal head assembly components!
  • System Layout Using 1/2" Polytube
    When using the 1/2" polytube as the mainline you have the increased water flow; to go up to 220 GPH. This will likely allow you to water all your potted plants on a single watering zone. To do this make a normal head assembly and run the 1/2" polytube as the mainline so it will go somewhat close to all the potted plants. By close it could be 20 ft. away, but be aware you will have to run the 1/4" microtube from the mainline to each pot. Keep this in mind and you will see what the best route for the mainline is. Here again, not to confuse you but remembering the maximum flow of 1/4" microtube at 35 GPH, you can water multiple pots from one connection on the 1/2" polytube mainline.
    You would connect to the 1/2" polytube with a SF001 1/4" barb or Tee and then use SF003 1/4" tees to split the microtube to each plant. (see 1/4" fittings )
  • System Layout Using 1/4" Microtube
    The layout for microtube is the same in principle but the system on a whole will be smaller. You will need to use 1/4" Tees where you want to tap into the 1/4" mainline. This is all very flexible and really only limited by the total flow of 35 GPH, the total distance of the microtube of about 75 ft. and your imagination!
  • Notes:
    1. On any of the above layouts you will need to place the drippers on the end of the microtube in the pot. Use a S003 or S005 microtube holder stake to keep it in place in the pot.
    2. If your water supply line or any of your main lines are *HIGHER* than the drippers the water in the higher tubing will drain out through the drippers!
    3. If any of your system is higher than your backflow the backflow will drain the water out when the system turns off!!

Advanced Topics!
If what has been mentioned above suits your needs you can skip this section because it will be long and involve individual products and how they can be used. It may touch on something that would work for you so feel free to read on! It's your time!!

  • Microsprinklers & Spray Stakes
    You can use microsprinklers in larger potted plants. This is used commercially in what is called the "Pot in Pot" system.
    To use a microsprinkler in a pot you can do it the conventional way by pointing it upwards or you can do it like the "Pot in Pot" system and point the sprinkler downwards. To point it downwards you can use a S001 clip stake and just turn the sprinkler upside down and clip it on the stake. This works nicely because you can adjust the height of the sprinkler to spray a larger area of the pot. We would suggest using model MS006 or MS001 for this purpose. Another item that could be used would be the D031 or D032 which are adjustable drippers, the D032 comes on a stake so it would not be able to work upside down.

    Spray stakes are like sprinklers but work a little differently.

  • Inline Emitters
    Inline emitters are just that. They are placed "inline" on 1/4" microtube. this means that the microtube goes on the water inlet side and another piece of microtube goes on the outlet side. This allows the emitter to take and despense the water it needs and allow the remaining water to pass along down the line to another emitter. You can place several emitters in a row to create your own custom soaker line.
    Why we mention this here is because it works very nice in larger potted plants allowing you to wet a larger area in an equally dispersed pattern around the plant. They will give less water than a microsprinkler so this could be an advantage. Please note that these emitters are directional! This means that you need to place them with the water flowing only in one direction.
    Some customers have told us that they have larger square or rectangular beds in containers. These also are good conditions to try the inline emitters or the below 1/4" Dripper Line. Laying rows of either one will allow you to soak the entire area depending upon how close you place the drippers and the lines.
  • 1/4" Dripper Line & 1/4" Laser Drilled Soaker Hose
    Pretty much the same applies to both of these as the above in-line emitters except they are already assembled. The 1/4" dripper line can have the water flow through it in any direction. The 1/4" laser drilled soaker hose is directional, so you must install it with the water flowing in the right direction. Make sure to pay attention to the maximum line lengths for both of these products; 1/4" microtube cannot flow as much water as the 1/2" so the lengths are limited depending on the flow rates and the spacing of the drippers. See the specification pages for each of the products, all the info will be there.
  • Hiding Tubing
    Most of the time when running tubing to potted plants it will be on patios, wooden decks, porches and on concrete patios. In these locations the biggest concern is to hide the lines. Here are a few tips!

    If you have a wooden patio you can hide both sizes of tubing fairly easy. Try to run the tubing along inside edges of the framework buy using our "C" Clamps A004 and A005. These clamps have a nail in them to go right into wood and will hold the tubing in place. By using these and by using elbows on the tubing you can keep it really tight along the wood
    Another neat trick, if your deck is raised, is to go underneath with all the lines and then come up through a slot on the decking or drill a small hole right where each pot is located. Some pots have drain holes in the bottom and we have one customer who came from under the deck, through a slot in the decking and into the pot from the hole in the bottom. He then ran the tubing up to the top of the pot and placed his dripper / sprinklers. You cannot see anything!!
    If you have a concrete patio it is much harder to hide the tubing, but one trick is to run the 1/4" polytube along the bottom of the house walls where the concrete deck meets the house. To hold it in place, one customer used some type of caulking. The polytube was fixed to the concrete patio by placing a dap of calking every 1 ft. or so and then pushing the tube into it. When the caulking dried it held the tubing in place and the customer said he might try to paint the tube at some point. In this case take note that we have both black and brown color microtube! Make sure to get the closest match.
    Another customer purchased the brown microtube and ran it up under the eves of his house bringing it down in the corners of the house to the potted plants. He used the C clamps to hold it up on the eves.