This page provides basic information about drip irrigation, how to start a drip irrigation system and the components required. If you choose to move forward and install this type of system, make sure to review your water outlets and the type of connection threads you have. This will help you to select the right option to start your system.
Drip irrigation is the slow, precise application of water and nutrients directly to the plant root zone in a predetermined pattern. A drip irrigation design can be customized to meet specific needs while maintaining an optimum moisture level at the root areas to encourage successful plant growth. A proper balance of water and air is provided directly to each plant, conserving water that might otherwise be lost to non-growth areas, runoff, sun or wind. These benefits can be useful for any commercial, agriculture or residential installation. As long as water is inexpensive, irrigation inefficiency and over-watering may be overlooked. Once water supply is low due to a drought and water restrictions are applied, however, the inefficiencies of a poorly designed and installed irrigation system quickly become apparent. For an irrigation system to be successful, it must be properly designed with appropriate components and layout, and it must be appropriately maintained.
There are various start-up options to installing a drip system and several installation methods. Choose the option that best suits your needs. Properly designed drip irrigation systems begin with what is called the "drip zone" or the zone assembly, which consists of three vital components: the control valve is optional (manual or automatic), the backflow device to prevent contaminate from back siphoning to the water supply, a filter to protect the drip emitters, and a pressure regulator to lower the pressure to the suggested pressure for a drip system. This assembly can be attached to a faucet, anti-siphon valve, in-line valve, or sprinkler riser and can be used with pipe thread or hose thread depending on your needs.
This is the most common method used for drip irrigation installation in home gardening. If using this option to start a system, begin the installation from an outdoor faucet. If you are planning to automate the system with a battery operated controller or a hose end timer (optional), connect the unit to the faucet first, before a backflow device. The next component needed is a backflow device, which you attach to the faucet. (If your faucet already has a brass backflow device as part of the faucet, an additional backflow device is not required). Next, if you wish to apply fertilizer through the system, connect a fertilizer applicator (optional). Next, attach a filter, and then the pressure regulator. This completes the drip zone assembly.
select which type of fitting to use to continue the installation. With installation from a faucet, the fitting used to connect the drip tubing to the drip zone assembly should have a swivel hose thread, sealed by a washer. This 3/4" swivel adapter should be threaded to the pressure regulator, clockwise and "hand tight" only. Tightening with a wrench is not recommended and is usually not necessary using hose thread fittings.
pipe thread: This option uses pipe thread fittings and components and is used generally with inline AC or battery operated valves, PVC pipe or any pipe thread connections. Begin the installation connecting to an existing main line. (Note: This method requires basic plumbing skills - inexperienced installers should contact a plumber or irrigation contractor.)
First, tap into the water service line. This can be done at a faucet or by cutting into your service line before the faucet. You can avoid cutting the service line by removing the faucet and installing a brass threaded "Tee" (line size) just upstream of the faucet. To do so, shut off the water supply and unscrew the faucet from the brass fitting or, if necessary, cut the copper pipe before the faucet and install a tee with the tee outlet facing down. Screw the faucet back into the end of the tee. Next, below the tee, install a 3/4" manual shut-off valve with FNPT (for emergency shut-off), then a 3/4" PVC threaded adapter with slip, then a 3/4" schedule 40 PVC pipe, and lay out the PVC pipe to where you plan to locate the drip zone assembly. (Copper should be use in areas subject to freezing.)
The Drip Store provides several different types of automatic control valves, each designed for the low-flow hydraulic conditions of drip irrigation systems. If your irrigation design calls for more than one control valve, use the same type for each zone. This may involve building a manifold with a series of tees branching off to each valve. Always end the manifold with a PVC cap to make future valve additions easier. Choose either in-line battery operated control valves, in-line AC (electric) valves; battery operated anti-siphon valves or manual anti-siphon valves. Please note that AC valve installations will involve running underground control wires back to an electric controller that may be mounted in your garage.
Below grade installation using in-line battery operated controller valve (pipe thread): use model C001 and complete the head assembly by attaching a 150 mesh 3/4" filter and pressure regulator. Use a 3/4" swivel adapter with pipe thread if the drip tubing is connected to the assembly and used as the supply line. If connecting to a PVC pipe, use a 3/4" PVC adapter with female pipe thread in one side and slip on the other side. Note: Valve and head assembly may be installed into a standard rectangular valve box if below grade installation is required.
Below grade installation using an AC valve: use the Drip Store model VA015 valve assembly, which is a complete drip zone head assembly (including a 3/4" electric valve, 3/4" filter, 3/4" pressure regulator and 3/4" swivel adapter), or build your own system using the same parts individually. This assembly can be connected via electric wire to any available station on your irrigation controller or to our model # C016, six-station AC controller or GQ-AC04, four-station controller with an independent program for each valve.
Above the ground installation using a battery operated controller with anti-siphon valve: use anti-siphon valve and install it on a 3/4" schedule 80 nipple so it is at least 6" to 12" above the highest dripper or sprayer in the system. Complete the head assembly by attaching to the outlet side of the anti-siphon valve a 3/4" filter with 150 mesh and pressure regulator. If using drip tubing, to the pressure regulator attach a 3/4" swivel adapter with hose thread, or, if using PVC pipe, attach a 3/4" PVC female adapter.
Above the ground installation using a manual anti-siphon valve: use any 3/4" manual anti-siphon valve and install it 8" to 12" above the highest dripper or sprayer in the system. Complete the head assembly by attaching to the outlet side of the anti-siphon valve a 3/4" filter with 150 mesh and pressure regulator. If using drip tubing, to the pressure regulator attach a 3/4" swivel adapter with hose thread, or, if using PVC pipe, attach a 3/4" PVC female adapter. This type of valve can be easily converted to automatic operation by installing a battery-operated controller.
Note: A backflow device is not required on systems controlled by anti-siphon valves.
Begin the installation retrofitting an existing 1/2" riser by first unscrewing the sprinkler head from the riser, and then attaching a conversion elbow model A008. Next attach a 3/4" pressure regulator with hose thread and then a 3/4" swivel adapter with hose thread. To the swivel adapter, connect either 1/2" drip tubing or 1/2" drip-line and secure the tubing or the drip line to the ground using tubing holder stake model S040 black or S045 brown. When combining drip irrigation with an existing sprinkler system, be sure to use high flow 4GPH drippers or adjustable drippers with 0 to 20 GPH.
From the valve assembly used, lay out the 1/2" drip tubing above or below grade using the 1/2" fittings to extend the drip tubing in any direction, or using the 1/2" tee and 1/2" elbow as needed. Secure the 1/2" drip tubing to the ground using the 1/2" holder stakes. Use 1/4" fittings with the 1/4" micro tubing (feeder line) and insert the drippers or micro sprinklers into the 1/2" drip tubing or into the end of the 1/4" feeder line as needed.
Connect the PVC pipe to the in-line valve or to the battery operated controller. From the controller or in-line valve lay out the PVC pipe below grade to the area or sections to be watered using slip connector fittings to glue the PVC pipe. In each section to be watered add a 3/4" PVC tee with a slip x 1/2" female thread or elbow with slip x 1/2" thread. To the threaded side of the tee or elbow add a 6" or 8" half-inch riser and to the riser add a conversion elbow, model A008. To the conversation elbow add a 3/4" FHT swivel adapter or swivel tee. Attach the 1/2" drip tubing or drip line and secure the 1/2" drip tubing or drip line to the ground using the 1/2" holder stakes. To the 1/2" drip tubing add drippers or micro sprinklers as needed, according to your plant layout, and use the 1/4" micro tubing as the feeder line to extend from the 1/2" line to the plants. Add the drippers at the end of the micro tubing and secure the micro tubing to the ground using 1/4" stakes.
Unroll the 1/2" drip tubing and lay it out in direct sunlight to make it easier to work with. Use 1/2" stakes to secure the drip tubing to the ground. If the drip tubing is installed below grade, dig trenches 6" to 8" deep to keep the drip tubing safe from cultivation practices. Leave the end of the drip tubing above surface for periodic flushing.
If the installation requires crossing under a concrete walk or driveway, first dig two holes on opposite sides of the walkway. Next, connect a 2 to 4 foot 3/4" PVC pipe to a garden hose by gluing a 3/4" slip x 3/4" FHT to the pipe, then turn on the water and begin forcing the pressurized pipe through the soil. When the end of the pipe reaches the other side, turn off the water and cut the pipe so the hose and fittings can be removed. Now use the PVC pipe as a sleeve and push the drip tubing through the pipe until it appears on the other side.
Once the 1/2" drip tubing has been installed, and then the 1/4" micro tubing can be connected. First attach the micro tubing to the 1/4" barb or 1/4" tee. Then, use the punch to make a hole in the 1/2" drip tubing and insert the barb into the hole. Use the micro tubing as a feeder line to reach plants or clusters of plants that are away from the 1/2" drip tubing and install a dripper or micro sprayer at the end of the micro tubing.
To connect the 1/2" drip tubing, use the 1/2" compression fitting. Cut the drip tubing with a hand pruner, being careful to keep dirt from entering the drip tubing. Hold the fitting in one hand and the drip tubing in the other and force the tubing into the fitting while wiggling the drip tubing from side to side. "Walk" the drip tubing into the fitting until about 1/2" to 3/4" of tubing is inside the fitting.
Note: For other size tubing use the fittings with blue insert for Toro® blue stripe tubing (.710 OD) and the fittings with green insert for Rain Drip® and Rain Bird®(.620 OD)
The 1/4" barb fittings are used to connect 1/4" micro tubing to 1/2" drip tubing or to connect two ends of 1/4" micro tubing. Insert the barb into the end of the 1/4" micro tubing by forcing the micro tubing over the 1/4" barb. To connect the 1/4" micro tubing to the 1/2" drip tubing, punch a hole in the 1/2" drip tubing and insert one side of the 1/4" barb or tee. Then insert the other side of the barb or tee into the end of the 1/4" micro tubing by forcing the micro tubing over the 1/4" barb.
To connect various sizes of 1/2" drip tubing with different OD's, use our reducer coupling for blue stripe with blue x black insert or use our nut-lock fittings, model LF026, for any brand name of drip tubing by removing the nut and inserting it over the drip tubing. Insert the barb side of the nut lock fitting into the drip tubing, and insert the other side of the barb into the nut lock housing. Then thread the nut lock to secure.
The Drip Store offers a wide range of punches. For a small number of drip emitters use our low cost punch model A019. For a large number of emitters or for ease of operation use the larger gun punch model A035. To use the small punch, hold the drip tubing in one hand and with the other apply just enough pressure on the punch while at the same time rotating the punch back and forth to create a hole in the drip tubing. To use the large gun punch, insert the drip tubing into the punch holder and press the handle to punch a hole.
Drip emitters can be installed using one of two methods, and in any installation both methods can be combined.
The first method is for plants that are close to the 1/2" drip tubing. Punch a hole in the 1/2" drip tubing and snap the barb side of the dripper into the drip tubing. Make sure that the minimum spacing between the drippers is not less than 10".
The second method is used for individual plants and plants that are far off from the 1/2" drip tubing. Punch a hole in the 1/2" drip tubing and insert a 1/4" barb or 1/4" tee into the 1/2" drip tubing. Unroll and attach the 1/4" micro tubing to the 1/4" barb or 1/4" tee and then lay the micro tubing out to the individual plant or group of plants. Push the dripper into the end of the micro tubing and secure the dripper using a holder stake.
The drip line is drip tubing with pre-inserted drippers molded in preset spacing into the drip tubing wall. The drip line can be installed below or above the ground and if used above the ground can be covered with mulch to blend it with the landscape. Our PC drip line can be used for installation in planters, islands, or landscape areas. To connect the drip line to the drip tubing, use compression or barb fittings with tees or elbows, and close the end of the line using end cap or hose end. We recommend using the PC drip line with 12" spacing between the drippers on sandy soil, and on loamy soil, with 18" to 24 " between the drippers.
To install micro sprinklers, micro-sprayers, foggers, spray jets and adjustable sprayers, first select the unit flow rate, diameter and pattern. You can use an extension poly riser, found in Accessories, to connect the threaded sprayers and foggers to the drip tubing, or use the complete assembly with stake and micro tubing to connect into the drip tubing. Foggers and spray jets may be installed directly into the 1/2" drip tubing by the same method as used for installing drippers. They should be raised a minimum of 6" above the ground for the best uniformity and coverage. To raise the sprayers or foggers 4" to 8" above the ground, use a 6", 8" or 12" long poly riser with barb. To raise the sprayers 8" above the ground use universal clip stake assembly. If the ability to adjust the flow rate on each micro sprinkler is desired, select adjustable flow micro sprayers as a complete assembly.
Remove the sprinkler from the riser to be used for the drip system. Add the adapter with 1/4" barb model A012, and reattach the sprinkler back to the riser. To the adapter with the 1/4" barb connect the micro tubing and lay out the micro tubing to the area to be watered (ideal for pots near the irrigation system). Near each plant add a 1/4" tee, and from the tee add micro tubing to the plant. Then add a high flow dripper or adjustable dripper and secure the dripper to the ground using a holder stake.
Before turning the system on for the first time, leave all the end of the 1/2" drip tubing open and turn the water on and allow it to run freely for a few minutes. This will flush out any dirt that may be in the system. Turn the system off and close the end of the drip tubing by using either the hose end or the end cap. Turn the system on again and check to see that the drip emitters and micro sprinklers are operating correctly and that there are no leaks in the system. If leakage occurs on 1/2" drip hose at the base of a dripper or micro sprinkler, remove that drip emitter/micro sprinkler, and insert the large size of the goof plug to close the hole and reinsert the dripper or micro sprinkler in another area.
We hope that we provide you with the right information to start your drip irrigation system, if you need more detail see our Drip Irrigation Tutorial with all the details of how to install a drip irrigation system
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Drip irrigation system