Over the Garden Fence

Over the Garden Fence | Gardens thrive on drip-irrigation water conservation system

July 12, 2014 

The issue of having adequate water supplies for agricultural use and for domestic consumption is becoming critical throughout the country, specifically in Florida and California. One way we can conserve water is through the use of drip irrigation in the home garden. It is a system of irrigation that has many advantages and is used around the world to conserve precious water resources. It is the technology that allowed the country of Israel with its limited water resources to cause the desert to bloom.

Drip irrigation is a method of applying small amounts of water, often on a daily basis, to the plant’s root zone. I am not referring to soaker-hose technology, which is made from recycled tires and from which the water oozes out of the many pores in the hose. I am referring to drip tube or tape in which openings are spaced usually for the home garden at 12 inches apart and the water literally drips out.

There are several advantages to using drip irrigation:

• Drip irrigation may require less than half of the water needed for overhead sprinkler irrigation.

• High levels of water management are achieved because plants can be supplied with precise amounts of water and no applications are made between the rows or other non-productive areas.

• Diseases may be lessened because foliage remains dry.

• Activities such as planting, pruning and harvesting can continue in the garden while you water.

• Fertigation can be used as a means of introducing soluble fertilizers efficiently to the roots through the drip-irrigation system.

• Soil erosion and nutrient leaching can be reduced.

A drip-irrigation system for your garden can use your household water faucet as your source of water and a garden hose as your supply line. A small screen filter (3/4-inch, 200-mesh), a pressure regulator (3/4-inch irrigation pressure reducer at 10 pounds per square inch at four to 16 gallons per minute) and a pressure gauge will ensure a clean water supply and reduce the operation pressure of the system. Depending where you obtain your components, the cost of the unit described should be about $50.

A pressure gauge on the unit is used to track any changes in pressure that might indicate a potential clog. The fertigation unit (which supplies soluble fertilizer through the drip-irrigation system) consists of a simple Venturi-type system brass siphon mixer connected to a faucet. To have a sufficient flow rate for the siphon to draw the soluble fertilizer (such as Miracle Grow or other brands of soluble fertilizers) out of the bucket, a minimum of 500 feet of 0.4 gallons per minute flow rate drip tape or tube is required. A simple backflow prevention device should be inserted ahead of the fertigation unit to ensure that no injected fertilizer or other chemical could enter the water source.

If you would like learn more about drip irrigation and the kits available, visit www.berryhilldrip.com or call 800-345-3747. Help conserve water by using drip irrigation in the garden.

Bill Lamont is a professor and extension vegetable specialist in Penn State’s department of plant science and can be reached at wlamont@psu.edu.

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