Gardening 101: Drip irrigation – CBS DFW

Gardening 101: Drip irrigation – CBS DFW

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Most of the water comes from artificial lakes scattered around our area. With the DFW population projected to increase to 12 million by 2060 (currently 7.8 million), we will not be able to add any lakes. This area needs to learn to use less water. During the summer months, about half of the water used in the DFW area goes to lawns and gardens. So this is a good start.

Last week’s story was about reducing your lawn’s footprint (the goal is a third of your yard). This week is all about the best way to water those sprawling landscape beds. Use drip irrigation.

Drip irrigation is exactly what it says. They slowly drip the water from the ground into the root zone. They put down a drip tube (not a drip tube, my advice is NOT to buy these). This hard plastic hose has small holes every foot (or 6 inches, or 18 inches, or 3 feet: it comes in many shapes) where water slowly drips out when connected to a water source. You’ll wrap it around your plants, or a new bed, about a foot apart (if your drip spacing is 12″). It’s best to do this before laying down a bed of mulch so you can cover the pipe after it’s laid down, thereby it both disappears and is twice as efficient. When you buy the hose, be sure to buy the stakes to hold the cord in place.

There is a special hand tool for cutting and preparing the tubing for installation. It’s less than $15 and you’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t buy one. At its handle end, it has a small bump at one end where you expand the opening to fit each plug.

You need special equipment to attach it to your outdoor faucet. The easiest way to do this (and how I do it) is to build a series of closed loops around your garden (each covering one of your landscape areas) and drag a garden hose over there and hook into it. Screw on your water outlet:

  1. reflux valve so that landscape water (and the dirt it carries) doesn’t flow back into your home water supply
  2. A timer (This is optional, but will probably pay off the first time you run the water all night
  3. A reducer (You must lower your water pressure for this system to work, otherwise the higher pressure will destroy the line you just inserted.)
  4. A filter (to reduce the worst [to your plants] about DFW water, it’s hard)

Attach your tubing to this end and pull it to each section. Most areas only need about 30-45 minutes of drip time. I highly recommend using a water moisture meter (you can get one at any home and garden center) to keep track of your watering needs.

And here’s a little secret. All those irrigation systems in the metroplex that supply professional irrigation companies? You can go into any of them and get your own pieces. I’m lucky I have one not even half a mile from my house. I have found that the people who work there know the installation back and forth and can offer a lot of advice.

I remodel all my beds. It may take two years, but what I save in water usage is paid for in materials. Even better, plants thrive much better with a drip system as it encourages deeper roots. And deeper roots mean healthier plants that can survive the Texas heat.

But it’s still a lot. Even half that 245 gallons per day is equivalent to filling and emptying a typical bathtub about twice. By 2010, consumption per person is expected to increase to 258 gallons per day. Both numbers are well above the state average, currently about 170 gallons per person per day. And in the summer, we use half of that water for our lawns — and our driveways and sidewalks and any passing neighbors.

jeff ray