Different plant species have different water needs. It’s easy to over-water or under-water a garden, whether you’re growing flowers, shrubs, or vegetables.
Over-watering can harm your plants as much as under-watering. Plants that prefer dryer soil will wilt in saturated soil, just like water-needy plants in dry soil.
At Anawalt Lumber, Hardware, and Nursery, we can help you create an efficient drip irrigation system for your flower beds and vegetable gardens for the best possible results. It starts with these four principles:
- Plant your garden in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil.
- Know each plant’s watering requirements.
- Regulate the amount of water each sprinkler or emitter dispenses.
- Efficiently dispense the right amount of water to each plant.
Well-Draining & Nutrient Rich Soil
- Southern California soils are silty and sandy. They tend to drain well but are nutrient-poor. They might be rocky, like a river bed (which some once were), necessitating the removal of bigger rocks.
- Amending soils with mulch will improve them. They’ll have better water retention, proper drainage, and a robust nutrient profile.
- Another option is to build raised beds and fill them with a new mixture of rock-free planting soil.
- Anawalt stocks and recommends Kellogg’s soil and mulch products to mix with existing soil. They work equally well in standard and raised beds.
Knowing Each Plant’s Water Requirements
Coneflowers need less water than marigolds. Tomato plants need less water than zucchini. Watering a tomato plant like zucchini will lead to poor results, and vice versa.
Emitter Watering Rates (gallons per hour)
It’s important to know:
- Which type of emitters to use in your irrigation system
- How many gallons of water per minute or hour the emitters deliver
- How much time to set for each garden zone
Sprinklers disperse a lot of water over a large area. They’re great for grass lawns but inefficient for bedding plants. Bubblers are more efficient than sprinkler heads, but they also flood areas that don’t need water.
Drip irrigation is the most efficient watering system. You can set it up to deliver only as much water as each plant needs. There’s no runoff or waste.
At Anawalt, we carry drip irrigation products for complete systems and can help you plan them.
Installing Drip Irrigation
- 1/2″ tubing without emitters. You buy the emitters separately, install them yourself, and route them to each plant.
- Pros: You have more control over water delivery, down to the amount of water each plant receives and at which time of day.
- Cons: Cost and time. It takes a lot of tubing and drip emitters for this setup and time and effort to install it. Flexibility is limited; any planting changes may necessitate reconfiguration of the system.
- 1/2″ tubing with emitters.
- Pros: Emitters are pre-installed; there’s no need to buy tubing and separate emitters. You can always add more tubing to your system for the plants with higher water demands.
- Cons: 1/2″ tubing is bulky and cumbersome in a densely planted flower bed. Emitters typically occur at 12″ or 18″ increments only, making it difficult to align them with plants.
- Recommended Method: 1/2″ tubing (no emitters) and micro tubing with emitters.
- Pros: 1/2″ tubing carries water to the beds. Micro tubing with emitters delivers water to each plant. Micro tubing and emitters come pre-installed, saving time and money. Emitters are placed at 6″, 12″, or 18″ increments — 6″ emitter spacing is the most efficient in flower beds or vegetable gardens. Runs can include micro tubing with different emitter spacing to match the idiosyncrasies of your garden. 1/2″ tubing with pre-installed micro tubing is cheaper than tubing with separate micro tubing and emitters. If a plant needs more water than the emitter’s gallonage rating, you can install more micro tubing on the line.
- Cons: Runs of micro tubing with emitters can’t exceed 18′. Micro tubing requires more stakes than 1/2″ tubing with emitters, adding cost and lending to a more cluttered look.
How to Install Our Recommended Drip Irrigation System
- 1/2″ poly supply tube (comes in varying lengths from 50′, 100′, and longer)
- 1/4″ micro tubing with emitters spaced 6″ apart (comes in 100′ lengths)
- Male connectors
- T connectors
- 1/2″ threaded male adapter to connect the valve to the supply line tube
- End of supply line diaphragm or pincher
- Pipe cutter or clippers to cut the supply pipe and tubing
- Hole punch to create a hole in the supply tube
- Mallet for pounding in stakes
- Tape measure
- Connect 1/2″ tubing to the valve (the valve should have a filter).
- Roll out 1/2″ tubing to your flower or vegetable garden. Stake down the tubing and tie off the ends of the supply lines with a supply line pincher or a diaphragm that bleeds out the air.
- Measure the distances for each row. 18′ is the maximum. This will tell you how many rows you can cover.
- Connect the micro tubing to the 1/2″ supply tube.
- Lay out the micro tubing rows. Weave the micro tubing between plants in each row and stake the micro tubing in place as needed.
- Plants and shrubs with higher water demands should have more emitters placed around them. Dig a circular reservoir around larger plants like roses.
- Plug the ends of the micro tubing to seal off leaks.
- Set up your timer.
- We recommend the Orbit B-hyve timer, available at Anawalt stores. You can manage it via a cell phone app.
- Set up your drip irrigation zones based on how many gallons per hour the emitters will dispense and how much water the plants need. Example: Emitters will provide 1/2 gallon of water per hour. The plants each need 1 quart of water, so the timer would be set to 30 minutes.
- Frequency of watering will be determined by soil moisture. The Orbit B-hyve timer can track soil moisture by zone.