Adding drip irrigation to your garden can be as easy as purchasing some drip line form the local hardware or home improvement store and hooking it up to your existing outdoor spigot. It doesn’t have to be a fancy in-ground system for a home garden. You can even add a timer to it to get all of the advantages of a professionally installed drip system with very little effort.

Advantages of drip irrigation lines:

  • 90% efficiency compared to 65%-70% efficiency for standard sprinklers
  • Reduced water loss from runoff
  • Reduced water loss to evaporation
  • Disease prevention by minimizing the amount of water that comes in contact with leaves and stems
  • Targeted watering reduces weed growth
  • Saves both time and money
  • Increased effectiveness on the uneven ground (raised planting hills)
  • Reduced leeching of water below the root zone
  • Improved plant strength and yield

Parts and Labor

There are several assembly pieces that you will need to purchase to create a safe and efficient system. You’ll need a backflow preventer, a pressure regulator, a 150 mesh filter (or better), a tubing adapter, drip line tubing, emitters and an end cap. The system should be set up as shown in this diagram found on Irrigationtutorials.com.

simple drip system

Installation Tips

Your drip tubing will be a semi-hard black polyethylene tube that emitters can be pushed directly into (your system will also come with plugs so you can move or adjust emitter placement throughout the year). Row planted gardens should have emitters placed evenly throughout the rows (24 inches apart is suggested for most crops).

When using the system to water plants outside of the garden, the best rule of thumb is to place two emitters per plant – one on either side. This will give your plant a full spreading root system and create a balance below and above ground. Emitters on a single line should be placed no closer than 18 inches. A higher frequency can reduce the effectiveness of the drip line at the end of the hose run. It can also result in overwatering of the plants in the poorly spaced area.

Run Time and Initial Cost

Drip systems should run from sun-up to sundown every day, unless there has been rain. An automatic timer system can be added to the setup, or you can simply turn the valve at the beginning of the day and turn it back off when the sun goes down. There is very limited labor involved.

The typical cost of a home drip system run between $200 and $600 depending on the size of the garden. For reference, the Demonstration Vegetable Garden located at URI East Farm irrigates 4,300 square feet cost about $500 in materials. Your system is probably going to be smaller if you are doing a home garden.