When it comes to irrigating your garden, a drip irrigation system can’t be beat. You can purchase a kit, buy separate pieces to assemble or try your hand at DIY drip irrigation for the garden. There are several types of DIY drip irrigation systems, none particularly challenging to assemble. Keep reading to learn how to make your own homemade slow drip irrigation system.
What is a Drip Irrigation System?
Drip irrigation consists of tubing placed above the ground with emitters that slowly drip water into the root system of a plant. The system can get more complex, but the general idea is incredibly simple.
Benefits to Drip Irrigation
There are a number of benefits to a drip or slow irrigation system. Only drip irrigation is 90% efficient compared to sprinklers which run at 65-75% efficiency. Certainly soaker hoses are also a method of delivering irrigation slowly, but the amount of water they deliver is unregulated.
Drip irrigation systems are efficient vehicles for providing water to plants, which means they save time, money and water. They water at the base allowing the rest of the plant to stay dry, which is important since wet plants foster diseases. Because the water only targets the roots of the plants, pathways between plants remain dry effectively suppressing weed growth. Drip systems also reduce runoff and evaporation.
Cons of Drip Systems
Drip irrigation systems do have some down sides. They generally require maintenance, emitters can become clogged using water high in minerals, and insects and rodents can nibble through the tubing, resulting in leaks.
The Simplest DIY Watering System
The simplest system to set up involves a 2 liter soda bottle and a drill. That’s it. This type of system is great as a temporary watering system if you are going on vacation. Use a clean, 2 liter soda bottle with the label removed. Upend the bottle and drill 5 small holes into the bottom of the bottle. Fill the bottle with water, cap it, and then place the drilled end atop the soil in a plant container.
You may also drill additional holes around the bottom half of the bottle which will allow this simple homemade slow drip system to provide more water to plants. In this case, bury the bottle halfway into the soil after filling it with water.
Bucket DIY Irrigation System
Another incredibly simple DIY watering system involves a 5 gallon bucket (19 L) along with ½ inch (1 cm) tubing, grommet, cinder blocks, stones or lumber, ⅝ inch (1.5 cm) valved coupler, cotton cloth or mesh screen, barbed ⅝ (1.5 cm) inch tee and a cord or sturdy string. Tools you will need are a drill, knife or box cutter.
Drill a hole in the bottom of the bucket large enough for the grommet to slide into but not so large it will leak. Insert the grommet, and then the coupler into the grommet. They should fit snugly.
Using the cinder blocks, stones or lumber, make a stand for the bucket. It should be around 40 inches (1 m) tall. Place the bucket atop the structure. Attach the tubing to the coupler, allowing the tubing to reach almost to the ground.
Attach the tee to the open end of the tubing. Up to 48 feet (14.6 m) of tubing can be attached per tee. Lay the tubing along the ground where you intend to irrigate plants. Secure the tubing with fabric staples so it doesn’t curl. Crimp the open ends of the tubing and tie off with rope or sturdy string.
Punch holes in the tubing: about 15 inches (38 cm) apart. Insert the emitters into these holes. Fill the bucket with water. Cover the bucket with cotton cloth or mesh screen and secure it with cord. This will keep the bucket free from detritus that can clog the system.
If an emitter seems to be clogged, open the tied end of the tubing and allow water to wash any debris out, then close the end again.
DIY Irrigation System Using Gravity
If you are living off the grid and have no access to piped water, then you likely already collect rainwater from the roof of your home. This water will be collected in rain barrels, large outdoor garbage cans or even buckets, often to then be stored in a larger storage tank.
Once you have stored water, all you will need is gravity and a few simple parts. Kits are available for the novice or you can choose to try your hand at a rain-fed irrigation system on your own. Ideally your storage tank will be situated on a slight slope above the garden area or you can build a stand.
At the very least you will need male/female connector, tubing, emitter, filter, drip tape, and plumber’s clay.
Additional DIY Irrigation System Ideas
Another way of creating a simple irrigation system is using PVC piping which can be used in raised beds, greenhouses, orchards, and the home garden. Life expectancy using PVC piping is 10-12 years, fertilizer can be introduced by using an injector, and the entire structure is sturdy. The only caveat is that the ground must be fairly flat for a PVC irrigation system to work.
If you want to create a DIY irrigation system using drip system components, it is best to map out exactly what you want the system to cover. This will help you with measurements for the drip lines themselves as well as how many emitters, connectors, end caps, etc you may need.
- Other than tubing or hose, you will need a leader hose, or non-perforated hose that will connect the system to the water faucet.
- You will also need a splitter. This attaches to the faucet allowing it to switch from the irrigation system to regular hose use.
- A timer is also a handy addition to a DIY irrigation system. They are inexpensive and can be found easily. They can even be run off your smartphone.
- Teflon tape is a must. It seals leaky connections.
- Lastly, you will need to plan to purchase enough mulch to lay 3 inches (7.6 cm) to help retain moisture at the drip line.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.