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Is a simple drip irrigation system possible?  RSS feed

 
Angela Aragon
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Let me preface this discussion by saying that I have no experience with drip irrigation and whatever knowledge that I do have is limited to the Internet. The concept is straightforward. However, many resources seem to overcomplicate it, at least in my opinion. geoff lawton uses drip irrigation in his main-crop garden and appears to be repairing something in his system constantly. Others on YouTube seem also to be fixing elements in their systems regularly. None complain much, so I assume that the benefits that accrue from employing it outweigh any hassles.

I live in the mountains of Nicaragua. None of the drip irrigation kits are available here and ordering them involves a hefty customs fee. This has led me to think about alternatives. Given the amount of time (and perhaps money) that people devote to tweeking their systems, I was wondering if I might be able to achieve a reasonable effect by simply drilling a series of very small holes along a 1/4 inch PVC pipe or flexible tubing and close off the end. As long as I use a low-pressure pump, it should function. Sure. It is not optimal and the small holes I make likely will become clogged, but this also appears to be a problem with the kit lines.

Has anyone else tried something like this? Am I going to wind up wasting a lot of time and effort trying to go this route and in the end have to wind up getting a kit anyway? Any advice and suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
 
Adam Moore
Posts: 123
Location: Mansfield, Ohio Zone 5b percip 44"
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I was thinking the same thing and was about to post a similar question before I saw your post. I am also ready to make the jump into drip irrigation but I am concerned about the same thing, the longevity of the system. Not sure what to start with that wont start breaking the month after I put it in?
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I tried something similar to that in my last garden.  I was 1/4 mile away from my water and power source so I collected rainwater with a 300 gallon rain barrel.  I pumped it up (with a battery powered sump pump) to another 300 gallon tank on an 8' high platform.  That gave me a couple of psi of water pressure.  I ran a feed line across the ends of the rows with 3/4" PVC.  I then plumbed a series of drip lines with 1/2" PVC.  I drilled tiny holes every inch or so, trying to keep them in a straight line.  With this low pressure I could just jam on the caps, couplings and tees without glue in case I needed to redo the system or disassemble it for winter.

My rows were 25' long and I had 6-7 of them all on the same supply.  My garden was sloped on a diagonal so the water supply was at the highest point and it dropped as you went across the rows and down each row.  I put a small valve at the beginning of each row so I could turn up or down the water a bit for each row.  I oriented the holes so they'd point up so they wouldn't get as plugged with dirt.  

When I turned on the first row I was in love.  Is sprinkled a stream of water from each hole about 3' in the air.  Due to my inability to drill the holes in a perfect line they had better coverage.  When I turned on the second row, both lines still sprinkled up in the air but it was 4-12".  When I turned on the third row the sprinkling stopped and they all started to just dribble.  By the time I got all the lines on, some where dribbling water and some weren't.  The lower elevation areas had good water and the higher spots didn't.

I think the flow was limited by the 3/4" pipe.  If I had a bigger supply to all the small lines, they probably would have had enough supply to keep the 1/2" pipes full (and then let water out of the highest holes in the row).

My system (with limitations) keep the garden growing for 3 years (till we sold the land) so it was a success.  The 300 gallon tank would drain out totally in 45 minutes.  If I had a bigger supply and better distribution it wouldn't have lasted that long.  Some crude math tells me that I was delivering about 7 gpm but could've done maybe 10 with bigger supply lines.

If you can supply enough water to keep the pipes full, the system should work for you.  My runs were only 25' long, I'm not sure if it would work if they were longer?  Be sure to filter the water or keep it clean so it doesn't plug the holes.  I think aiming the holes up helps keep stuff from plugging them (debris settles to the bottom of each line).  Maybe blow out the pipes with higher pressure water and the end cap off every once in a while.  When the water dribbles out of the holes it runs to the underside of the pipe and then can hang onto the pipe and go downhill until the drop is big enough to fall off of the pipe.  So laying the pipe on the ground will allow the water drips to soak in at that point instead of traveling downhill first.

Good luck!
 
kim obermeyer
Posts: 1
Location: Northern Nicaragua (70%), southern Costa Rica (20%), Norcal (10%)
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I live in Chinandega Nicaragua and i got a drip system there at the agricultural chain store called Agro alfa.   should be one near you.  Black poly line, drip inserts were the main components and pretty cheap.  good luck.
 
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