Drip Tape to the Rescue

Having finally broken down and converted to drip irrigation, I’m just sorry I didn’t do it years ago.

Some years (like last year for example) we need to irrigate very little.  But when a year like this one comes around (no rain for a month), irrigation is crucial.

We’ve been getting by with sprinklers and garden hoses. But that is a terribly inefficient way to irrigate; it wastes a lot of water, you water more weeds than plants and you don’t get even coverage throughout the garden.

How not to irrigate (if you have any other option)

How not to irrigate (if you have any other option)

I’ve been reluctant to make the investment, but now that I have I see easily that the advantages of drip irrigation are even greater than I’d assumed. With drip tape you use far less water, you deliver the water right to the roots and you only water the plants you want to water.

It’s easy to install. With the right implements on a tractor it would be even easier.  But I did it by hand and by myself.  It was time-consuming, but not difficult.

We attached the filters and regulators to spigots.  Not ideal, but we couldn't afford to wait on better solutions.

We attached the filters and regulators to spigots. Not ideal, but we couldn’t afford to wait on better solutions.

Then you lay the header pipe.  I didn’t think to take a picture of that.

I used a tobacco stick to make a spool

I used a tobacco stick to make a spool for the drip tape.

Roll the tape out to the end of the row, then fold it over, cut a little piece off the end to make a sleeve, and it slip it over the folded tape.

Roll the tape out to the end of the row, then fold it over, cut a little piece off the end to make a sleeve, and it slip it over the folded tape.

Pin the end of the tape down with a garden staple.

Pin the end of the tape down with a garden staple.

Use the punch to push a hole in the header pipe, insert the fitting, attach the tape, and tighten the connectors.  No clamps necessary.

Use the punch to push a hole in the header pipe, insert the fitting, attach the tape, and tighten the connectors. No clamps necessary.

There are little holes in the tape every 12 inches.  The water oozes out a drop at a time.

There are little holes in the tape every 12 inches. The water oozes out a drop at a time.

All you see on the surface are wet spots, but beneath the surface, where it matters, the ground is getting soaked.

All you see on the surface are wet spots, but beneath the surface, where it matters, the ground is getting soaked.

A happy garden.

A happy garden.

Ready to bring the squash to life

Ready to bring the squash to life

Another happy garden.  I installed the lines in 9 of our 21 gardens.

Another happy garden. I installed the lines in 9 of our 21 gardens.

Just two days earlier this garden was a desert.  But now the beans are up and growing.

Just two days earlier this garden was a desert. But now the beans are up and growing.

Now our beans, squash and melons are up and thriving.  Our tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are healthy and happy.

I think we going to have good summer gardens after all.

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30 comments on “Drip Tape to the Rescue

  1. BeeHappee says:

    The goodness of modern inventions. 🙂 My folks had their drippers: Would shout at us, did you water tomatoes? If not, get on the bicycle, pedal to the garden across town, carry watering cans for a couple hours. No installation required.

    Liked by 1 person

    • shoreacres says:

      In my mother’s latter years, when she was living very near me in her own apartment, she would call me for every sort of emergency: she couldn’t remember how to use the tv remote, or she was out of ice cream. I told her she had one thing no nursing home could offer: hot and cold running daughter.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      We did it that way too until I had water lines put in to the gardens. That was a great improvement. When I was growing up on the farm we would lay pipe from the pond and pump pond water with a gas powered generator. The pipe was heavy (and hot). My next step (if we ever take it) is to install a system that pumps from the pond.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. daphnegould says:

    I have a couple of soaker hoses in the garden, but mostly I do overhead watering. Not perfect, but at least I have a good sprinkler where I can control the width and the length. And my paths are only 19″ wide with 48″ wide beds. And luckily we are usually pretty wet here. In a usual year I might water twice a month in the summer months depending on the rain. But May really makes you think. Like you we didn’t get rain. I watered a lot. About as much as I’d water in a normal year.

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    • Bill says:

      On our scale the sprinklers just don’t get the job done in a month like this one. It’s been crazy. We had a few sprinklers the last couple of days but it barely registers in my rain gauge. I can’t remember a time when it was this dry for this long.

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  3. Sue says:

    I despise hand watering, but with my raised beds, I cannot imagine being smart enough to figure out how to do drip irrigation.
    I mulch the heck out of stuff–potatoes, etc. For the most part, stuff stays “ok”…..not great, but ok.
    I water once a week if we’ve had no rain, and the cloud of obscenities from that would curl my curly kale!! There is NO SUCH THING as a kink free hose. I envy you your straight long rows…..

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    • Bill says:

      I have a friend who uses drip in his raised beds. I haven’t tried putting it in ours but it can be done. You probably have a local supplier who could help you figure it out if you go in that direction.

      As for the kinked hoses, I’ve been known to cuss at them too. I kinked the header pipe badly when I was trying to install it. I had to bring in the brains of the operation (my wife) to figure out how to get it all untangled.

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  4. shoreacres says:

    All three of the farms I buy from use drip irrigation.One included some photos from their expansion of the system regularly. The you-pick place uses it for everything, including their vines and trees. It’s just splendid.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m discovering some things I did wrong in set up, which is to be expected, but I’m very impressed at how well it works. I wish we’d started using it years ago.

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  5. avwalters says:

    If I ever switch from buckets, you’ve convinced me, drip is the way to go. (Maybe even drip into the buckets.) But that will have to wait until the water reaches the garden.

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    • Bill says:

      Once you’re ready to start irrigating the garden I’m sure the drip system will be the best option for you. The only drawback is the higher upfront cost, but I think it will pay for itself with increased yields and it is environmentally friendlier (notwithstanding all the plastic).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. bobraxton says:

    I wonder how many people know what a “tobacco stick” is – and flue-cured – and a tobacco barn – and a pack house – and a (Burlington, NC) tobacco market – circa 1930’s to 1950’s

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  7. We plan to put in drip tape for our gardens but not until they are fenced in. We had set up IBC totes all over the property near newly planted fruit and nut tree plantings, hooked up drip lines and timers but some sort of varmint (coyotes? Raccoons? Skunk?) ripped them up and chewed them to bits. Aaarrrggghhh. The struggle to haul water all over several acres has literally been a pain.
    And what is a tobacco stick?

    Liked by 1 person

    • bobraxton says:

      The tobacco farmer needed tobacco sticks year after year in the process of drying the tobacco crop. After harvesting the tobacco, the leaves were then tied with string to the tobacco stick and hung in the tobacco barn to dry.
      Most likely the sticks were made from timber cut on the farm.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Bill says:

        Yep. I should have just said “See Bob’s comment.” Some of the sticks were handmade (likely a century or more ago), and some were machine-cut. It’s easy to tell the difference. We had many thousands of them around here at one time, but I’ve probably only got 500 or so now. I used to use them to stake tomatoes, which leads to them rotting.

        I spent many hours straddling the poles in barns (barefoot of course), hanging tobacco (“heisting” or “hoisting” we said).

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    • Bill says:

      Oh good grief. I had not considered that possibility. Hoping we’re spared that.

      Tobacco leaves were tied together (or sewed later) and hung over the tobacco sticks, which were themselves hung in barns where the tobacco was heat-cured. It’s done differently now, but when I was growing up (and for a couple hundred years prior to that) tobacco sticks were essential to curing tobacco.

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  8. Joanna says:

    We use a hose in the greenhouse. I have wondered about drip irrigation. Do you have to take it up every year? How easy is that?

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    • Bill says:

      Our plan is to take up the drip tape but leave the header pipes in place. I’m not sure that will work. I’m a little concerned about taking it up and storing it, so it can be reused. We’re just going to have to figure that out as we go.

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  9. Awesome. It’s on our 2016 to-do list as this year’s investment was in another rain barrel. SO glad we finally are getting rain today to refill them all!

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    • Bill says:

      Glad you’re getting rain. The clouds have been teasing us for the last few days but still haven’t delivered. We badly need a good soaking.

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  10. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I’ve talked plenty about the irrigation setup I have for my backyard so I won’t bore anyone with the logistics again. I’m still in the planning process of developing the natural spring at Terra Nova Gardens with the use of a 250 gallon IBC tank given to me and blue 55 gallon barrels strategically placed through out the garden. Very little watering has been required this year with the extreme volume of moisture. Drip irrigation is always a better way to go than aerial. I’m designing my system to work on gravity feed instead of a pressurized system. Timers could be involved as well. The setup and tear down time is well worth the effort for better harvests and more reliable moisture control.

    Cucumbers were planted yesterday and general weed control in the rest of the garden. The strawberry patch planted last fall got the once over and seven more tomato holes were prepared for plants. The area, where these plants will be, was covered with a clover/grass mix as mulch. A hand post hole digger was used to punch a hole about 12 to 18 inches deep in the soil. Peat moss and perlite were added to the soil before returning it to the holes. Tomorrow the plants will be set into the modified soil holes. Work on the lime stone rock lined carpet covered pathways continue. Wood chips will eventually cover the carpet on the pathways. I found that old carpet is the best weed barrier ever. The new synthetic carpet material will not ever deteriorate, it lasts forever. I’ve never claimed to be a totally organic gardener but just a direct chemical free gardener. No Roundup, no weed killer, and no synthetic fertilizers. Each year the garden looks a little more like a garden than a weed patch. It actually looks pretty good this year and will be totally under control soon. :O)

    Have a great drip irrigation day.

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    • Bill says:

      I really need to get to work on the weeds in our gardens. I spent most of today planting sweet potatoes and finishing driving the t-posts I use for tomato trellising. If I ever get caught up on the urgent tasks, I intend to go after the weeds. We need longer days this time of year, don’t we?

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Dani says:

    Congrats. I, too, swear by my porus pipe 🙂 We don’t have any water to waste…

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We’re spoiled by not having to be as mindful of water use as y’all are. Despite the lack of rain lately, we have deep wells and no shortage of water. Still, it is a precious resource that we shouldn’t be wasting. I’m glad we’re finally being more sensible about how we water.

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  12. Adam Wood says:

    Another great trick with drip tape is that you can lay it out at the beginning of the season,run some water through it and voila, you have easily visible wet spots every 12″ (or whatever the holes are spaced at). Then you plant whatever you’re planting at those spots and you have perfectly spaced plants!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      Yes, you’re right and I should have mentioned that. In this case we had already planted by the time we laid the tape, but in the future we will lay the tape first, run the water for a few minutes then use the wet spots for spacing. Great comment!

      Like

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