What drip irrigation tools should I use?

R. L. Rhodes
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VEN-RainBird-drip-irrigation-microsprayer-560x400There’s more to drip irrigation than just the hoses that convey water from the tap to your plants. Once you’ve threaded that tubing through your landscape, you’ll need devices that regulate the flow of water, ensuring that it goes precisely where it’s needed most. What fixture you’ll need is a function of what you’ve planted and how those plants are spaced.

Ground cover

Emitter tubing is often ideal for densely growing plants clustered along the ground, such as creeper vines or sedum. Stake the tubing throughout the area so that the water that drips from its apertures can soak directly into the soil where your ground cover grows.

Low Clusters

For plants that you’ve clustered together, as in a landscape bed, a micro bubbler is an efficient way to deliver water to each plant with less tubing and fewer emitters. This requires slightly more careful planning, but adjustable heads make it easy to direct the flow of water. Just be sure to stake the fixture equidistant between the plants you want it to water, and test your set-up to make sure none of the plants are neglected.

flowers and Taller clusters

It’s important to water with a light hand when growing flowers or plants with delicate foliage. Pour on too much water at once and you run the risk of damaging the very features that made them so attractive in the first place. For those plants, misters and micro-sprayers work best, applying water near the top of the plant where it’s needed, but at a gentle rate so as to do more good than harm.

Trees and shrubs

These larger plants will need a correspondingly larger supply of water. For that, use spot emitters, set to drip water directly above the roots of the plant. Spot emitters come in a variety of gauges to allow you to adjust the rate at which water is applied to your plants. Generally speaking, the larger the plant, the greater the rate of flow you’ll want from your emitter.

Rain Bird, which makes many of the drip irrigation supplies sold at the Home Depot, provides a quick and easy guide in this video:

For instructions on how to install an irrigation system, try our garden irrigation project. Want more advice on irrigation, including recommendations tailored to your region? See our post on smart watering tips.

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