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Drip Irrigation

Emitters can be spaced evenly for row crops, and this design is known as an emitter hose. Emitters can also be spaced intermittently for plants spaced further apart, such as trees, shrubs and perennials. With an emitter hose, the emitters will generally be spaced about 18 inches apart. When watering trees and shrubs, there should generally be two emitters per plant. Emitters typically have a flow rate of 1 gallon per hour, though a flow rate of ½ gallon per hour may be better for maximum efficiency. The end cap is placed at the end of the drip tubing to prevent water running out the end.

Basic Operation and Maintenance
Drip irrigation can be set to run automatically, like sprinklers, or controlled manually. Manual operation allows you to take advantage of rainfall before applying unnecessary water. For more information on proper watering, see Water Wisely.

Because small amounts of water are applied slowly, drip irrigation is designed to run daily unless it rains. How long to run the drip irrigation system will depend on how much water plants require per day and the emitters' flow rate. Water is applied either once or twice a day. Early morning is the best time to water because there will be less evaporation. Watering in the evening increases plant disease.

Check filters and emitters on a regular basis to ensure they are functioning properly and not clogged. To prevent winter damage, take up the drip irrigation system at the end of each gardening season.

Most suppliers/manufacturers of drip irrigation systems will provide specific design, installation, operation, and maintenance specifications and guidelines that should be carefully followed.
The cost of a drip irrigation system will vary depending on the size of the area to be irrigated and the type of emitters and tubing used. However, regardless of the size of the area being irrigated there is an initial upfront cost for standard items such as the valve, pressure regulator, and backflow preventer.
Soaker hose is another irrigation alternative. A soaker hose requires less equipment and is easier and cheaper to install than drip irrigation. A soaker hose is a porous hose that can be connected to an outside faucet, garden hose, or rain barrel and laid out along the base of the plants. The hose allows water to slowly seep out along its length. This system works well with plants that are close together, such as ornamental beds with clumped flowers or groundcovers. However, a soaker hose should not be used to irrigate plants, trees, or shrubs that are spaced far apart because the area in between the plants will be unnecessarily watered.


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