Drip irrigation 101

So as I’m running the impact sprinkler due to every single thunderstorm missing us for two weeks, I’m again thinking about drip irrigation. This would be both for fruits and vegetables.

A couple things:

  1. Because of our erratic rainfall, which can range from drought to deluge, I don’t want or need something that’s just always going to automatically come on. I have no problem turning it on when needed, then maybe setting a timer to shut it off for a couple hours.
  2. It seems like most drip systems operate on the presumption that:
    A. Everything is planted at the exact same time
    B. Everything needs the same amount of water

Neither one is true. I know there are such things as main lines, and valves, so would it be feasible to set up a system where each row has its own valve, that I can turn on or off as needed, and or even have lines that are “inactive“ in anticipation of a future planting? Or shut off when a crop is done but others remain?

Also, since I tend to rotate my crops year to year, are some of the systems easy to take down and reassemble each season?

It’s trivial with a drip system to vary output along a distribution line. Low vs. high output nozzels are easy to put on and take off of any line. And yeah, there are switches you install inline to turn various parts of the line on or off. It’s simple stuff that is pretty obvious once you do it. Not enough water in a spot? Put in another output. Too much? Shut one off or go to smaller gpm nozzle. It’s great and now that I have one I don’t know how I lived without it. Especially when I’m not home a lot or on vacation.


My initial assumption is that I can go with higher output nozzles, since my soil drains pretty well.

Do I really need a back flow preventer if my garden is 200’ downhill from the house?

Can I have a setup I just screw the end of the hose into?

It would cost me $4000 to have a waterline run all the way down there.

This diagram makes it look like I don’t just want to have an “open end” on my system when it’s not in use…but I don’t want to have to have a hose or line permanently running down the hill in my yard, either.

You can make a poor man’s drip irrigation system by inserting emitters into plain garden hose. There’s a punch you use to make the right-sized hole. You roll the hose up over winter.

Yes, you DO NEED a backflow preventer. Some municipalities require them in laundry rooms and on hydrants (where a hose bib attaches). You can buy sill cocks that have integrated backflow preventers.

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I can certainly get one, but I’m on a well, and as I said, it’s a 20’ drop over 200’ to where the garden is.

There’s a reason for code requirements. You may just be running a bucket of water next to the hydrant and turn your back while pressure at the hydrant goes down or even goes negative. Then you’ve instantly contaminated your well with whatever was or had ever been in your bucket. Installing a vacuum breaker is a cheap way to show you acknowledge the possibility.


Yes you can run it all of the end of a long garden hose- though of course you pay the price of reduced water pressure. You will want a timer, and most act as backflow preventer because they shut the line 100% when they close. Whether that’s good enough for your local codes I have no idea. Just make sure to get a waterproof timer. They are cheap. And get a good filter. Nothing worse than a clogged line screwing up all your emitters.

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I still get 6 or 7 GPM without a nozzle at the end of the 200’ hose.

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I’m gun shy about timers. Had one last year that didn’t shut off…

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I’ve had that happen with a regular hose when I just forget I left it running… But yeah, it’s something to consider. It just saves me soooo much time. Like 30 minutes a day I have free now thanks to spending 3 hours running lines one day in the spring. Very worth it to me.

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$4000.00? Really? I’m thinking you could actually rent a Ditch Witch and do it yourself for a 1/4th of that… I don’t have a frost line here but I just use a middlebuster to bury water lines 18 inches deep and have never had a problem. I have at least 600 feet of PVC buried around here and I’m sure I haven’t spent over 400 bucks… But I’m not in Maryland…I could easily be wrong…

Had that same issue. Every bolt of lightning caused it to stay on 100% of the time. I took my irrigation out. I use a BIG sprinkler on a hose…

I use a ~$10 facet timer on my drip system. It has never failed.

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This is why I can’t wait to set up a drip system some day. To save all that time. But first I need time to set it up so I can save time. Very catch 22.

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With all the drop going down hill, frost depth probably really wouldn’t be need. He could probably just open both ends and drain it all, especially if you hook up a hose on the downhill end to draw the water further. Blowing it out would be simple too.


I agree. But in Maryland he could be concerned with law. I do believe when I lived in Ohio ALL water had to be below the frost line.?

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I like the mechanical timers for this reason


Yes. I laid a 75 ft hose on the ground 20 yrs ago and haven’t moved it since. It’s connected to a pulse sprinkler. It is now mostly under leaves and works fine even with winter’s down to 0F.

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