Let's talk (budget conscious) homeowner scale irrigation

most city water has lots of chlorine which isn’t great for the soil life. Most plants are much happier with rain water than city water, but what can you do if you live somewhere with drought. Gotta rely on the tap.

I think the solution would be to have a reserve system set up with additional “rain” barrels and an automated system to fill them with tap water when needed. The chlorine will dissipate to low levels over time as long as it can escape into the atmosphere.

Blueberries are very sensitive to pH. Most tap water is 7.0 or higher. Mine is about 8.2. If tap water is below 7.0 you will have another Flint crisis on your hands. Flint failed to buffer the water. It started eating the old lead pipes. Tap water must be basic to prevent pipe erosion. Blueberries like a soil pH of 5.0 or so. You will never get them to thrive and with some even survive putting basic water on them. A huge rookie mistake. You can use tap but I highly suggest acidifying tap water if you must use it. Soil must be 5.0. Try to keep soil between4.5 to5.5 for best results. Even pure peat moss will increase in pH with time as compost tends to increase the pH. Counter with sulfur. I add it once every 3 to 4 years.
I don’t have a gravity system. I would need an immersible pump to increase pressure. My blueberries are nowhere close to my rain barrels.

I know a lot of people are actually having issues in the Pittsburgh area with legacy lead pipe infrastructure. I have not tested my water recently but now I might as I’m curious. I typically try to let the tap run for a while first thing in the morning to have the house side lines flush before using it. It sounds like your blueberry watering is a labor of love!

Im interested in the idea of gravity fed rainbarrel water. I just picked up 3 55 gallon barrels that originally held olive oil (or was it olives?) I was wondering how high I had to place them to be effective.

I agree that whatever system that works for you is the right system, from a larger scale irrigation to hand watering. Each has its own merits.

Im enjoying this topic!

1 Like

One aspect I had not discussed in my initial post was a fertilizer system. Brady mentioned the EZFlow system on this topic:

Does anyone have input on what size EZ Flow system is appropriate for a quarter acre lot with a few dozen trees, some berry bushes and a few raised beds that could use it?

Also, is there a good source for liquid fertilizer, and is it sold as a solid form you mix in or something else? I think the stuff we use at work is solid particles of 10-20-20 so I don’t have a lot of experience with fertilizer otherwise.

This post briefly discusses general fertilizer guidelines:

Brady has a great writeup here too:

And Steve started a pawpaw specific thread here, they seem to be the black sheep of the fruit tree world in more ways than one:

Hi Regina! I’m glad the topic is helpful to you. I wanted to create it so we can all learn together. I’d imagine a gravity fed system would just need to be higher in elevation than what you are trying to irrigate, but there could be some sort of line loss due to friction when dealing with tiny 1/4" tubing that may need to be accounted for to push the water with extra long runs. Maybe you could experiment with filling your barrels at ground level and see if they drain where you want them to while hooked up to the hoses, and if it isn’t enough head pressure you could try putting the barrels up on concrete or wood blocks? I am curious myself how this aspect will work with my future system.

The water at the tap of my house is pH 5.5! I’m on a shallow well. Anyone on a well should check, because until you do you never know. None of the plants I irrigate have ever seemed to care about my acidic water. It’s actually higher pH than the rain in MD, so I highly doubt it matters.

Gravity feed generally won’t work with any but the most simple layouts. Just not enough pressure. You can mount a pump but you need to have a really good filter because your emitters will clog in a heartbeat if you have any particles at all in your water. Once they start clogging you have a real PITA on your hands.

An EZ-Flo setup may work for your situation,but like I mentioned in the other post,it gets diluted fast and the plants closest to the tank will receive the most fertilizer.So,their needs will have to be considered.
Another way,could be a venturi type injector,which may be a little costlier,probably is more accurate.

Fertilizer for these,can be in a liquid or powder form(water soluble),like Miracle-Gro.All purpose Miracle-Gro has a good 3-1-2 ratio at 24-8-16.

1 Like

Out here in California irrigation is as common as breathing. I have been setting up and repairing drip systems for about 10 years, mostly in vegetable gardens. I can tell you right off that it is very likely that the system will need repair or modification every year. Stuff breaks or leaks - walking around and stepping on fittings, slashing with tools, etc. Or you just added some new plants so you need to extend the system. I get all of my materials from dripworks.com. They are a great company. You can call them for help, and their shipping is very fast. They have a nice writeup on winterizing a drip system too.

If you have a pre-existing sprinkler system (sounds like you don’t), with a bank of solenoids and a controller in the garage, etc., then it is really easy to adapt to drip. I assume you don’t have that. I prefer to not start at a hose bib - just cleaner to begin at a dedicated water source pipe. You could tap into your line and put in a T fitting, and then have a 3/4" pipe thread starting point. Put on a solenoid and a Y-filter and you are good to go. Anyway that’s just my preference.

If your garden area is a nice rectangle then you can easily run a buried 3/4" header pipe (PVC) along the long edge of the area, and connect your drip lines to that. Or even better, you could just use 1/2" or 3/4" Polyethylene Mainline Tubing (normally just called flexible tubing) as the header. I have been using flexible tubing from the beginning - this stuff has never broken or ruptured in ten years of constant use, even when sitting in the direct blast furnace heat of California. Yes it can be broken if you stab it with a tool, but other than that it won’t break. From here, you could branch secondary headers from the main one with Easy Loc T-fittings, or just run your drip lines from it, extending them out into the planted area.

For drip lines, I would avoid any 1/4 “sphagetti” stuff, unless there are special issues you are trying to solve. More expensive and bulletproof is the 1/2" Emitter Tubing; less expensive (1/2 the cost) and more fragile is the Drip Tape. If your drip runs are straight, drip tape works great, but if you need to curve the drip line here and there then the tubing is needed. I have used mostly drip tape over the years, and it is fragile however if left alone and not slashed by tools it will be OK for years.

1 Like

Ditto on PITA, you know emitters are often bitched about in gardening podcasts. Seems one company has the best ones, and one type was the best kind? Rain Bird I think was the brand many preferred, but type of emitter, I cannot remember?
Maybe if I didn’t have a cottage with CPVC pluming I would be more enthusiastic about irrigation. Having spent 56 years taking care of the place, I have had my fill. I have to turn it on and off every year, winterize, maintain the jet pump etc. Water is fed from a canal 780 feet of line to my jet pump. No city water on the island, and shallow wells are full of sulfur. A small fortune just to dig a deep well. I would have to pay about $250.00 dollars just to get the equipment to the island, no car ferry, You have to rent a car ferry boat for a few hundred an hour. Hard to hit water too, a huge amount of bedrock.
Some wise words once said to me were “you get what you pay for” Over the decades I found in general the advice to be valid. So look at all options when buying a system.

Yeah, makes me think I made the right decision. I have a hard time doing things I don’t like to do. Always last and late being done on my to do list. I would be afraid I would slack maintaining any kind of elaborate system. I know my limitations. So a simple system has worked for me.

Drew, or anyone else, if you find out which rain bird emitters are the most recommended, please post here! I will look around and see if I can find out. Low maintenance, low cost is what I’m going for. Even if the emitter is slightly more expensive than the competition, if I don’t have to buy the competition twice I’ll be ahead in the end on price as well as time.

I like these and these well enough. Both come apart easily so clogs are easy to deal with. The Axe ones are highly adjustable which is great too. I love the sprinklers for flower beds.

I also run quite a lot of the spaghetti line which I turn into a drip emitter just by doubling it back on itself inside a hollow piece of plastic. They almost never clog and you can run them a long way from your main line. I’ll run these 6 or 8 feet to a tomato in a pot, to my chicken’s water, to the outdoor dog bowl and birdbath etc. etc.

1 Like

Thanks for sharing Mike! I will keep those kinds in mind for my install. Adjustable and repairable are very good qualities to have.

I just found this gentleman’s blog searching for pawpaw cultivars, and he had a recent post on potted plant irrigation using “spot spitters”. I thought it would be helpful information for this discussion.


I use something like these:


… from DripWorks. I can’t find my exact model on this Webpage, and the supplier’s page I ordered from last time no longer exists, so I hesitate even to post this. I am not a DripWorks customer.

I stretch old plastic garden hose through my orchard. Then I punch holes in it and insert one of these emitters into each hole. The emitters have to be bought with the right-sized hole punch. I don’t remove the emitters at the end of the season. Instead, I just roll up the hose, store it, and redeploy it the next year. I haven’t replaced it since I started irrigating in 2009.

On the output end of each emitter I stick a “short” length of flexible tubing with a bug-excluder inserted in the open end and stuff that end of the tubing under the plastic mulch near each tree. I use two five-gallon/hour emitters per tree for two hours.

The pressure in the garden hose is 30lb/in². The emitters don’t leak “much” at the garden hose and their drip rate is fairly uniform. The hose joints drip a little, but that all goes to the same place. I worry, but I don’t obsess about it. I replace broken/plugged emitters every season. I mow over them, the drip tubing, and the hose itself, so I have to patch the hose with electrical tape and replace the tubing from time to time.


Yeah leaks are just a fact of life with any system I think. One of the things I like about having a sprinkler is I can tell right away if there is a leak anywhere in the line because the sprinkler will have a slower spin or won’t spin at all.

1 Like

I got these last year for my potted plants and really like them!

Thanks for letting me know Travis! Glad to have more input.

Yep! The main thing is to make sure you have enough pressure for them since they spray instead of drip. I had to cut my runs in half and add another timer for the amount I had.