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Drip Irrigation: Planning For Growth

A common mistake when laying down drip irrigation is installing and preparing it for the plant’s needs at time of planting. Installing one drip ring or emitter is fine if the plant size won’t change, but if the plant grows into a medium or large size plant, you will need to plan for growth from the beginning.

As plants grow, their roots will spread to match their canopy. That means your single drip ring won’t support the larger root system in a year or two of planting. There are solutions to expand the drip line as the plant grows, but you can save yourself and your customer time and money with these three easy steps.

Know the plant and soil type

Before you can map out your irrigation lines, you need to understand what the plant watering requirements are and will be in the future. You’ve likely already researched the plant’s watering needs, but did you also check to see how large the plant might grow? That information will help you plan appropriately.

Another piece of information you should research in advance to installing irrigation is the soil type. The soil type, whether it’s clay, loam or sand, will help you determine the drip line emitter gallonage, emitter spacing and drip spacing. Your irrigation zones should be installed to match the plant’s water requirements and the soil infiltration rates.

Once you know the potential size the plant can grow to and the soil type, you can install an irrigation system poised for growth.

Install multiple rings

Rather than having to cut and expand your drip rings every time the plant goes through a growth spurt, install multiple drip rings the first time. After you know your plant and soil type, you have the information handy to determine how many rings you will need and what spacing to place them for the plant’s flourishing future.

As the plant grows, you simply need to uncover the next ring and pop in emitters as the tree matures and the root zone expands. It makes your job easier in the long run, and you won’t need to worry about matching irrigation materials.

“It can be frustrating to come out to a job site to extend a drip line but not have the correct size tubing. Even a quarter-inch difference will cost you another trip to the job site — that’s time and money wasted,” said Jeffrey Knight, Ewing’s Director of Learning and Development.

Maintain your lines

After installing the drip irrigation system, the final step is evergreen – check for proper performance. Make sure there aren’t breaks, clogged emitters, sediment build up or dirty filters. During your maintenance visits (ideally each month), be sure to look for these common problems:

  • Wash-outs or eroded soil and mulch: If you see a gapping hole or eroded soil or mulch, that’s a sign there’s a break in the irrigation system or a broken emitter. Find the break and repair the damage to minimize wasted water or overwatering the other plants.
  • Suffering plant: If you see a lone plant that’s not fairing well, you may have a clogged emitter. That plant is probably not getting the water it needs to flourish. All you need to do is replace the emitter and test to make sure water is coming out of it appropriately.
  • Sediment build-up: This one is hard to spot visually, but a good rule of thumb is to flush out the irrigation system monthly to ensure sediment doesn’t build up in the system. Install flushes at the furthest points of the line and open them up once a month.
  • Dirty filters: Another one that’s hard to see, but good to keep on your monthly routine. To keep your client’s system in top shape, check the filter once a month by pulling out the screen, cleaning it and putting it back in place.

TAGS: Drip Irrigation, Irrigation Basics, Irrigation