Thursday, May 22, 2008

Irrigation, that's what I need, some irrigation.

So, back to the gardening.

Last Spring, after having endured a year of wrangling a fussy drip irrigation system only to have my plants shrivel from thirst, I set out to build an ideal irrigation system. My goal was to build something that would keep all the growing medium in my raised beds moist, with a minimum of hose dragging, while allowing me to get in there to till and add new compost every year.

After having a plumber out one time to fix a frozen pipe outside our house, I discovered how totally easy and, dare I say, fun working with PVC plumbing can be. It's like a big Erector set. You should totally try it -- don't be skeered.

To start, I sketched out a plan, then broke it down to what kind of bends and connectors I needed to make it happen. Then I went over to Lowe's and stood in front of the PVC fittings aisle for about 3 hours, looking at my sketch and scratching my head. I came home with some lengths of 3/4 and 1/2 inch pipe and a bunch of connectors.

From there, it was just a matter of gluing it all together. The most complicated part was the connection to the garden hose, which looks like this ...

That's part of the header ...

Which I buried under a few inches of dirt and mulch.

Then for each bed, I built one of these ...

Those are PVC T-joints with threaded stems, which connect to brass flanges, which connect to sections of soaker hose, which I terminated by folding them over and cinching down with hose clamps. Easy!

Anyway, each bed looks like this ...

Now I just attach my hose (with a quick connector, of course) to the header, and I'm watering all three beds. I've got a valve at each bed, so I can cut one or two of them off if I want. And I didn't glue the connections between the buried header and the PVC in each bed, so I can remove them for tilling and topping off the beds each Spring. I'm still experimenting for the best way to keep those tight -- electrical tape or zip-ties have both worked OK. I feel like there's a rubber-band solution out there that will prove to be a winner though.

It's working pretty well -- especially after adding a programmable timer to my hose, so it waters automatically during the summer. One day I'll figure out how to hook PVC into my water supply and run a pipe underground from the house to the garden so I don't have to deal with a hose. Of course, now that I've added a fourth raised bed and dug up a whole new corner of the yard for peppers, squash and more tomatoes, I'm dragging the hose more than ever, but we'll deal with that eventually ...

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Blogger Matt & Carrie said...

As for a quick connection would a hose/pipe clamp work. At our old house we had two pvc pipes (I believe were varied in size) that had a thick rubber tube which extended over the outside of each and was tightened down with a hose clamp. This was the exit drain for our washing machine and it never leaked. taking off would be as simple as unscrewing one clamp.

Thanks for doing the website btw. I'm attempting my first garden this year and so far it has been a huge failure. But I'm seeing where I went wrong. Maybe next year will be better.

May 23, 2008 9:44 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Hey Matt, good to hear from you! Personally, I've found the garden gets better every year.

I might have to try a hose clamp. I'll have to get a big one though, since I'm fastening around the backs of two elbows (see the 4th photo) and that's a 4-5 inch span. I think a sturdier zip-tie might also do the trick. All I had on hand were little ones, so I had 4 of them strung together. Yesterday, when I turned it on for the first time this year, they all snapped as the water pressure blew everything apart.

May 23, 2008 11:57 AM  

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