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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