Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

GARDENING: In drips & drabs

Learn how to irrigate your garden

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Water is a very valuable resource. Manitoba is fortunate to have an abundance of fresh water to irrigate our lawns, flower beds, trees and gardens. In order to use our water sources more efficiently and effectively with an irrigation system, it's important to investigate a variety of systems before buying one.

The Drip Irrigation System has become very popular in the southern United States and is gaining popularity in Canada. Drip irrigation is capable of delivering water slowly at a lower pressure and directly to the plant's root system. These water droplets can be placed exactly where the plant is, thus reducing the plant's stress of finding water and allowing it to flourish.

Drip irrigation works differently than a standard irrigation system as the flow rates are calculated by gallons per hour. The operating pressure is more versatile as it ranges from 15 to 50 psi (force per square inch). The water is also filtered through a mesh, which prevents debris from plugging the emitters (heads) and water can reach plant roots.

Point source irrigation can be used in a variety of watering situations: narrow planter beds, slopes, hedge rows, gardens, turf applications, mixed plantings that have varied water requirements as well as areas that experience high traffic or winds, or are more sensitive to overspray.

Using point source irrigation on flower beds and gardens gives you the ability to water each plant, vegetable, fruit or tree individually as some require more water or are more sensitive than others. Fortunately, the drip irrigation system can be adjusted to meet each need. For example, the broadcast method is used for dense applications requiring 100 per cent coverage whereas the point source method is used in sparser plantings to meet watering needs with one system.

It's important to take into consideration how you choose to design your system. Water can be dispersed in drip, spray or mist form depending on the needs of your green space.

What are the benefits to using the drip irrigation system?

1. It is 88 per cent to 93 per cent more efficient than conventional watering.

2. It will reduce water use, evaporation, water runoff and weed growth in gardens and flower beds -- every gardener's dream!

3. Water is delivered directly to the root, allowing roots to thrive.

4. Water requirements can be adjusted from plant to plant, taking into consideration specific needs.

Designing an irrigation system can be a tedious task. Here are some tips to take into consideration before designing yours:

1. Efficient plan: What do you want your irrigation system to look like? What do you want it to accomplish?

2. Soil type: What is the holding capacity of the soil? Is it clay soil, sandy soil etc.?

3. Area: Take a look around and choose the appropriate areas to be irrigated. Which areas need a greater yield of water? Less?

4. Efficient irrigation: Set it up so water can be used efficiently and effectively. Remember, water conservation is a must!

5. Type of plants: Some plants require more water than others. Take into consideration their specific needs and sensitivity.

6. Mulching: How well does your soil hold moisture?

7. Maintenance: Are you able to maintain it throughout the course of the season?

It may be important to have a professional assist you in designing your irrigation plan. This provides you with the luxury of selecting exactly what you need and the supplies necessary for installation.

Professionals want to make sure your irrigation system is successful.

Furthermore, there are seven valuable components that make up a drip irrigation system.

The main component is the valve, which turns the system on and off. The filter cleans the debris out of the water and keeps the emitters from getting clogged. The pressure regulator controls the constant and consistent pressure. The air relieve valve allows the air into the lateral piping when the system shuts off and ensures nothing is caught in the emitters. The flush valve is utilized periodically to flush the system free of any debris that may be in the system. The emitter is where the water shoots out ranging from 0.5 GPH to 35 GPH. It is very important to keep the emitters clean.

Lastly, the dripline has emitters built into the line for optimal use when irrigating turf or garden settings.

Keep in mind when installing emitters that soil type and vegetation will affect the spacing and type of your emitters. Heavy clay soil is common around Winnipeg, so wider spacing is needed as water can spread laterally due to poor drainage. If soil is sandy, the emitters will need to be close together as the water will drain quickly downwards.

Driplines are another means for water to exit the system. These lines come in a variety of sizes, flows, and emitter spacing.

Fortunately, driplines have the capacity to withstand the harsh temperature conditions here in Manitoba as they can be installed above the ground or subsurface.

Ongoing maintenance of your irrigation system is necessary for it to run efficiently. At times it may be tedious but flushing the system, ensuring the emitters are open, fitters are tight and the filter is clean are all part of your maintenance needs.

Consult a professional in the spring and fall to properly open up and shut down your system.

Follow these tips and your irrigation system will be successful for the duration of the season.

Ensure you have a professional to help guide you through the design experience to achieve your irrigation goals.

Remember, you can minimize water use and maximize the efficiency of water output by choosing the correct irrigation system to meet your needs... one drip at a time.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 F7

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