California Heartland
California HeartlandHomeThis SeasonTV ScheduleHostsShopFeedbackArchiveCalifornia Heartland

California Heartland

Episode 914 - Homegrown: Drip "Irritation" 


Master Gardener, Fred Hoffman shows how to prevent drip irrigation from becoming drip :irritation"! Learn about how to choose and install different types of drip irrigation equipment and sprinklers for your garden!

Don't Let Drip Irrigation Become Drip Irritation!

Farmer Fred offers tips and tricks for keeping your drip irrigation or soaker hose system flowing freely and your plants happy.

  • Flush the drip irrigation system and check the filters monthly to keep the emitters from clogging.
  • Use the right size emitters, and use enough of them for the entire plant.
  • Match the right emitter to the plant's needs: drippers for small plants,  sprayers for ground covers, mini-sprinklers for trees and shrubs.
  • When choosing a drip system, consider an in-line emitter system.
  • Soaker hoses need maintenance, too. Flush them monthly, clean them in  a wheelbarrow, repair with duct tape.
  • Make sure you are buying the right size tubing and fittings. Different manufacturers have different sizes.


Drip Irritation
By Fred Hoffman

Anyone who has ever struggled with a drip irrigation system in their yard may believe that the term "irrigation" may be a misnomer. The tendency for such systems to be plagued with clogged emitters, broken pipelines and incompatible components may lead one to consider renaming this watering headache as "drip irritation".

The biggest benefit using a drip irrigation system is that water is not wasted. The emitters can be placed directly on the plants' root zones, insuring that the plant - not the surrounding weeds - get the water. And less water wasted can translate to lower water bills.

There is, however, a tradeoff: unlike sprinkler systems, drip irrigation components, connectors, lines and emitters should be checked more often and more thoroughly to make sure the system is flowing correctly. And problems can pop up all along a drip line. Dirt, sand or bugs can clog the in-line filter screens, preventing water from leaving the faucet; they can clog individual emitters as well. An errant mower or weed whacker may have sliced and diced your 1/2-inch or 1/4-inch pipelines as well as your emitters. Connectors may have worked loose in the heat, sending water gurgling down the driveway. Replacement parts may not fit correctly; so, back to the hardware store you have to go.

If you are willing to work at it, drip irrigation can be a worthwhile investment. Some tips I've learned the hard way over the years:

  • Know the difference between pipe thread and hose thread parts; otherwise, you won't get a tight fit and leaks will occur. If you're connecting to an outdoor faucet, make sure the anti-siphon valve, pressure regulator and female faucet attachment are hose thread parts. Attachments to PVC pipe parts should be pipe threaded. Usually, the letter "p" or "h" in the part's serial number is your best indication.
  • Use filter screens. Check them for debris on a regular basis. If you use y-shaped filters (which make fertilizing chores a snap), flush them out once a month.
  • If your water supply is turbid (contains dirt particles), stay away from 1/2-gallon emitters. These are too quick to clog.
  • Remove the end cap and flush the entire system at least twice a year.
  • If you bury your 1/2-inch dripline (which can protect it from the corrosive rays of the sun), make sure you know where it's buried. Otherwise, an errant spading fork or rototiller may turn your line into Swiss cheese.
  • And keep your weed whacker away from any emitters.


Additional Info:

Explore the rest of Episode 914



California Heartland® is made possible by:
The James G. Boswell Foundation      Bank of America     California Farm Bureau Federation       California Almond Board      CA Milk Advisory Board

A production of KVIE Public Television, Sacramento, CA. ©2008 KVIE, Inc. All rights reserved.