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Straw Bale Garden Club

Installing an Irrigation System video

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Hi, everyone. Well, it's a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota. We're outside in front of a little fire to take the chill off in my backyard. We're going to talk a little bit today about the entire process of setting up your irrigation system. It can be quite complicated in some ways,...

<p>Hi, everyone. Well, it&#39;s a beautiful fall day here in Minnesota. We&#39;re outside in front of a little fire to take the chill off in my backyard. We&#39;re going to talk a little bit today about the entire process of setting up your irrigation system. It can be quite complicated in some ways, but we&#39;re going to try to simplify it by breaking it down step by step for you. You can adapt this to whatever sized garden you have. If you just have a tiny, little garden, it&#39;s probably going to be pretty simple for you. If you have a pretty complex garden with multiple zones, you&#39;ll see it will look somewhat similar to the garden that we&#39;ve set up as well in terms of how complicated it is.</p> <p>The first decision you have to make is are you going to use a dripper style system or a soaker style system? Soakers are less expensive, you&#39;ll find, but they don&#39;t also last as long. Usually one or two seasons and then you need new soaker hoses where the dripper system is going to last quite a bit longer, many years. I don&#39;t know exactly how long but for many years it should be just fine. You may need to replace an emitter here or there, but other than that it&#39;s not going to decompose in the sun like that rubber that makes up a soaker hose.</p> <p>To begin the process of setting up your irrigation system, the first thing you need is your main supply line. That&#39;s going to run usually off of a spigot or a hydrant somewhere off the back of your house. Very often it ends up running across the lawn to get to your garden. One of the things I talk about in my book is how you can make a little slit in your grass and bury that hose, or if you need to go across the driveway or something, bury that hose so it&#39;s out of the way so you can drive over top of it with a lawn mower or with your car throughout the summer. Then, in the fall, either blow the water out of that line if you&#39;re in an area that freezes hard like here in Minnesota, or pull that hose up, and store it away, and then put it down again the next spring.</p> <p>You get your main supply line out to the area near where your garden is going to be set up. You need to decide how many zones you&#39;re going to split your watering in. Now, if you have less than about 25 bales, usually you can get by real easily with just one single zone. You don&#39;t need to split it at all. If you have more than 25 bales, however, it can be hard to get enough pressure at the end of that supply line to feed all of the bales, so you might want to split it into two zones. Now, in order to do that, you need a manifold system that will split your main water supply into different spigots.</p> <p>One of the ways we&#39;ve set up ours is with a four-way manifold. You&#39;ll see on this four-way manifold, we have one hose that is coming into the manifold as our supply line, and then we have four separate hoses coming out. One of those hoses simply goes to a watering line, just a garden hose with a wand on the end. If we need to do an individual plant watering, we can do it through that zone. We have two other zones that come off and go to our motion sensor sprinklers. Those need to be live under pressure all the time so they come directly off of the main supply line over to those sprinklers.</p> <p>Our fourth line comes out of our manifold and goes into a water zone timer which is battery-operated. You&#39;ll see this water zone timer has two zones coming out of it. We have one main feed line out of the manifold into the timer and then two lines that split out of it. There&#39;s a zone one and a zone two. We&#39;re going to tap into zone one and do half of our garden, and we&#39;re going to tap into zone two and do the other half.</p> <p>First thing we need to do is lay out our main supply line which is going to run next to the ends of all of our rows of bales. Rather than weaving down a row and then over and then back, we just run a main supply line. We&#39;re going to tap into that main supply line to run a branch down each row of bales in our garden.</p> <p>What we&#39;re using here is one half inch irrigation tubing. It doesn&#39;t really matter the brand. There&#39;s lots of different manufacturers out there today, and they all accomplish essentially the same thing. Our main feeder line is half inch black tubing, very simple. Our branch lines are pre-punched so they have emitters already built-in, and there&#39;s a couple of manufacturers that make this same type of pipe as well. It&#39;s also half inch so the outside diameters are exactly the same so the fittings work on the main pipe and on these feeder lines as well. It doesn&#39;t really matter the brand you buy. Go to your local big-box retailer and they&#39;re going to have a kit that you can buy or they&#39;re going to have separate spools of pipe. Usually it comes in 50 or a hundred foot rolls, and you can take off as much as you need and share with your friends and neighbors if you have extra.</p> <p>It&#39;s relatively inexpensive. This garden is going to cost us initially about $250. $50 of that is going towards our controller. This controller is going to last multiple years. You can&#39;t really apply the whole price. Part of that includes the manifold, and the garden hoses and other things that we&#39;ll use for years and years. Really just setting up the drip part of our irrigation system, our main lines and the branches is right around a $150. It takes care of all of it. Don&#39;t buy too much stuff. You can always go back to the Home Centre and get another little bag of emitters if you need them or at least if you buy them, don&#39;t open the bag until you&#39;re sure you need them. Then you can always return them if you want to.</p> <p>We lay out the main supply line. Try to unroll your spool of pipe rather than pulling it off the spool because if you unroll it, you get the curl out of the pipe. It&#39;ll lay down and it&#39;ll be a little bit smoother for you. Unroll that and get your complete length to the end of the garden, and then cut the pipe off. I&#39;d like to use a little bent over piece of wire like a little staple almost to put it in that pipe and hold it in the ground just so that it doesn&#39;t re-spool together and make it difficult on you. Just put a piece of wire here and there to hold it in place.</p> <p>When you get your main supply lines laid out that will each tap into your number one and number two ports on your manifold, then we need to start tapping in to that main supply line to feed our branches of rows of bales. In order to tap in, we need to get to the height of the bale so we need a short little standard that comes up anywhere from 18 to 20 inches. You don&#39;t have to be real accurate with this. Just hold it up next to the bale and measure it with your thumb. Use your pruning shears to cut the main supply line and to cut a length of pipe that will get to the top of your bales. We&#39;re going to put a tee in the main supply line that will then feed this upright pipe. Then we&#39;re going to put an elbow in the end of the main upright pipe that feeds the line that goes along the length of our straw bales, on this section of straw bales.</p> <p>You don&#39;t need to use any clamps with this mechanism. These are pipes that just simply push together, and they have a really cool design so they won&#39;t pull apart, at least not very easily. They tend to seal really well. As soon as they get pressure on the inside, it seals up and really they don&#39;t leak very much at all so you don&#39;t need to worry about that.</p> <p>Now, when you get to the end of the main line that&#39;s laying on top of our straw bales, we need to figure out a way to end that pipe. When you get to the end, we use these fancy little figure-eight mechanisms where you bend the pipe over and you slide the little figure-eight all the way on the pipe. Then you bend it over and slide it back to hold that in position. All that&#39;s doing is kinking the pipe over and that keeps the water from coming out the end, which of course we don&#39;t want to do because there&#39;s no plants down there. We&#39;re going to kink that pipe over and that will of course then pressurize all of these emitters that run along the main pipe.</p> <p>Now, this particular irrigation line that lays on top of the bales is a little different color you&#39;ll notice. It&#39;s an orange-ish color. Yours may be black. It may be some other color. This orange one is designed with emitters already built-in at a certain distance apart. These emitters that are designed in will give us one gallon per hour. It&#39;s not a lot but it&#39;s pretty good for most plants in our garden. That&#39;s going to be about the right amount of water.</p> <p>Now, you&#39;re going to see that we&#39;re going to also add in emitters later on. We add those in by simply using this little tool that is provided by the manufacturer of this system. These are pretty universal. You&#39;re going to punch a hole in this pipe just by putting down. Sometimes you&#39;re going to want to pinch the pipe at the same time when you&#39;re pushing on it or just makes a kink in the pipe and it doesn&#39;t punch a hole. Also make sure that the inside little plastic that gets left inside this tool, make sure that comes out so that it&#39;s a nice clean cut every time you stick that punch through the pipe.</p> <p>You&#39;re going to make a hole. Then you&#39;re going to put your adapter into that hole. Now, if you&#39;re just using an emitter, you could stick the emitter right into the pipe. You don&#39;t need to have a little piece of funny pipe or a little piece of hose running over to the emitter. You can just punch it right in the pipe. If your plant might be in a different position, maybe on the side of the bale and your emitter is not going to run right next to it, you need a short little piece of, I call it, funny pipe. It&#39;s sort of a trade name for it. Put a short a little piece of funny pipe and attach that to your main feed line and then run that over to the emitter. Then you can adjust your emitter. You can put it next to the base of the plant, wherever.</p> <p>Now, deciding which emitter to use is important. That&#39;s going to be determined by what you&#39;re planting. If you&#39;re planting something that&#39;s a heavy water use plants, you&#39;re going to need an emitter that gives more water in terms of gallons per hour. For my tomato plants, I like to use a three gallon per hour emitter. Now, I&#39;m never going to run the irrigation for an hour. Usually, it&#39;s going to be for a much shorter duration. When it does run, I want it to give lots of water to the tomato. Next to a pepper plant, I may only use a two gallon per hour emitter. Next to a cucumber, which uses a little more moisture, I might use a two or a three gallon. If it&#39;s already planted next to one of the built-in one gallon per hour emitters, then I might use another one gallon per hour emitter next to it to actually give it two gallons per hour. You need to figure this out.</p> <p>As you put your plants in, you can always come back and add additional emitters. That&#39;s pretty simple to do. Of course you wouldn&#39;t want to punch too many emitters into a pipe because then you&#39;re going to have too much water loss, and you&#39;re going to loss pressure at the end.</p> <p>If you figured out the math, figured out how many gallons per hour your pipe is providing, how much your faucet is providing, and if we were to use all of that water towards our irrigation which is what we&#39;d be doing when we water early in the morning and we&#39;re not outside using water for anything else, now, add up how many gallons per minute or gallons per hour you&#39;re getting out of that faucet. Most faucets under normal city water pressure are going to give you around two gallons per minute. It&#39;s a 120 gallons per hour. If you had one gallon per hour emitters, you wouldn&#39;t want to have more than a 120 of them on a garden. That&#39;s going to max it out. You can figure out the math a little bit. You don&#39;t have to be that precise. You&#39;ll see when you get to the end if your emitters aren&#39;t under full pressure, they&#39;ll just give you a little less than what they&#39;re rated at in terms of gallons per hour. It&#39;s not super precise but try to get emitters that give more water on your plants that use lots of water.</p> <p>Now, how do you determine how much water a plant uses? Think about how much moisture is in that fruit when you harvest it. Things like cucumbers are just full of water, full of moisture. Tomatoes use lots of water and they&#39;re full of juice. Other plants like potatoes, that&#39;s a pretty solid fruit. It&#39;s a pretty solid potato so we don&#39;t necessarily have to give that plant a lot of water. It just doesn&#39;t use nearly as much water. Carrots don&#39;t use as much water. Things that are root crops tend to not use quite as much water. If you over water root crops, you can end up with root rot as well. We want to make sure we don&#39;t put extra emitters next to those plants that don&#39;t require lots of extra water.</p> <p>If too much water goes on the bales, of course it&#39;s going to run out the bottom which isn&#39;t the end of the world. What it does do is it leaches nitrogen. It leaches your nutrients out the bottom of the bales. Try not to put too much on it one time or you&#39;re just going to leach nutrients, and you&#39;re going to have to come back and fertilize, add additional fertilizer.</p> <p>When you get your whole irrigation system set up, now you need to program your timer. I&#39;ll leave that to you because every timer is going to be a little bit different. Read the instructions that come with them. Then make sure you put it through a test run to make sure it&#39;s running for the right length of time. Essentially, we turn ours on early in the morning, at 4 o&#39;clock in the morning when the dew has already come in and set, and before the sun has come up, we turn the irrigation system on. We&#39;re going to set ours up so zone one is going to run first and then as soon as zone one finishes, zone two will come on so they don&#39;t overlap each other. That&#39;s important to maintain full pressure. Make sure all the plants ... You can go around and check the emitters on each plant. Make sure that a little bit of water is coming out of there and it looks like the right amount.</p> <p>If you have any leaks, you can buy plugs that will simply plug into the main feed line to plug up that hole. If you do have any areas where you accidentally punched a hole and you didn&#39;t need an emitter there, just buy these plugs, and you can stick those in the hole and that plugs it up so you don&#39;t need to worry about it.</p> <p>A couple of other things I just wanted to mention. One is if you&#39;re watering from a well or, for instance, maybe from a pond, or lake, you&#39;re going to have extra sediment in your water. Even though it will go through your pump, it won&#39;t necessarily easily go through the emitters on your water system. You&#39;ll want to put a screening system in place so that you can clean that screen out and it keeps sending that gunk from plugging up your emitters. You can buy these little in-line screens. They work well. Our system happens to have screens built-in. Each of the zones has a screen before the zone and the main manifold has a screen as it comes into the main manifold.</p> <p>If your water pressure tends to go down and you start to see that you don&#39;t have as much water pressure, check those screens. We had that happen to us this year in our garden where that screen started to plug up. It was just a little bit of debris that&#39;s somehow had fallen into the well that we&#39;re drawing water out of, but it doesn&#39;t take very much to plug that up. Make sure you check that, especially if it seems like your water pressure has dropped a little bit.</p> <p>That pretty much wraps it up for our irrigation system setup. It&#39;s really not that difficult. Believe me, it will save you so much time all summer. Once you get this irrigation system in place, you don&#39;t ever have to monkey with it. As long as you make a map so you remember what you planted where in your garden, you can always come back next year and you can put a tomato back in the exact same spot and put that same emitter from last year right next to that tomato so it&#39;s all set up. It&#39;s not complicated. You don&#39;t have to set it up again next year. Once you&#39;ve done a good job setting it up, you&#39;re pretty much done from that day forward. It makes it really easy. Good luck setting up your irrigation system. Believe me, you won&#39;t regret it.</p>