Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Drip Irrigation Retrofit

This past weekend, we began retrofitting the back planter sprinkler system.  I order much of my stuff through The Drip Store (I'm going to get free crap if it kills me).  They have an excellent tutorial you can download and their customer service has been quite helpful in answering my questions.  I must note, that I do not get anything from them and, honestly, they probably don't even know I exist.  I just found their tutorial and starter kits to be very helpful.

Now, the previous homeowner, whom I am related to, did a fantastic job in the irrigation system.  Everything in all 10,000 square feet is covered with overhead sprayers on eight valves and it works flawlessly.  That is a HUGE advantage we have.  We simply want to change over to a drip system.  However, we don't want to be digging up the yard in order to do so.  Hence, the retrofitting.

In order to retrofit an existing system, you need four pieces per sprinkler head you wish to use, in addition to the hose itself.  We'll cover that in a future post.  No use shooting our wad all at once.  From left to right is a 90 (imagine a little degree sign here, as I have no idea where in the hell that is on the keyboard) elbow connector.  This piece is fitted to the riser.  We'll get to that later.  Next is the 25 psi pressure regulator.  The pressure regulator is very important and is dependent on the hose and fittings you are going to use.  Both of those should display what the recommended psi is.  This is the hose connector.  The 1/2" black hose is inserted into the slip end and is held in place with pressure alone.  Next, no shown, is the hose.  Last, on the right, is the plug which goes at the far end of the hose.  Otherwise, water would gush out all over the place and that would be idiotic.  Held in place just through pressure alone.

Sprinkler head.  We've all seen one.

Insert riser.  I buy the adjustable risers where you can cut off the sections you don't need.  I try to get the top to be right at ground level to hide it as best as possible.  You can put this system completely underground, but it makes maintenance difficult.

There are three of the four pieces in order from left to right as noted above.  The 90 (imagine degree sign) elbow, pressure regulator and connector.  I use plumbers tape in all the joints just to be safe.  I have found they occasionally leak.  I find this out when there is a massive mound of weeds growing around your retrofit.  And, they are normally the prickliest damn weeds on the planet.  Guaranteed.

Here is the hose running down the back of the planter box.  We can probably handle anywhere from 12 to 20 plants from this one line, depending on the size.  Some of the larger plants, like the Lion's Tail we just purchased which will be in a future post (I know you're just giddy with excitement!!) will take two emitters.  So, I guess I should have just said it will handle about 20 emitters.  Christ, sometimes I can't keep up with myself.

Hold on, we're not done.  Lastly, you need to plug the sprinkler heads that won't be used.  Here we will probably be able to block three heads for every one we use.  That will remove 12 heads and replace with three or four drip lines.  As I have said previously, the County of San Bernardino charges for a minimum amount of water, whether used or not.  Our goal is to always stay below that, even with the lawn.  If I'm paying for it, I'm going to use it.  If they lower the allotment, I'll lower my usage.  Now, who needs a cocktail?


  1. Wow! I learned a lot. First of all, I didn't know you could switch sprinkler systems to drip systems. That is awesome! Being in a very water conscience community, I know how much water you'll save using the drip system. Too much evaporation when you put water in the air. Where we live, they take our average usage from Jan, Feb and Mar; put us in a "catagory" and then charge a higher rate on water used above that catagory. I tend to exceed our catagory at least one month of the summer because no rain means nothing in the rain barrels and I have to resort to the hose sometimes. I have soaker hoses snaked through my planting beds for those dry times. Your plants will be happier getting the water right to the roots. Nice post.

  2. Great, and instructive post! I've been using RainDrip drip irrigation products now for more than 16 years. I love how versatile these systems are, and how easy they are to install. One tip, depending on your water pressure, keep an eye on the end of that mainline 1/2" hose. I've had the slip end-caps blow off, especially when the hose gets hot in the sun. I can't use them here as our water pressure is very high, and our slopes complicate things, so I switched ours out for the figure-8 end caps. Can't believe your water district charges for a minimum water usage...way to encourage conservation!

  3. Great instructions! Is there a sign-up list for potential clients? After finishing your system, you can start helping your fellow gardeners/bloggers.

  4. Sherlock, the amount of water we'll be saving will be enormous. As you can see, we have a lot of open space as we are just starting out. In the short term, we'll avoid watering, well, nothing until plants are put in.

    Curbstone, I did see those figure eights, but the caps have been holding well on the few lines we've put in. Eventually, the lines will be buried, but I plan on leaving the end cup out of the ground just for the reason you've described.

    Tatyana, nothing would make me happier then for this blog to turn into some type of career, or at least second income. Maybe drip irrigation is my calling.

  5. Nice instructional Turling! I would love a system like yours....ah another project to add to the list : )

  6. I've been planning an irrigation system project for later this year. It includes some old hose and ... well, some old hose really.

  7. Wow, everything in this post was way over my head LOL. My sprinkler system is me. And I don't even bother this year, at this point it's so dry out there. I'm so jealous :)

  8. Susan, the lists are neverending, aren't they?

    IG, I have plenty of old hose. I'll put it on a plane to you.

    Kyna, mine would be the same as yours if not for the fact that I would forget. Every single day.