A drip irrigation system, sometimes known as bubbler or microdrip systems, is my absolute favorite method of watering my raised vegetable garden beds and my flower beds. It is highly efficient since it only delivers water to the plants of my choosing.
Microdrip is one of the best ways to save water in your home and you should definitely consider it if you are trying to be eco friendly.
These systems are also very easy to put in with an inexpensive timing system. While there are other popular garden watering methods, I wouldn’t recommend anything over microdrip.
I’ll show you my best drip irrigation hints and tips so that your installation goes flawlessly. So let’s find out how to install a bubbler irrigation system.
Bubbler Drip Irrigation System Benefits and Problems
Drip Irrigation Benefits
A drip irrigation system offers huge benefits to the backyard gardener. They are inexpensive and infinitely customizable. These systems save water and cause less weeding because water is delivered directly to the plant root of only your desired plants.
With no water, less weeds grow and by delivering water directly to the plant root, less water evaporates.
You don’t water the large area around the plant but you water the plant itself, usually as close to the base of the stem as possible. That adds up to a lot of saved money over the course of a growing season.
A drip irrigation system is able to be customized to your exact needs so they work with any type of planting system. For 5 common plantings that work very well with drip irrigation, check out my free PDF in the library! This means that if you want the tomato garden of your dreams, your watering system can account for that.
If you want to instead grow enough lettuce to feed an army, your watering system can account for that as well. Microdrip systems are incredibly fun to set up because you really feel like you have ownership over the entire thing.
Drip Irrigation Problems
Due to the level of complexity these systems can attain, you tend to develop quite a horde of supplies that you need to have a way to store. I have found a Dewalt tool organizer useful since all the little compartments hold my pieces and parts quite nicely.
The only other major concern with bubbler systems compared to other irrigation methods is that they are susceptible to being clogged by dirt and debris. If you find that your system is clogged, you may need to flush the system.
This is simple to do by undoing the end clamp and letting water flow through the system freely. If your bubbler head or drip emitter is clogged, I would replace it rather than flush it.
A good drip irrigation system relies on a few key parts being available to you. If your local hardware store is out of the tubing you need or the bubbler for your system, you can’t really make do with a secondary option.
Drip Irrigation System Requirements
PSI Regulator, Backflow Preventer, and Hose Converter
There are three major pieces required at the host spigot for every drip irrigation system. Fortunately, to make it easy, these three pieces can be purchased as a set, which is awesome! Just buy the set because it’s so much easier than buying each piece separately.
The first part required is an anti-siphon and filter. These systems can be brought down by a small piece of dirt and the filter will help to prevent that. The anti-siphon will keep anything from your system from backing up into the water system as a whole.
Fortunately, the anti-siphon usually has a filter in it as well because bubbler drip irrigation systems do not do well with dirt and dust inside of them.
The second part necessary for a drip irrigation system is a connector that changes the pressure to between 25 and 35 PSI. This is a lower pressure than most hose spigots put out but is it the appropriate pressure for all microdrip systems.
All of the flow amounts specified by your drippers are dependent on having the correct pressure to begin with. Drip irrigation requires specific water pressure to function normally so this is a necessary piece to any system. When the water pressure is correct, the flow rate from the heads will be correct. Do not skip this!
The last major piece converts the hose thread to the 1/2″ poly tubing that microdrip systems run on. This 1/2″ poly tubing is the backbone of all microdrip systems and it is the main distribution line for your system.
There are a few tools that make the installation a hell of a lot easier. I would highly suggest a clipper for the tubing, I use this one and love it, so that you can easily cut the tubing to the right length. Scissors would work but not as easily or as well.
A hole punch helps to make holes in the distribution tubing in order to attach connectors and watering heads. Again, you could probably figure out how to make a hole without one but it’s a lot easier with one.
I would recommend, though you can be brave and go without, is a pack of hole plugs. Not only that, but a large pack of hole plugs. Everybody makes mistakes and I promise that you will at some point poke a hole where you don’t want one.
Beyond that though, one day you’ll want to change your drip irrigation system and you will need to plug a hole then anyway. If you want a great starter set for drip irrigation, there’s a free PDF in the library that tells you 9 pieces to get for a successful drip system.
Drip Irrigation Tubing: From Laser Cut Tubing To Stakes
Tubing and Hold Downs
Grab a roll of 1/4″ line tubing to connect your watering points to the distribution tubing. Make sure to get a package of ends for your distribution tubing.
Hold downs for both sizes of tubing are also good to have around. If I’m being honest, a rock works well too but the hold downs make it so much easier!
There is a specific type of 1/4″ tubing that is soaker tubing. These come in two varieties, one that looks and feels just like a classic soaker hose and a laser cut tubing that drips water out of slits. I prefer the laser cut tubing because it holds up well and works great.
Stakes, Connectors, And Drip System Bubblers
Drip irrigation bubblers and flag emitters come in a ton of different varieties!. Stakes help to stabilize the tubing and the watering heads so that everything is secure within your garden bed.
For a really clean installation, you need tubing tees and elbows. I’ve seen many people get by with just the stakes and tubing but I prefer it with the connectors.
One of my best drip irrigation tips is to keep an array of watering bubblers, drippers, and sprayers around in case of different needs from one plant to another.
Bubblers are sometimes more appropriate but drippers are necessary for many plants. Continue reading for more information on the different types of watering heads available.
Drip Irrigation Watering Heads
Drip watering systems allow for infinite customization. Your soil type will really determine the flow rate that you need at each drip emitter. If you have sandy soil, you’re going to want a higher flow rate and if you have clay soil, a lower flow rate.
You should also consider the size of the plants that you are watering. Larger plants like shrubs and trees need more water and smaller plants need less water. Make sure that you account for the plant as well as the soil type.
For those who want several watering heads off of one sprinkler riser, I give you the manifold! These are basically intersections for a drip irrigation system. They connect to underground sprinkler systems to make your existing system a drip system.
There are anywhere from two to ten ports coming off of it that the 1/4″ tubing can connect to. This is a quick and inexpensive way to attach many watering heads to a centralized distribution point.
Flag Dripper Installation
For small, specific areas, you need to use a flag emitter or line dripper. These drip irrigation system pieces come in three distinct amounts of watering ability. These come in varieties that produce as little as 1/2 gallon per hour (GPH) drippers to 2 GPH drippers.
For watering needs beyond these varieties, it usually isn’t in stock at your local hardware store but it is still possible to find.
Drippers usually come in both in-line and end of line types and it is important to get the correct type.
The in-line type requires 1/4″ tubing on either side of the dripper; they are made to be in the middle of the line.
The end of line drippers will not have a barb on either side so you won’t be able to connect tubing to extend your watering line.
Drip Irrigation Bubblers
Bubbler drip irrigation is my favorite drip irrigation system watering heads. The guy who taught me these systems called them “shrubblers” since they’re perfect for shrubs.
They’re also really fun to set up and watch work. Bubblers are basically like small lawn sprinklers and they can be set to put out anywhere from 0-10 GPH usually.
They either poke into the 1/2″ poly tubing directly or you can put them on a stake and run 1/4″ tubing to them. I have used both and I tend to prefer the ones that stick into the 1/2″ distribution line.
I found them easier to install and they seemed to function better as well.
Preparing For Your Drip Irrigation System
Heading to the Hardware Store
You will also need to pick up various items from the drip system set up in your local hardware store.
For the most successful trip to the hardware store,you’ll want to be ready to tell a sales person what you are trying to accomplish both in terms of layout and plants you are growing.
If you are trying to DIY your setup, grab some things without thinking.
Planning Your Drip Irrigation System Layout
I highly recommend that you work on laying out your drip irrigation system before you actually start cutting tubing. For additional information on each type of watering head, I would recommend going to the Rainbird website since they have a great selection of drip irrigation options.
To help you do your own layout, I have made a simple layout for you to use in order to download and work with. You will be able to custom design your entire system to have an incredibly successful garden season.
Drip irrigation systems are the best options to get a custom designed system for your yard. I am a huge fan of Rainbird as a good drip system because they have so many options and because they have such a complete line of products. Check out their website here.
They allow you to water each plant individually and keep the weeds down by not watering the entire area. With an investment of roughly $100 you can have your own customer basic drip irrigation system on a timer.
If you are ready to spend a little bit more, an advanced system will cost $200-$300 for several garden beds and numerous plants with several different zones of watering.
Don’t hesitate to try out these watering systems. You will never go back to basic again!