Drip Irrigation Basics
In most cases drip irrigation systems are the most efficient way to water outdoor marijuana gardens. Drip systems save 30-50% of water usage, and with timers, you’ll never forget to water. Drip also work great with fertilizer injectors to meter soluble plant food or organic additives right through the drip lines. This makes evenly feeding your marijuana garden effortless.
I’ve personally installed dozens of drip irrigation systems in the last few years. While the work itself is easy, I haven’t always got it right on the first try. There is a lot of thought that goes into designing the ideal drip system so if you are not a pro, it can be a bit trial and error. Redoing a poorly designed drip system can be expensive so I’ve been on the lookout for a way to make the design simpler for new growers or even experienced growers with new gardens.
I’ve wasted hours just trying to chose the right emitters so the water and nutrients are delivered evenly over the root area. It’s not rocket science but hydrodynamics is not always as straightforward as one might guess. You have to get it right. Making sure you have enough pressure and flow is key to a successful drip system and these are not skills that most of us develop in our everyday lives.
In recent years large container outdoor gardens have become very popular. There are some great benefits to these system but they also present some challenges. Grow bags, smart pots, and other containers create a fertile plateau elevated a foot or so above ground level. Without the right system to control the flow of your irrigation, you’ll soon have water spilling over the container edge.
In drought years like California has recently experienced, water can be a huge expense and sometimes scarce. There are tons of emitter options to choose from but which type best suits your gardens needs?
You could hire an expensive consultant but luckily DripWorks has put together a fantastic solution. They now offer Cannabis specific bundled irrigation products that are specifically designed for cannabis gardens.
The DripWorks website is easy to use and offers several options that allow you to customize the system to your exact specifications. Several ideal emitter options are available as well as timers offered in both AC and DC depending on the power course available at your garden. DripWorks has thought of everything and their experience is unrivaled. They have been irrigating the Emerald Triangle’s largest cannabis gardens and other commercial farms for over 25 years.
What makes up a drip system?
Drip irrigation systems have several major components. Below is a brief explanation of what they are called and what they do.
This is the line that supplies the water from the source to the system. It is almost never fitted directly with emitters, instead it carries the water to the garden area where the emitter grid is located.
Timers and Valves
Timers and valves are set on a programed schedule to open and close internal valves automatically. When open they allow water to flow through the system when needed.
With larger systems, you might not have enough pressure or flow to water the entire system at once. Instead, the system can be broken into several smaller sub-systems or circuits. Imagine you have a large 100 plant garden but the flow rate from your water source only provides enough to water for 20 plants worth of emitters. The drip system can be divided into 5 circuits so that each can be run at a separate time. This can be accomplished with 5 manual valves, 5 timers or 1 fancy timer.
Multi-circuit systems should contain a manifold. The manifold is a hub where a single main line is divided into several mainlines. Often these diverging lines are gated with valves or timers. This approach usually requires the use of additional pipe but allows for the timers or valves to be centrally located. Manifolds for drip irrigation can be purchased in a variety of sizes or they can be made from pipe fittings and short sections of pipe.
This the part of the system that puts the water to the ground. Emitters come in a kaleidoscope of options from slow weepy emitters that drip drip drip to sprayers that can throw water feet or yards. I can’t detail how how all of them work but one detail to keep an eye on is pressure compensation. Emitters equipped with a pressure compensation component make an attempt to deliver the same output throughout elevation variations with your garden.
Imagine you have a terraced garden with an upper tier and a lower tier. The lower tier has the benefit of gravity so logic dictates that this level will receive more water. Pressure compensating emitters are designed to defeat gravity and deliver the same amount of water to both upper and lower tiers.
As I mentioned the kit offers several emitter options. Here are some options and the best setting for each.
This product closely resembles ½ inch mainline, and even uses the same fittings. The difference is that the tubing is cleverly designed with pressure regulating punctures at predetermined intervals that allow water to seep through. Emitter tubing is probably most suited for row crops but can also be configured in spirals around planted holes or mounds. I personally find this an awkward option for most marijuana gardens, but others may disagree.
This option will be the better choice for many cannabis gardens. In many ways it is similar to emitter tubing except that the tubing itself is ¼ inch in diameter. The smaller diameter makes it far easier to coil in concentric circles around plants. After the line has been routed appropriately, it’s held in place using short plastic stakes or ground staples. Soaker line is my go-to emitter solution for irrigating smart pots. I run a short section of regular ¼ inch line up from the main line to reach the elevation of the pot. This allows the main line to run straight and clean along the ground.
The Shrubbler emitters come attached to plastic stakes and have pressure compensation built in. These emitters are great for spot irrigation and spray a good bit of water on the soil surface over a small area. There are several variations which are rated to directly irrigate an area from 7 to 14 inches. I’ve used shrubblers in the past but have since found other solutions I prefer. They have a tendency to leave dry spots between emitters.
This interesting device caught my eye a few years ago. It’s a pressure regulating hub, mounted to a ½ inch riser that accommodates 8, ¼ inch lines. Think of it like power strip for drip irrigation. The ends of these 8 lines can then be fitted with emitters, or left open. They can can be run individually into separate containers using line weights or stakes. This works great for situations where there are a great number of small containers in a small space.
Well Earned Plug
Assembling a drip system can be a fun and easy or frustrating and time consuming. Having a good design and all the right parts makes the difference. Before I discovered the kits from DripWorks, I never seemed to complete a system without additional trips to the store for forgotten parts. The Cannabis Garden Kits from DripWorks are complete, easy to assemble and customize. If your unique garden requires a design from scratch, the DripWorks staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Give them a call at 1-800-522-3747 and let them help you plan your next drip system.