How to Build a Drip Irrigation System

One reader shares how to build a watering system that incorporates both soaker hoses and drip irrigation.

| April/May 2018

Proper watering is one of the most important aspects of growing your own vegetables. On a recent trip to Virginia, I met Scott and Susan Hill of Hill Farm. Scott and Susan turned their retirement into a profitable farm venture. Susan is a master of the growing and accounting part of the operation, and Scott is the architect, maintenance man, and everything-else guy. Scott was a helicopter maintenance test pilot in the U.S. Army before retiring. His skills in fluid dynamics shine in his development of this unique dual watering system.

Scott and Susan use these dual watering systems in both their raised and in-ground garden beds at Hill Farm. One part of the system is comprised of a series of three soaker hoses, and the other part provides drip irrigation. Scott created this system to make the best use of Hill Farm’s well water and to help support the farm’s amazing harvests month after month, all year long.

With a little time and effort, you can build your own dual watering system with easy-to-find parts at a reasonable cost. You can expect to pay approximately $60 to $85 per unit, depending on the length of your garden beds and the quality of your materials. Scott suggests going with higher-quality materials because, in his own words, “The better the quality, the less repair required.”

To build your own system, you’ll need the following:

• 3 lengths of soaker hose
• 1 length of drip irrigation tubing
• 4 hose end caps
• 4 female hose menders
• 5 feet of 1-inch PVC pipe
• 2 PVC shut-off valves
• 1 PVC cross fitting
• 1 PVC tee fitting
• 4 PVC elbow fittings
• 5 male PVC hose fittings
• PVC cement
• Drip irrigation tubing hole punch
• Emitters
• 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-inch polyethylene micro tubing
• 1-inch pipe straps 

The lengths of your growing beds will ultimately determine how many emitters, pipe straps, and feet of hose you’ll need for each bed. Scott recommends that you buy your soaker hose in bulk rolls nearest the amount you’ll need. You can then cut it to the exact lengths that work best for your garden beds. These rolls generally come in lengths ranging from 50 feet to 500 feet.

Scott also suggests, “Don’t make the same mistake as me — don’t mix sizes.” He uses only 3⁄4-inch hosing to build his systems because the male and female hose fittings only come in a single size that’s supposed to accommodate hosing from 5⁄8 inch to 3⁄4 inch. Scott has found that when he’s used these fittings with 5⁄8-inch hosing in the past, the hoses tended to split at the coupling after about a month, spilling lots of water into his beds, so he’s decided to stick with 3⁄4-inch hosing.

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!