Drip Irrigation Secrets of a Professional Grower


No matter where you live, whatever your climate, you and your garden can benefit from drip irrigation. Long considered a virtual necessity in the arid climate of California and the southwest, gardeners in regions that receive summer rain know that rain does not fall at regular intervals throughout the growing season.  Droughts can occur anywhere, and with the cost of municipal water going ever upward, water conservation is a must. Drip irrigation is the most reliable, efficient, environmentally sound method of watering available to today’s gardeners and growers.

A single row of tomatoes

Setting Up A Drip Irrigation System

Setting up a drip irrigation system is not that much different than assembling tinker toys: you connect water lines in geometric patterns using connectors in the shape of L’s and T’s. The most basic garden plan, a row or series of rows, is ideal for drip irrigation. There are two basic schemes for drip irrigation with row crops: single rows or double rows. While single row systems are easier to assemble, double row plans make more efficient use of space because they reduce the amount of space devoted to pathways but still allow easy access to your plantings from either side. You can also use a combination of the two, as we do, depending on the crops you grow.

Image to the right: a single line setup.

We use a single row system for tomatoes because we have found that growing them in a single line with open space between them improves air circulation and light penetration. With 3’ between plants the possibility of disease is reduced and weeding and harvesting is easier.  

We use a double row system for lettuce, beans, peas, and many other smaller vegetables. A double row system allows you plant on either side of each drip line, creating a bed withA two-row irrigation layout four rows of vegetables, each row 12 inches wide for a total of 48 inches. When we set up double rows the standard distance between our drip lines is 24 inches. Our paths are 2 feet wide; each section of our garden is 6 feet wide total.

Image to the right: a double row system. The space between the lines is 24  inches. The large line at the bottom of the image is 3/4-inch PVC.

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