Trickle Irrigation

Trickle or drip irrigation systems use a network of water-conducting tubes placed at the side of plant rows to distribute small amounts of water directly to growing plants. Water emerges through small sprinkler heads, leaks through small emitter holes or soaks through the porous sides of the tubes.

Trickle systems are more costly than sprinkler systems, but they require much less water. This can be a real advantage to city gardeners who must pay for water, and perhaps for waste water treatment also. Trickle systems consist of a water source, a backflow valve, a filter, a pressure gauge, header pipes, emitter tubing and possibly emitters. (See Figure 24.) They operate under very low pressure (six to 20 pounds) and are easily installed. Because the small holes are easily clogged, they require clean water and adequate filtration. City or well water is suitable for use in a trickle system, but river or pond water will require excellent filters.

Trickle systems use less water, partly because of reduced evaporation. Water is placed at the base of the plant, not released into the air where it may evaporate or blow away. The aisles between rows are not watered. Plants remain dry so diseases are less common and severe. Growth is rapid because of the constantly available moisture. Trickle tubes may also be placed under black plastic or used to fertilize vegetables.

Because trickle tubes wet only a portion of the soil, they must run every day or two. It may be difficult to determine how long they need to run. Like traditional irrigation systems, they should wet the soil a foot deep. Gardeners should experiment and see how long this takes.

water emitters rows

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