Avoid These Drip Irrigation Mistakes

The wonders of drip irrigation, gives us the ability to efficiently water plants with the use of a controlled delivery of water directly into the ground, raised beds or containers. Drip irrigation systems consist of tubing through which water travels from its source to drip emitters.

The drip tubing is snaked through various ways, and then the water literally drips from the emitters right to the plants’ root zones. It’s a win, win for the plants and the gardener, it increases plant yields and ensures a healthy crop. But, sometimes every good intention can go terribly wrong. Make sure you are paying close attention during your growing season, or you will end up with plants that are over watered, or getting no water at all.

Bad Placement of Emitters

The number of drip emitters needed and the distance between them, is determined by the size of the area and the type of soil. In sandy soil your emitters will need to be closer together because the water does not move as far horizontally in a sandy soil. In a clay soil, where the water moves farther sideways, the emitters may be farther apart.

Unfortunately determining what type of soil you have, and translating that into spacing for your emitters, is difficult for most people. The average person can’t really tell if a soil is silt or clay simply by looking at it.

There are a few quick visual tests you can do.

  • Clay soil often cracks and splits when it dries.
  • Take a handful of wet soil and ball it up in your hand, if it will not hold together formed into a ball, it is sandy or silty.
  • Clay soil feels like the modeling clay that most people played with as a kid.

The most common mistake made when designing a system is not including enough drip emitters. Having the proper amount of emitters will ensure that your plants’ root systems is getting the water it needs. The more emitters you have, the happier and healthier your plants will be and by having more than one emitter per plant, you eliminate the risk of having a clogged emitter kill off that particular plant. You can have a smaller plant that only requires one emitter but, be sure that you check for clogs through out the growing season.

Also where you place your emitters, is important. Placing your drip emitters too close together or too far apart is something that needs to be taken into consideration. Placing them evenly will ensure that all your plants will get the proper amount of water without having areas over saturated. A good rule of thumb is to place a drip emitter evenly spaced along the plant line and a minimum of six inches from the base of the plant.

Typical spacing of 4 lph (1 gph) emitters:

  • Coarse soil (sand): 60cm (24 inches)
  • Medium soil: 1.0m (36 inches)
  • Fine soil (clay): 1.3m (48 inches)

Typical spacing of 2 lph (0.5 gph) emitters:

  • Coarse soil (sand): 30cm (12 inches)
  • Medium soil: 60cm (24 inches)
  • Fine soil (clay): 1.0m (36 inches)

There are various drip kits available that can aid you in placement of emitters, especially good news for those first time gardeners. This is a good example:

The Gardener’s Drip Kit: All-in-one drip system with Emitter Tubing. Waters 75 sq. ft. area.

The Kit includes (1) faucet connection kit, 50 feet of blank/distribution tubing, 50 feet of 0.9 GPH drip tubing, 25 feet of 1/4″ blank tubing, (2) 1/2″ barbed couplings, (3) 1/2″ barbed tees, (2) 1/2″ barbed elbows, (1) 1/2″ figured 8 end closure, (10) galvanized stakes, (2) 1/4″ barbed couplings, (5) 1/4″ tubing stakes, (2) 1/4″ barbed tees, (10) 1/4″ goof plugs, (5) 1.0 GPH emitters and (1) emitter tool.

  • Precise watering for green, healthy plant growth with low water usage
  • Simple installation without digging
  • Easy to cut and connect
  • Includes multi-function Faucet Connection Kit and an installation tool that simplifies insertion of small barbed fittings and drippers
  • Takes care of regulating pressure, filtering sediment and preventing backflow — the three essentials to make a drip system work efficiently
  • Conforms to your landscaped area and individual plant watering needs
  • Provides everything you need to apply Emitter Tubing in garden areas and Spot Watering to widely spaced plants
  • Easy to extend with additional connectors, tubing and watering devices

Proper Filtration

We suggest using filtered water. It is best for the overall health of your plants and now many drip irrigation systems come with a filter. Using a filter with a mesh screen of at least 100 is best if you want to provide adequate protection to the small orifices of the micro-sprinkler emitters.

Watching Water Pressure

Having adequate pressure is important for any drip irrigation system; without it, your system will fail and your plants will suffer from a lack of water. Too many emitters on a single line will result in a lack of water pressure and this could lead to clogging and inadequate watering. Also use a good pressure regulator to ensure that your drip irrigation system will operate correctly.


You should end up having a set up similar to this when you are finished.

 Timing is everything

Water while you’re away makes for a better day, without all the work. Schedule the watering of your garden, with a quick-set-up with a programmable display.

  • Single outlet to run one hose or watering tool
  • Programmable start time, frequency and duration of watering (1 to 360 minutes)
  • Easy to set up: no tools needed
  • Metal easy-swivel coupling for a quick connection to your spigot and hose
  • Safeguard feature automatically shuts water off when battery is low
  • Rain Delay feature pauses watering schedule to prevent unnecessary watering
  • 2 AA batteries not included
  • 2-year manufacturer warranty

Watering With The Right Schedule

There are no set rules for watering; doing your research and knowing what your plants’ needs are will go a long way in attaining the perfect watering schedule. Don’t assume that a drip irrigation system is a “set it and forget it” type of system; you may have to make periodic and seasonal changes to the watering to get the balance you are looking for. Only you know what your plants need during the growing time and a properly installed drip irrigation system will ensure that your plants get the water they need without getting to little or too much.

By following these basic rules and applying them across the design and installation of your system, you will have a drip irrigation system that will provide you with many years of use and worry-free operation. This will enable your plants to grow healthy and strong and save you money on watering costs.