Introduction: Rainwater Drip Irrigation System

Picture of Rainwater Drip Irrigation System

Here's a simple drip irrigation system that uses gravity to put rain water from a rain barrel exactly where it's needed in the vegetable garden. This dripper is designed for a square foot garden system, but can be used in any garden situation.

Drip irrigation is very efficient. Water is put exactly where it's needed-at the root system of the plants. No water is wasted due to runoff or evaporation.

This is my entry for the Get in the Garden contest. I hope you like it!

Step 1: Dripper Materials

Picture of Dripper Materials

This project is constructed out of 1/2" PVC. Here's what you'll need:

4 4" long pieces of 1/2" PVC
2 36" long pieces of 1/2" PVC
2 90 degree elbows for 1/2" PVC
1 four way connector for 1/2" PVC (a tee connector could be used here)
1 female hose connector for 1/2" PVC
1 male connector for 1/2" PVC (if a tee connector is used, this isn't needed)
2 end caps for 1/2" PVC

1 drill
1 1/16" drill bit
1 hacksaw
PVC primer
PVC glue
tape measure

Step 2: Mark and Drill Drip Holes

Picture of Mark and Drill Drip Holes

Mark the two 36" long pieces of PVC for the drip holes. The holes are 1" apart.

Once the hole locations are marked, drill 1/16" holes at each mark. Please note that the holes ONLY GO THROUGH ONE SIDE OF THE PIPE. DO NOT DRILL THROUGH BOTH SIDES OF THE PIPE!

Step 3: Glue on the Elbows

Picture of Glue on the Elbows

Now's the time to glue on the elbows.

First, prime both the ends of the drip pipe and the inside of the elbows. The primer I'm using is purple. You can also get clear...

Once both pieces have been primed, apply glue on the end of the pipe, the put the elbow on.

Remember that the holes will be on the bottom of the dripper, so the elbows need to be put on to allow this...

Step 4: Connect the Drip Pipes

Picture of Connect the Drip Pipes

First, glue two of the 4" pieces to the elbows, using the same procedure of primer and glue as described in the previous step.

Then glue the two sides to the four way connector.

Step 5: Water In, Water Out

Picture of Water In, Water Out

Now we'll glue on a way for water to get into the dripper, and a way to let water out (maybe to link to a second dripper...)

Glue the other 4" pieces onto the four way connector. Then add the male connector to the side between the drip pipes, and the female connector to the side that will be sticking out. The garden hose is connected to the female connector.

I realize that's kinda confusing...check the picture for clarification.

Step 6: Cap the Ends

You're almost done. Glue the two end caps onto the open ends of the drip pipes.

Step 7: Time to Water the Plants!

Picture of Time to Water the Plants!

The dripper is installed on either side of the plants to be watered, with the holes on the bottom. Connect the hose to your rain barrel (as long as the rain barrel is higher than the garden) and open the're plants will thank you!


Tahlers (author)2016-08-28

Pvc project

Jason_G (author)2009-06-13

A simple & expandable drip system- very nice. Looks so simple, I bet even I could do it. How many do you have chained together in your garden?

Tree Frog (author)Jason_G2009-06-14

Right now I only have the one. I'd think that the number you could link together would be limited by how much higher the rain barrel is than the garden. I'd guess you could link three or four without much problem. My garden is on a slope, and my rain barrel is three feet higher than the top of the garden, and eight feet higher than the bottom of the garden. You'd probably have to use a valve system to regulate the flow equally...

Kennel78 (author)Tree Frog2016-04-14

Any specific valve system? I'm in your boat , garden is on a slope and it's about 50 ft from rain barrel

Tree Frog (author)2009-06-13 Step 7, I meant "YOUR plants will thank you"...not "YOU'RE plants will thank you"

JimE44 (author)Tree Frog2016-04-05

go climb a tree. .this is about gardening not your grammar, spelling skills.. go troll somewhere else.. we are over folks like you.. control YOUR life and leave the rest of us happy gardeners alone.. thank yew..

pcooper2 (author)Tree Frog2012-05-09

As the author of the article, can't you simply correct it?

gauranga108 (author)2013-10-16

I had some success with a drip system made from hosepipes but the holes get blocked by algae. Any ideas other than painting the water barrel black to block out sunlight?

KByers12 (author)gauranga1082014-04-25

We'll be building an elevated barrel system with an outdoor pond pump (they're only like $50) to prevent insect growth and algea growth, and we'll place a removable cap on the end so we can flush out the pipes once and a while. I might suggest either of these methods.

JimE44 (author)KByers122016-04-05

just helped me make a good decision with the removable cap idea.. draining the pipes for winter if you live in a cold winter area is valuable. thanks!

JimE44 (author)KByers122016-04-05

just helped me make a good decision with the removable cap idea.. draining the pipes for winter if you live in a cold winter area is valuable. thanks!

dan3008 (author)2016-01-10

Surly this needs to be left running a long time to get enough water to keep your plants happy?

Still, I'm going to build myself one, and see how it goes :) That'll keep my pollytunnel nice and watered while I'm away :)

WilliamH25 (author)2015-07-18

i need a watering system for both sides of yard for hedges 200 feet each side would this work thanks

WilliamH25 (author)2015-07-18


WilliamH25 (author)2015-07-18

macmcb (author)2012-01-13

I know it's been a while since this post, but... Does more water drip from the holes closest to the rain barrel? (If so, how much more?)

I'd like to build this myself and wonder if anyone has noticed this issue. Thanks for the great instructable.

Tree Frog (author)macmcb2012-01-13

No...the drip is uniform...assuming that the unit is reasonably level.

rhaubejoi (author)2010-06-11

Very cool instructable. Great idea using things we usually keep around the house (having a well instead of city water and living in a VERY rural area teaches you that its cheaper to have some extra pvc and connectors on-hand than to drive 30 miles for a 15 cent part!) Thanks for a great idea and a well written/documented project!

antpix (author)2009-07-18

Great concept. An alternative idea, would to replace the piping with offcuts of hose pipes to allow more movement around plants.

Wal- Tor (author)2009-06-15

Isn't drip irrigation supposed to be controlled by a computer that knows how much water is needed?

Tree Frog (author)Wal- Tor2009-06-15

Not necessarily. Soaker hoses are technically drip irrigation. This is a form of drip irrigation as well. After using it a couple of times, you can calculate how much water is being delivered based on timing. If your rain barrel is delivering 3 gallons of water a minute, you know that you've applied 15 gallons if you let it run for 5 minutes. Essentially, you are the controller for the system instead of having a computer controller. You could also install a simple timer between the hose bib on the rain barrel and the dripper. That would shut the system down after a preset amount of time.

awang8 (author)2009-06-15

Umm... I don't know if this works for anyone else but my water tank (no pump, just pressure-powered) tends to pump out so much water that it's more of a stream than drops.

Tree Frog (author)awang82009-06-15

My rain barrel has a hose bib on the bottom, so you can regulate the amount of water coming out. You could also use a hose shut off valve at the dripper to regulate the amount of water being used.

kudoskun (author)2009-06-13

Does the hole drilled side go up or down in the garden? Im guessing down, so water doesnt sit in the tubes and stagnate...

Tree Frog (author)kudoskun2009-06-14

Right...the holes go down, so the water drips into the soil.

kudoskun (author)2009-06-13

Simple and straight-forward. I like +1

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