When I first started with my vegetable patch I'd spend hours watering by hand. That got old pretty fast, so I started setting up micro sprays and drippers to water the beds or individual plants. However as soon as I replanted or cycled my garden beds none of the sprays and drippers were in the right places. So then I'd spend hours and remaking the watering system for the next season, throwing out sections of pipe and fittings I didn't have the patience to recycle. This also got old, but not quite as fast. In the end I discovered a really fast and easy way to reconfigure my watering system. It's scalable to the number and types of beds I have active.

Instead of running the PVC pipe to each bed, each time, I have instead run a large bore PVC pipe down each side of my entire garden area. Then at the end of each planting bed I have added a T-junction and a short pipe off to a PVC valve. When I set up a bed for watering I grab a length of the mid sized PVC pipe, attach it to the valve, stake it down so it doesn't move too much, attach all the sprinklers or heads that I need and turn on the valve.

When the bed is no longer active I can turn off the valve and disconnect the sprinkler line. The sprinkler lines get stored over some racks, out of the way, until I need it again. The next time I set up a garden bed, before I make a new sprinkler line, I check what I have stored away. Most of the time, these days, it is a simple mater of connecting an existing sprinkler line and the newly planted bed is being irrigated within 5 minutes.

The advantages of this set up are:
  • I am not watering beds that don't have plants in them, or more likely only have weeds in them. This saves me water.
  • It takes minutes to set up water for new plants, so they are less likely to suffer due to lack of time to water.
  • It is easy to get the irrigation system out of the way for the entire garden at the start of a season so that I can hoe or slash without damaging equipment.
  • The reuse of PVC pipe keeps the cost of irrigation equipment to a minimum.

Step 1: Vetetable Garden Layout

My garden beds change layout from season to season. I move plant types around and try never to have the same plant in the same place two years running. I leave beds unused for seasons at a time. I fertilise with manure and bedding from my chickens and ducks. Occasionally I will add an organic fertiliser. I mulch with pea and wheat straw. I don't have fixed beds but instead dig over the entire garden by hand every year, plus the active beds prior to planting. I'm not a big fan of machine cultivation due to the damage it does to the worms. I have lots of worms and they are really big. (According to a show I saw by David Attenbourgh the biggest earth worms in the world live only an hours drive from my property.)

The result is a fairly chaotic layout that changes size, location and orientation from season to season. So having a flexible irrigation system is necessary if I am to make the best use of my land.

In the diagram shown the beds were established in order of numbering. The larger bed has seasonal vegetables in the top section and herbs in the bottom section. The other two beds tend be planted out to large crops like potatoes, corn and pumpkin.
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<p>This is a wonderful write-up, thanks!! Appreciate the detail and the annotated photos. </p><p>I'm looking at putting in a drip-type irrigation for our backyard &quot;food forest&quot;, which is a mix of trees, some annual veggies, and lots of things I don't recognize. ;) </p><p>Looking at your thought process is very helpful. </p><p>Is the PVC &quot;flexible&quot; tubing sold as drip irrigation, or are you mixing in rigid tubing for the 3/4&quot; (19mm) sections for the permanent part of the installation? I've only use the white PVC for household work and am still learning about the standard tubing types for irrigation. <br>Cheers!<br>David</p>
<p>Hiho,</p><p>Sorry for the late reply. I.T. Snafu's and all that.</p><p>Regarding your questions, the PVC tubing I use is the black semi-flexible, low pressure stuff that is sold for drip and micro spray irrigation.</p><p>I have used a very small amount of white pressure PVC to construct a manifold at the water tap. I did that because it meant I could screw a bunch of other taps together and build something that was self supporting. Also I used the pressure PVC on the mains/pressure pump side of the watering timers. The low pressure irrigation PVC doesn't seem to hold mains pressure for an indefinite period. I've lost thousands of litres of water due to failures in the past.</p><p>I really appreciate your kind words regarding this instructable. </p><p>Thank you</p><p>Michael</p>
Thanks so much for this! Its definitely not how they do <a href="http://www.calgarysprinklersystems.com/about.asp" rel="nofollow">irrigation systems in Calgary</a>, this way is much better.
This reminds me a lot of how my dad does his <a href="http://www.calgarysprinklersystems.com/about.asp" rel="nofollow">irrigation systems Calgary</a>. I have actually helped him a few summers setting his up. There are so many great irrigation ideas out there, hard to know which ones best for your garden style.
Thanks for sharing this information! I have been trying to figure out how to fix mine but this looks helpful! I think I want to try to use the <a href="http://www.calgarysprinklersystems.com/about.asp" rel="nofollow">irrigation systems calgary</a> as well! Thanks for sharing!
About how many tomato plants would you need to harvest the amount seen in picture 1?
I just added a new instructable on growing tomatoes you might be interested in. <br>http://www.instructables.com/id/Veggie-Cylinders-tame-your-wild-vegetable-garden/ <br>
Very cool, thanks!
For the harvest in that photo I think we had 16 plants. But it's not just about the number of plants. The big things for us are: <ul> <li> Adding compost to the soil before planting so the growth is vigorous; <li> Next is keeping the water up so that the plants don't struggle in the summer. Hence this instructable. However irrigation has to be done without over watering because that causes the skins to split, and; <li> Finally keeping the pests under control. One year we had a massive infestation of millipedes that meant half the crop was ruined. </ul>
My sister is starting a garden in her yard and is wanting to put in an <a href="http://www.calgarysprinklersystems.com/about.asp" rel="nofollow">irrigation system in calgary</a>. Thanks for the very useful information here. I will let her know about this article.

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Bio: I'm a computer systems engineer living on an acre in the Adelaide hills of South Australia.
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