Introduction: Setting Up an Automatic Multi-zone Home Irrigation System

Picture of Setting Up an Automatic Multi-zone Home Irrigation System

The goal of this ible is to show you how to set up an automated garden irrigation system. If you have a single area to water (be it square or a long wrap around), you most likely have a soaker hose or a sprinkler that goes directly where you need it. The focus Here will be on setting a complex system. Eg. I have a square vegetable garden, 30m further, two blueberry patches, a small strawberry patch in the other direction, a haskap patch midway there, and then 30 meters of raspberry bushes in the front. Having 8 hoses go out is just not an option.

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Now with a video tour at the end.

Step 1: Material

You will need

Hoses

  • A garden hose to reach the intake of your system.
  • Appropriate length of 3/4 inch, 75lbs pvc hose to go around your lot.

Fittings

  • A plumbing to garden hose thread adaptor (more if your system needs it).
  • A 3/4 pvc threaded fitting
  • 3/4 pvc couplers
    • For when you screw up to patch up holes
  • 3/4 PVC Tee
    • If the intake of your system will not be at the end of the pipe (which is very likely), a 3/4 pvc tee (possibly more if you have an offshoot) will be needed
  • 3/4 pvc end caps x 2
    • possibly more if you have an offshoot, or if you use hoses that need a threaded inlet rather than the insert type, but those are not likely to be appropriate for this use
  • 1/2 inch PVC end caps
    • one per irrigation hose if your hose is the kind that you cut to length and need to cap (more on that at the irrigation hose section)

Other

Tools

And finally the actual irrigation hose

  • The style of irrigation hose you will want depends on your needs, but the two likely candidates are
    • drip tape hose: a long, flat, tube with holes that drip slowly, good for long rows full of plant
      • There are some pretty good all in one kits that can do 20x 50ft rows for 160$
      • The appropriate couplers
      • some more pipe clamps and plugs to close the ends of your rows, as well as 1/2 inch PVC poly pipe.

      • 1/2 inch couplers for fixing burst tape hose

    • drip lines: for one by one irrigation. Ex. this is great for my few haskaps, but no way this would be viable for my row of strawberry bushes
      • also required the appropriate pegs and couplers
      • Also available in pretty good kits that can do about 40 plants for 25$ (as you can see much more expensive per plant, but if you just have a a few plants to do, it can be very cost effective).
    • or a mix

Step 2: The General Theory

The general idea here is the create a secondary water distribution network with no leaks, from which the irrigation hoses will run where they are needed. By having the pvc network connected via a garden hose, it is not permanent outdoor plumbing, and so it can be treated the same way you treat your garden hose as far as building codes go. Also, it makes it easy to remove the garden hose to mow the lawn, or drain for the winter.

If you want sections, you can also put in line valves to shut off a section that may not need water for as long as season, or to give priority during a restricted water usage period.

The irrigation hoses tap directly in the pvc, usually by means of a 1/4 hole you drill and then insert a barbed connection. The silicon is useful to close up the leak. If you mess up and make sure hole that is too big, you can cut through the hose where the hole is and put a coupler. However, that's pretty permanent and tough, so if you are just moving things around, you can try to cap it.

This is where offshoots become interesting. If you have to go slightly away from your main line and don't want to water along the way, you can use a tee connection. Similarly, if you have to put in many drip lines off the small area, using a short offshoot that has been threaded connection means you can more easily close it up as needed, or change the setup if your changes need by replacing the few feet of offshoot rather than wrestle with your main line.

Step 3: Unroll Your Pvc Hose

First, place your pvc hose around your lot. I started with 100 feet, and will need another 100 when I put in my fruit trees as they are at the end of my raspberry row.

You don't need pvc everywhere you will water, only as far as the end of your last irrigation hose. In my case, it's at one end of my raspberries, because the irrigation hose runs through them from there.

Step 4: Install Your Pvc Fittings

Picture of Install Your Pvc Fittings

Cut and install your pvc fittings where you need them. At the very least, you need to put in your garden hose inlet, and your end cap.

Optionally, you can put in section valves, necessary offshoots, and even a hose outlet instead of an end cap if you think it could be handy.

Step 5: Roughly Lay Out Your Irrigation Hose.

Picture of Roughly Lay Out Your Irrigation Hose.

I use drip tape hose for now (a long, flat, perforated hose), so I'll talk mostly about that, but the same idea applies to individual drip lines.

As you plan your layout, minimize sharp bends (it should be able to handle sweeps and even u turns with a distance of at least 1 foot). Sharp turns can lead to kinking, which lead to blockages and ruptures. However, you also need to minimize distance from your plants, the drip lines water very very locally, that's why weaving may be necessary if you don't have enough plants to justify parallel lines (parallel lines is a great example of when a pvc offshoot would be very much advised).

The goal here is to make sure you measure twice before you cut. Leave some extra. Once this is done, push the hose down to the ground through the branches and leaves. You don't want the hose full of water pushing down on plants, and you do want to reduce sun exposure as much as possible.

Step 6: Assemble Everything

Picture of Assemble Everything

Now it's time to tap into your pvc for feed your irrigation hose, plug them in, and cap off your irrigation hoses.

At first I tried rolling the ends and clamping them with bag clips. This lead to ruptures and leaks. You are better off using a PVC plug. To use those, you also need 1/2 poly PVC pipe, otherwise it will spray everywhere.

  1. First you cut a piece of PVC pipe; legth is pretty irrelevant, I recommend 2-3 inches just so you have a good grip, but really a 1/2 inch ring would do the job if you managed to get it on there.
  2. Slip the PVC on the hose
  3. Insert the plug in the hose
  4. Push the PVC back on the plug. It won't go all the way. The hose is thick enough to cause lots of friction. The PVC will flare a bit, I was whacking the ends on a rock to make it easier. All you need is to get past the first barb.
    • the hose acts as a sealer, just like the Teflon tape does in other situations
    • don't overdo it, eventually you will probably just stretch the tape hose and weaken it
  5. now add a ring just so it won't move with temperature changes over time

Step 7: Test, Fix, Repeat

Picture of Test, Fix, Repeat

I CAN'T STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!! Start with low pressure and build up slowly. I only use a 1/8th turn open to water my garden. It waters longer but slower (which is better). The reason for this is that the tape hose bursts if you don't have enough of it to relieve the pressure that builds up. This can create some knocking, which is why I put my valve at the other end of the hose, away from the house. The whining and knocking (if any) is then too far to be heard, as the hose buffers it and so does the distance.

Now turn it on and inspect your work. It will take a few moments for the system to fill up, and then you will probably find some leaks or a popped hose here and there. Fret not, it's only water. Shut it off, fix it, and test again. Your most likely culprits will be poorly seated irrigation hoses that slip out, a bend that was too sharp that kinked and blocked water, and drips at the connections.

If you have a burst in the tape hose, you can fix it by using a 1/2 inch coupler, 2 pieces of PVC pipe, and 2 hose clamps. It works the same as the end caps, except that you have PVC on both sides.

Once you know you won't be using it for 24 hours, you can put a finishing touch by sealing up the irrigation hose to pvc pipe coupling with a big of high grade silicon caulking.

Step 8: Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labour!

Ha, I punned you! Enjoy :)

Check out the video for a walk-around!

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