As I’ve mentioned before, the beds with the trees in them are a good way from any tap, and basically all the surrounding areas are walkways. I wanted to put in a watering system but I didn’t want to do too much digging, as all those areas are still in flux. Maybe one day I’ll put a more permanent one in. For now, I decided I’d pop in a stand alone system that I could connect up to that regular garden hose. The downside of this is it’s pretty susceptible to getting dirt in the system – I don’t expect this to last more than a couple of years, for that reason.
This post is mostly for my own reference on what bits I used, but it might be useful to someone else, who knows? Please don’t use this as a how to run irrigation if you’ve never done it before. There are HEAPS of good resources on the net for understanding the requirements of irrigation, and the hows and whys, and you should get across that stuff first. Here’s a good example, and here. But maybe it will give someone an idea of what’s possible for a simple system. You don’t have to have a complex, multi-tiered system to benefit from irrigation. This whole set up cost me just over $50 – well ok that’s cheating, I already had some of the bits. Let’s say $100 for two duplicate systems, watering six trees total. And it’s going to let me water my trees deeply and thoroughly while saving me effort and water. It’ll probably pay for itself within the year. I bought everything at Bunnings, and it’s all really standard stuff.
If you are creating a system like this, as well as the parts specified you will also need something to cut the pipe (I just used regular scissors but it’s probably worth buying a proper cutter because the scissors give dodgy edges), poly pipe clamps to keep the connections secure, a hole punch for connecting in the 4mm bits (you can do without but it’s a pain, just buy the three dollar thingo) and probably some cable ties. You should probably just stock up on cable ties anyway. They are handy as. It’s also not a bad idea to have these repairers for if you make a mistake or want to move where your watering bits are.
The photos aren’t really very descriptive, unfortunately, because it all just looks like a black tube with another black tube. So I drew this very precise and professional outline:
Here is the start of the system. In order to limit dirt entering the system, I bought a hose to 19mm connector. I connected it to a bit of 19mm poly pipe and clamped it off with a cable tie. I could have used an end cap but I didn’t. Cable ties work fine, especially since no actual water will be going through this bit. I’ve used cable ties to end off a system and they’re fine but you do have to check them regularly to make sure they haven’t atrophied and slipped off and you’re pouring water onto the garden and the first time you know about it is when you get a water bill that’s 5 times what it usually is. Ask me how I know.
Anyway, this goes on the end of the system when the hose is elsewhere, closing it off. It’s on the right in the next photo, sorry it’s not very clear.
The start of the system is an adapter piece which was about $2:
This attaches to the water filter/pressure regulator. You can buy these all in one, just make sure you get the right size – 19mm or 13mm. My system is 19mm because I already had that size poly pipe but really it only needs 13mm, because it’s short and simple. If you’ve got a more complex system with different levels or lots of things coming off it, you’ll need 19mm to get enough pressure. Again, do your reading.
The filter/pressure regulators are sold with the bit at the top of a size to screw on to a regular tap fitting, but it’s actually got a sort of double head – you can screw the tap fitting bit off and then you’ve got a bit that fits around smaller pieces, like this clip on bit. Test this out when you’re buying stuff, before you walk away from the aisle check that everything you need to connect does actually connect. If it doesn’t I guarantee you you’ll be able to buy a $2 adapter to make them fit – its just much less annoying to figure this out the first trip.
So, so far we have: hose clip bit (idk what that’s called?) is attached to the filter/pressure regulator. All systems should have the pressure regulator/filter on them. They’re about $12. The other end of the filter has a bit to fit into poly pipe, so it goes in that. Don’t forget to put the clamp around the poly before you shove it in there – without the clamp the first time you turn the system on it’s going to shoot apart. I just used the plastic clamps, they’re fine. I used them in my old system and they lasted five years, no worries. You’ll note that I forgot the clamp on this one and it did in fact go shooting off. Popped a clamp on and it was fine.
Then you lay the pipe the length of the system, and you pop an end cap in, with a clamp around it. That’s the basis of your super basic system. You’ve got a water delivery pipeline running the length of your bed that you can attach things into.
Next bit is to actually put the watering bits in!
My watering bits are these spectrum jets. I chose them because they distribute water over a large area (you can screw the cap on tighter or looser to adjust how much) and I want to establish a good root zone for my trees so I figure that’ll do it better than a dripper. I am not an expert so maybe this is the wrong choice. It’s the one I went with. These jets come with an attachment piece provided, so if you’re using them you don’t need to buy any connectors, you’ll just need the tube to connect the poly to where you want the watering action. Cut a generous length, connect it to the jet, connect the other end to the attachment provided, pop that in the poly pipe, you’re done. You can also, of course, buy drippers and sprinklers that come straight off the poly pipe, but I like being able to place them precisely where I want without wrestling with the poly pipe, which I find never sits in place. Give yourself more length than you think you need with the 4mm tube, better to have more give than not enough.
I ALSO have dripper tube on some of my trees. I had this on hand and I put it in and then it wasn’t dripping well. I figured it was maybe clogged up with dirt, being about 7 years old and having lain on the ground for most of that. So I replaced it with the spectrum jets but since it’s a short system and I don’t have to worry about pressure, I left it in.
But then the spectrum jets also weren’t working very well! With a bit of mucking around and to-ing and fro-ing and exchanging of parts, I worked out that the issue was the pressure regulator. If I turned the tap up high enough to give enough pressure to the drippers, the pressure regulator was spitting out a fountain of water. I neglected to get a photo of this but it was pretty impressive. So I went back to Bunnos and got a stand-alone pressure regulator. They come in 100kPa and 300kPa – the one that comes with the filter is 200kPa. Not being totally across all of that, I went for 300kPa, and that seems to be doing the job just fine. Now everything works as it’s supposed to. I have had that experience with a pressure regulator in that past, and didn’t realise it was a problem with the regulator and not something I’d done wrong. It leads me to suspect it is not an uncommon problem. I wish I’d kept the receipt, I’d have taken it back.
And that’s it! A simple system, and my trees are not finally getting enough water. They look very pleased about it, too.