Drip Irrigation for Drought-Tolerant Landscapes in San Mateo
Drip irrigation is the most efficient way to water plants. Water is placed near the plant and the low volume of water penetrates deeply to totally water the root system. The biggest problem with conventional spray heads is that a large volume of water is sprayed out on a dry surface and runs off before it can efficiently penetrate. Most of the water runs off into drains and never reaches the plant roots. Lawns need spray heads to cover every square inch so there are not any dry spots, whereas plants are spaced farther apart and can be drip irrigated.
How drip irrigation works
Drip irrigation uses different emitters (and mini spray stakes) depending on the water needs of the plant. Drip emitters come in different outputs rated in gallons per hour. Individual emitters are rated from 1/2 GPH to 6 GPH. Mini spray stakes are also rated this way and are used for plants that have wide, shallow root systems or plants that like overhead watering (e.g. Ferns, Rhododendrons, Azaleas, etc.).Another form of Drip irrigation apparatus are quadrabubblers (4 ports to 4 plants) and Octabubblers (8 ports to eight plants). Existing rigid risers can be converted to Drip by simply removing the high volume spray nozzle and screwing on the "bubbler". A 4 port bubbler would be used on plants spaced 3' apart or less and the 8 port for plants planted under 3' apart. 1/4 " polyvinyl tubing goes from the port to the plant emitter or mini spray stake.
Generally, a 1 gal plant needs 1 emitter whereas a larger 5 gal needs 2 emitters or Mini stake. Emitters are connected to a 6" black plastic stake that holds the emitter in place near the plant.
Converting conventional irrigation to drip irrigation
Drip Irrigation can be used for new landscapes OR conversion of existing conventional, high volume sprays. If there are not more than 10 spray heads on a single valve station, the Quadra or Octa bubblers can be used. If there are more than 10 spray heads on a valve station, then a pressure reducer and filter (placed inside a fiberglass valve box) are connected to the front of the existing valve, a 1/2" black polyethylene tubing is run on the surface to the plants being irrigated (generally no longer that 75' from the valve) and secured on the surface with a 6" "U" nail. Further than 75' will cause the end emitters to not get sufficient volume and pressure to work correctly. All emitters on a 1'2" line should have equal water volume per emitter and not go over the 75' rule.
The advantage of drip irrigation
Drip irrigation uses about 75% less water than conventional sprays. Drip being less volume requires that the water duration per station be at least 20 minutes long so that sufficient water gets to the entire root system. Drip irrigation has the advantage of using less labor for installation. No deep, 12' trenching is required therefore using less labor. If you have a manual irrigation system, Hortus Landscaping can covert those manual valves to automatic. Automatic systems require an irrigation controller with the capacity to irrigate all valve stations in the landscape. Automatic systems water according to the settings used. For example, 5 min. per station, 3 times a week. Multi-program controllers allow you to water eg. some stations every day and some only 3 days a week. The problem with manual systems is that people tend to forget they're on and leave the valve on for sometimes hours! Also, if you're on vacation, you don't need to have someone come over to turn on your irrigation.
Let's save water and still have a beautiful landscape with an efficient watering system.