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July is Smart Irrigation Month, and to get you ready, we are sharing an irrigation product that is simple to use and may have a place in your garden. Although I (Jacqueline Soule) am an avowed “Darwinistic Gardener,” growing mostly tough survivor-type plants, I do water my plants, and I do use an irrigation system. But I like to keep it simple.
As discussed in an earlier post, in a Southwest garden it is advised to plant perennials under trees and shrubs to help shade the soil and reduce evaporation. Perennials have shallow roots and only use water from the top foot of the soil, encouraging tree and shrub roots to grow deeply for water, and incidentally anchoring them better. But this means we will have to apply extra water in a garden setting so that all plants get enough, even low-water natives.
I told you that to tell you this: The easiest way to irrigate a bed of perennials is with ¼ inch “soaker dripline” attached to your ½ inch main irrigation line. Rather than fuss with multiple drip emitters and spaghetti tubing everywhere, you simply lay down a length of this soaker line and allow it to coil around the plants, soaking the soil in an even fashion.
Soaker dripline has small emitters pre-installed into the ¼ inch tubing at regular intervals, either 6, 9 or 12 inches apart. I use the 6-inch intervals for perennial beds and the vegetable garden, and 12 inch intervals around trees. Soaker dripline is far more flexible than soaker hose, and much more UV resistant. My soaker driplines have lasted for years, rather than a single summer like soaker hose.
Soaker dripline is simple to install. If you can assemble Tinker Toys, you can do this! You just connect the dripline to the mainline with a straight barbed connector, and use an end plug (also called goof plug) to seal the open end.
Soaker dripline is wonderfully flexible and can be wound through flower beds or along borders, or placed along slopes where you wish to establish groundcovers. If you wish, you can use u-shaped landscape staples to hold it in place. The DripWorks soaker dripline comes in 500-foot rolls. Or you can find similar products in 100-foot rolls.
You can cover soaker line with mulch – but do remember that it’s there before you dig with a sharp spade. If you accidentally cut the line – no big deal! You can easily reattach it by joining the cut ends with a straight barbed connector – the same fitting you attach it to your main line with.
I am told that soaker dripline also works well with gravity and low pressure systems, such as irrigation fed by water harvesting systems or rain barrels. Such harvest systems are (alas) a day-dream awaiting a roof gutter system at my home, but at least I have my irrigation system ready for it!
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures. Check our events page for locations and times. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada” (Cool Springs Press, $26).
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