Trickle or Drip Irrigation in the Garden and Landscape (trickleirrigation)

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Trickle or Drip Irrigation in the Garden and Landscape

by Don Janssen, UNL Extension Educator

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Trickle irrigation, called drip irrigation by some, can effectively water home gardens and ornamentals as well as use 30 to 50 percent less water than conventional overhead irrigation.

In a trickle system, water drips slowly out of small openings or emitters, from plastic tubing that has been laid on the ground or buried just beneath the soil surface. Besides saving water, other advantages include fewer weeds because only the soil around the desired plants is watered, easy operation, low pressure requirements, less potential for leaf diseases and uniform watering.

Disadvantages include the higher cost than conventional irrigation systems; the time required for initial installation; the possible plugging of the small openings with soil, algae or mineral precipitates, and insect and rodent damage.

The trickle system consists of a supply line either of hose, polyethylene pipe or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe. This line lies perpendicular to the garden rows and delivers water to lateral lines. Laterals run down every other row and are made of polyethylene, butylene or PVC of 3/8 to 3/4-inch diameter. Emitters are either built into the laterals or attached separately.

The emitters reduce the line pressure to nearly zero and slowly apply drops of water to the soil. Emitters vary in type and sophistication, but generally all operate at pressures of 2-10 pound per square inch (psi) and supply 1/2-2 gallons of water per hour. There are six basic types of emitters: microtubes, long path, short-orifice, vortex, pressure compensating and line.

A pressure regulator, or reducer, will be required to lower the 20-60 (psi) household water pressure to 2-15 psi. A fine screened filter (80 to 200 mesh) is also needed to remove any material from the water that might plug the emitters.

Trickle systems vary in sophistication. A complete kit can be purchased for small gardens while larger systems may require a detailed design and components purchased separately. System designs and kits for purchase can be found on the internet.


This resource was added July 2008 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement

PHOTO Credit: Don Janssen, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office


Contact Information University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County
Web site: lancaster.unl.edu
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