Exploring Green Interiors – Save Water with Drip Irrigation

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Save Water with Drip Irrigation
Spring is finally here, and with sunshine and warmer weather, gardens are blooming and landscaping projects have begun. At Beth Haley Design, we just relocated our office to the 12South business district in April. In addition to a new home, we’ve gained a yard! In our plans to keep the space as “green” as possible, water supply and output has been a major concern for the upkeep of our new landscaping.

Through research we found the drip irrigation system to be the best solution for our needs. It consists of an underground tubing system that carries a low-pressure flow of water directly to the roots of foliage.

It is much more efficient than the traditional sprinkler system. Traditionally, this system can be used for growing commercial vegetables and plants; however, the drip system can also successfully be applied to residential use.

The drip irrigation system, sometimes referred to as trickle irrigation, allows water to penetrate directly into the ground rather than on top of plants and soil. This allows water to be absorbed deeper into the soil, directly to the roots.

Understanding why the drip system is so effective is best done by taking a look at how it is constructed. The system works around zone areas of growth, so you can start in a small area and then expand to different zones of landscaping in your garden or yard.

The drip system for Beth Haley Design’s yard will start with a rain barrel fed by our gutters, elevated about 8-in. above the ground. The height helps with water pressure. The on/off valve at the barrel can be turned off during the down season or if any repairs are needed. The valve is connected to a backflow preventer, which inhibits any unwanted elements backing up into the clean rainwater.

Next is a valve to regulate the pressure. This alleviates issues pertaining to the strength of water pressure. The regulation valve will ensure the water pumping into the ground flows at a constant rate, regardless of the variance in outside pressure levels.

Connected to the pressure valve is an optional filter. Some say it is not necessary, but keep in mind that drip emitters have tiny openings that can be clogged with dirt or sediment. Better to stay safe with a filter than to have to deal with repair issues later.

The typical homeowner is likely to use a half-inch hose, although larger and smaller versions are available. Connected to the tubing are the actual drip emitters. You will need a minimum of 18-in. between each. Some come preassembled, and others can be screwed in by hand. Finally, at the end of the tubing is the end cap.

Because water is moving directly to the roots of the foliage, a drip system helps save water and fertilizer by eliminating extensive water waste typically caused due to evaporation by the wind and sun. As an added bonus, it also helps prevent waterborne pests from attacking your shrubs.
To compare the water output to conventional sprinkler systems, which can pump out as much as 3 gallons per minute, the drip irrigation system uses only 4 gallons per hour. The system is most effective when installed on a flat plain, as gravity will pull water down hill if your landscaped areas are situated on a slope.

As you plan outdoor household projects this spring, keep in mind the opportunities available to make your gardens even more effective and earth friendly. There also are many great online resources for additional information and DIY drip irrigation systems.
—By Maggie McClure of Beth Haley Design

Editor’s Note: Beth Haley Design, an urban interior design firm, focuses on remodeling and revitalizing established homes, as well as creating stimulating, functional, sustainable spaces in new homes. Maggie McClure is an allied member of ASID (American Society of Interior Designers). E-mail your questions to her at ngregg@ ngregg.com or visit www.bethhaleydesign.com.

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