Inexpensive Irrigation Systems

pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)March 12, 2013

I am hoping someone can help me with a inexpensive irrigation system for my yard this coming summer. First a little background:

1. Our lot is approximately 13,000 square feet with approximately 10,000 square feet of grass and mulched beds (trees, shrubs and perennials). We moved into the house in 2006 and it was new construction.

2. We are in the process of a two to three year planting plan (this spring will be year two). This plan includes creating large mulch beds filled with trees and shrubs and filled in with perennials and groundcover (see attached photos). Last year we created the beds in the backyard and planted many trees and shrubs. This spring we plan on adding a few trees (replacing trees that didn't survive last year and adding new ones along the back of the lot) and filling in the beds with perennials. We will also be creating beds this spring along both sides of the house.

3. The grass in the front yard was sodded and in the back in sides was seeded. THe backyard was called Deluxe (bought at F&G) and is a mix of the following:
34% Perennial Rye
33% Kentucky Bluegrass
33% Creeping Red Fescue
I believe the front is similiar but not sure. The back has filled in nicely while the front is not so full. I believe the issue with the front is that it faces the west so receives a lot of afternoon sun, and in a lot of areas the builder left leftover concrete and asphalt buried just below the surface (I dug up one strip along the driveway and found chunck of asphalt). The strips along the driveway and the parkway (between street and sidewalk) are almost bare except for weeds during the middle of summer.

Like I said earlier, I am looking for inexpensive solutions to water well. This system would be a temporary (a year or two), as we hope to install a more professional, permanent system. After reading up on the topic over the past few days, I have come up with the following solutions:
-Use the hose bibs (one on each side of the house) as the watering source. Unfortunately the pipe running from the main on both is only 1/2" pipe I think so it does not provide the pressue I'd like. I have run another bib to the garage so I am capable of adding a 1" line if need be but this will add cost.
-Add a timer immediately after hose bib connection. Originally I was looking at the Orbit four valve timer ( but it is expensive and only allows for control of two valves from what I understand. Right now I am leaning on a single timer at each bib followed by a four way valve after it.
-For grass areas I am planning on burying hose in the mulch beds where ever possible and under grass in the other areas leading to sprinkler heads. In the past we have used pulsating and oscillating sprinklers. I hate moving the hoses around all the time and never seem to get the 1" of water in an area even after leaving a sprinkler on for hours in one spot.
-For the mulched beds I am debating between soaker hoses, drip lines (seem most efficient and customizable)or Nelson Simple Soaker System ( I've read that drip lines are the most expensive, but I can get 100' of 1/4" tubing for $10. I know I would need emitters then but I still don't see the high price. Soaker hoses run $10 for 75' but only cover 3' width so would need a lot. The Nelson Simple Soaker System looks good but it is $15 for 50' and I'm not sure of how wide an are it covers (the ad claims 12' diameter) and not sure how efficient and durable they are.

I'm open to any and all suggestions. Like I said earlier, I am trying to save money (we have a lot of other landscaping costs) so I probably won't install it all at once either (probably do one system or zone at a time). Thanks in advance!

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Nice professional drawing and plan. First thing if you are going to design your irrigation temporary irrigation is to find out your working pressure and flow rate from your house bibs. If you have no special conditions pointed out by your water supply company and your water line has a pressure regulator in-line before entering your house (usually in your garage), have about 80 psi to your house and 55 psi from your house bibs. Buy a water pressure gauge from the hardware store that goes on your hose bib and measure the pressure. Fill a 5-gallon bucket from your house bib and measure the time it takes to fill up. This info will be the basis for your design. We can help you after you collect that info and post it back here. Aloha

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 10:50PM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks. After doing some research, I am now trying to decide if it might make more sense to just put in a permanent system. I contacted the city and our static water pressure is 63 psi.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 6:46PM
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uncle_t(Z6 Ontario CAN)

If you live on the prairies think trees first before irrigation. For some prairie shrubs and trees draw deep water to the surface and help moisten the lawn (save water bills). I'll take a wild guess that you're in east Montana or west ND? In the prairies trees can also save you heating costs (wind cover).

I used to live in Alberta for many years. Invest in some tree cover first, then plan irrigation.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 9:07PM
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Smart call. Sounds like you going DIY. 63 psi is a little low for street pressure so you want to put a tee fitting into the mainline before it enters your house. Then place a ball valve right after that to be able to shut the entire system off to do maintenance or repairs. If you are in a freezing climate put in next a fitting with you can connect a air compressor to blow out your system in the fall. For the design you will need to determine your flow rate from a hose bib an approximate flow rate even though it is from your house pressure. Does your house have a pressure regulator? This is the beginning, but you realize you are taking on the liability to fix any problems for poor workmanship. If you want to continue I can help you along the way. You needs to decide how you want the irrigation applied from underground and research sprinkler styles, water throw distances, the head pressure and flow rate of each sprinkler and special needs for your plantings. Your tentative layout will determine your water demand for your yards and by knowing the flow rate and pressure you can determine how many zones you will need. Aloha

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 9:45AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks. This will definitely be a diy project. I bought an Orbits pressure gauge at Menards and it is actually reading about 4 or 5 psi higher at the hose bib than the city said our static pressure is. I am assuming I should just use the lower one supplied by the city.

I did the bucket test and came up with just over 10 gpm. However, if I use the calculator on irrigation tutorial I come up with 18 gpm (1" copper pipe). Not sure if the 5/8 water meter is affecting it.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 7:09PM
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Your answer begs the question because if your house has a pressure regulator (didn't answer question), your hose bib pressure would be lower than your street pressure. Unless two things, 1st your water company was mistaken and your street pressure is in the 80 psi range or 2nd your pressure regulator isn't working and your water company was mistaken. My recommendation is if your hose bib is in the 55-60 psi range you can hook up to the hose bib as your source. The size of the pipe/hose bib coming from your house doesn't make difference in the flow rate. Depending on your zone demand it make a difference how fast the water travels through the pipes. If the speed of the water is too fast then you can get noise when you turn on and off your house faucets(water hammer noises). Two values that limit the number of heads in a zone are the pressure and flow rate. Each irrigation head or orifice use a portion of the flow rate and each head or orifice uses up some pressure. The heads at the beginning of the lines get better flow and pressure than the one toward the end of the water line. You know need to research the type of heads you will use and find their flow rate for 60 psi pressure. Each zone can use up to 80% of your source flow rate (10 gpm) with a 1" mainline pipe size. If you use the 18 gpm (max for 1" line), your water will make noise and it will hurt your system when the auto valves open and close. You could use 12 gpm if you prefer. Nothing is exact. One more thing do not combine lawn with beds. A zone should have like type of plants to set a proper duration for the zone. That is enough for now. Time to plan your system. Aloha

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 9:10PM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

Thanks everyone for the advice. We've decided to start adding drip irrigation first (hooking it up to the hose bibs) and then adding the hard-piped sprinkler system later this year/next spring. We will set the drip irrigation in the large mulched beds of trees, shrubs and perennials and set them up so that they can be added to the hard-piped sprinkler system when it is installed. How should we setup such a system? Should we run a regular garden hose from the bib to the mulch bed (area where we plan on running the drip line into the sprinkler system in the future)? What kind of tubing/piping should we use as the laterals?

Below is a rough draft of the system as I envision it:

1. Close to the hose bib run a small piece of hose attached to manifold/shut-off valve that branches off into a number of different connections. One of the branched lines will be for general use and the other(s) will be for the drip irrigation.
2. After the manifold valve, a pressure reduced and filter will be installed. I don't plan on a backflow valve as the hose bib has an anti-siphon feature.
3. A section of garden hose from filter and pressure reduced to start of mulch bed (drip irrigation).
4. Laterals running along edge of mulch beds (or down the middle). Not sure if laterals should be PVC,poly tubing, vinyl tubing, or PVC flex tubing . Laterals will be 1/2" I think.
5. 1/4" tubing running from lateral to plant. Not sure if I can run 1/4" to more than one plant or not. Also not sure what tubing to use ( poly tubing, vinyl tubing, or PVC flex tubing, drip tubing). I plan to use maually placed emitters at each plant.

Please let me know if this plan makes sense. I don't mind spending extra money to make the system the most efficient and durable that it can be. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 11:09AM
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pmsmith2032(5b Suburbs of Chicago)

After research, I am wondering if it would be better to use microsprayers rather than emitters? Some of our beds are rather wide and long (25' wide by 75' long for example - see pictures above) and will be filled with perennials along with the already planted shrubs and trees. These beds are a work in progress (I've planted over 150 containers of perennials using the winter sowing method which I plan on planting this spring). I think the microsprayers might give me better flexibility and be less maintenance then the emitters. However, I am concerned about the disease/fungus issue with the microsprayers and not sure how much less efficient the microsprayers are. Any and all suggestions/comments are welcome!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 8:13AM
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Well, since you asked, I will confide that I found drip systems very unsatisfactory for watering landscape plants in beds. Connections frequently fail and emitters frequently fail to perform as expected, even when they're not stopped up. I see them used in nurseries, but there the lines aren't concealed, making it much easier to detect system failures, and the plants are in containers. I've found soaker hoses much more satisfactory. The new flat ones (I think they're made of woven PVC) are much more flexible and durable than the rubber ones. You have to use a pressure regulator with them. You can use some lines for frequent and others for infrequent watering. You can also place small plants along the lines where it seems the water might otherwise be wasted.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 7:06PM
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