Question: irrigating a new community garden

patsweetpatMay 13, 2008

Hey GardenWeb folks,

My name is Patrick Meighan, and I live in Culver City, CA (West Los Angeles). My neighbors and I are in the process of setting up an organic community garden in an unused space in the rear of our communally-owned townhouse complex. The puzzle we're currently trying to unlock is irrigation. Specifically, doing irrigation on the cheap. I thought perhaps someone here may possibly have some wisdom to share, so here's our sitch...

We are fortunate enough to have access to a water source on our property that runs near our future garden area, and our plan is to tap into that water source and run some subterranean pipe from there into the garden, where we'd have 4 hose bibs spread out amongst the 13 garden plots. But because cost is a factor, we'd like to do this in as thrifty a fashion as possible.

The first landscaping plumber we brought in for an estimate quoted us something in the $4,000 range for parts, labor, digging, making the connection, the whole bit. Too rich for our blood.

When the second landscaping plumber came in, we asked for an estimate that assumed that we, the gardeners, would pre-dig the pipe trenches, and that all he'd have to do is bring the pipe, lay it in, connect it to the water source (complete with a dedicated meter and any other required hardware), and install the hose bibs. For that he quoted us $1,500. That's getting closer, but we'd still like to make it even yet more cost effective, if possible, which has us thinking DIY thoughts.

Here's the problem: none of us really has any plumbing experience.

So here's my question: do you think it would be advisable (and cost-effective) for us novice, no-plumbing-experience gardeners to dig the pipe trenches ourselves AND purchase the pipe and hose bibs ourselves AND even lay the pipe and connect the hose bibs ourselves and then simply call in a professional plumber to make the connection to our water source (complete with a meter, and any other hardware necessary, like a backflow valve)? My hope is that doing the above would save us a lot of money and shrink our plumber's bill down to just a couple hundred bucks. My fear, though, is that our ignorance of the plumbing basics would cause us to make irredeemable mistakes, like buying the wrong type of pipe (i.e., PVC instead of copper, or vice versa), or buying the wrong size of pipe (i.e., too wide, or too narrow), or digging the wrong type of trench (too deep, or too shallow), or some other novice mistake that'll cost us untold amounts of time and money to correct after the fact.

So I turn to y'all for advice.

If anyone here can possibly give us some pointers on our irrigation quest (or perhaps refer us to someone else who can), we here at the (soon to be inaugurated) Rancho Higuera Community Garden would be forever in your debt.

Thanks so much for any wisdom or referrals y'all can spare,

Patrick Meighan

Culver City, CA

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First, $1500.00 sounds cheap to me.
You mentioned a "dedicated meter". Are you connecting to an existing service line and meter? Then you are installing an additional meter so as to meter the gardens water usage?
Water meters are not cheap.
Then, what type of backflow prevention device is required? These too can be pricy.
You can go to any do it yourself center and find brochures to help you with planning and piping instructions. If you are simply installing pipe and hose bibs, this is not to difficult.
However, you said an "organic garden" .
No disrespect here, but you can not have an organic garden and irrigate with city provided water. Your irrigation water would need some type of treatment. May or may not be "cheap".

Good Luck on your project. Don't be afraid to handle the basics yourself.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2008 at 1:55PM
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patsweetpat, I assume that you mean organic in a very loose manner, otherwise the irrigation issues are mild compared to the 'certified organic' issues. If you have to measure the water usage for payment or similar formal purpose then you will need a meter but this can be rented from the water authority in your area. If it is for record purposes only and does not have to be accurate, then if you measure the water flow (gallons per minute) and keep a record of the times when the water is used then you can calculate a close approximation to the actual use.
PVC pipe irrigation is one of the very few things I learned quickly; and if I can, anyone can. Check out a Vocational Education school near you and pay for one of your group to attend a 'sprinkler basics' class. It will be well worth the time and cost. There are some hardware stores which will help you design and install your system but you will have to undertake to buy all the supplies from them. That is a useful alternative but make sure that the people with whom you are dealing are knowledgeable (great help is hard to find). I wish to stress that a great deal of sucess will depend upon a good design. The major manufacturers of sprinkler equipment provide worksheets for designing a system and listing the materials needed. I remember fondly my most satisfying sale. This customer wanted to install 6 automatic waterers for a dog run. She knew absolutely nothing about putting it together but she measured and I helped her with the list of materials. She put that project together and the only things that were 'left over' were PVC pipe, cement and cleaner and teflon tape - those items which were sold in fixed quantities.
Your group appears to be motivated to do what it takes to bring home a worthwhile endeavour. I can only wish you good luck because you will need a little of that also.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2008 at 7:12AM
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