planning DIY soaker hose system

mrtulinJune 7, 2011

Hi People,

First time poster to this forum. Usually, I am on New England and Perennials.

We need to use a drip irrigation system for large, irregularly shaped beds chock full of perennials, trees and shrubs. The borders are mature so laying out the hoses involves weaving around ground level branches, shrubs and not crushing perennials.

Here is what I do have a clue about from reading some posts now: psi, how to measure it, backflow and pressure regulators. Having installed an emittor system, I learned it is not good for a mature garden. Or at least mine. In any case, it is not operating now.

Here are just a few things I don't know: I don't know

if soakers can only go horizontally, or can maintain pressure going uphill,

or how to water the complete circumferance (don't remember how to spell it!) of a tree or shrub, although I have ideas

How can you get the soaker hose to stay where it belongs if it is not just a straight line? I wondered about big landscape staples, as long as one doesn't punch a big hole into the hose.

My first question is to save you guys work: can you refer me to an really good on line source of info or FAQ that can get me started? Then I don't have to ask so many basic questions.

Or, if you are up writing for an essay I'll ask everything here and let you do what you do so well! I'm sure I'll be writing back soon. We seem to beginning another very early, rainless summer here in my part of Massachusetts

Thanks for your interest and help!

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I guess I will start the essays. Since the past threads you have read probably included my $0.02. Initially, I will offer some general physics to answer your initial questions. Pressure and therefore flow of the hose differs with vertical elevation/height. So a hose going uphill will have a pressure loss along its length with the lowest pressure at the higher end. Also water losses pressure as water flows along the hoses length as water exits the hose. Therefore you have a double loss when it goes uphill. The opposite is true if the hose goes downhill. The pressure is lost from water flow usage along its length but the hose gains pressure because water is decreasing in elevation. It works out that a down slope of 1.5% (1.5 feet vertical per 100 ft horizontal) equal the pressure loss from the flow loss along it length. This means that the flow rate at the beginning of the hose will equal the flow rate at the end of the hose. There is a way to test this physically. Suspend you hose above the bed at this 1.5% slope and place equal diameter cups at intervals under its length. They should have roughly the same depth in equal diameter cups.
The second question, you have the right idea. A u-shapes metal or plastic staples would work. You could use any type of forked stake and tie the hose to it as well. what is your pressure and flow rate? I sure appreciate others adding to this essay. JMHO Aloha

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 7:42PM
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i like these sites

Some folks will use mini sprayers and sprinklers to water large areas. You can also make a ring of hose with several emitters.

As far as securing the tubing. Those landscaping staples work nicely.

Any idea why your system isn't working properly? How much tubing, what size is it, do you have and how many emitters? 1/2" tubing is only good for about 200 gals per hour. That's quite a bit, but it's not an infinite amount (especially if it's a long length of tubing and has lots of emitters).

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 7:56PM
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Thanks so far! The other system we put in by ourselves years ago, and it worked fine. Sometimes it clogged up or a pipe or emitter got bent, but was easily fixed. It simply didn't work because it couldn't effectively water big plants with huge surfaces: hostas 2.5 feet across, next to grasses a foot or more in diameter. Just too much foliage and stems for it to be effective. I suppose we could have figured out how to update it....oh, I remember the other reason.
Our wonderful elderly neighbor with a well gave us access to his faucet and told us to "help ourselves." So we have....with hoses going all directions. His water is at a higher elevation than almost any place in our garden, so we we have been able to water more than half our gardens with his resources. We're on District water, don't even have a separate meter for outdoor use so the savings are substantial.

What lehua wrote is evident from just watching the hose...
water got to the end of 200 feet of soaker hose, but less at the end. When we placed the hose with one uphill turn, and looped around shrubs, drastic reduction in at least a third.

Even without knowing the exact science, I thought of a y junction and running parallel hoses. Running two at once would leave me with the same volume/pressure problem with two hoses instead of one.'d need shut off valve at a convient place along the hose line so I don't have to keep running to the faucet. I I'd just need to carefully mark the junction/shut off so I'm not walking the lenght of the hose looking for it, or scrambling under a shrub where it got buried!

But with shut off valves that are easy to reach and operate (meaning good quality ones and not the s-t plastic stuff) I could run the hoses alternately. I don't mind paying that kind of attention. Even in a severe drought if I watered deeply it would only be a few times a week attending to different areas. I don't mind using the time to check on the weeds and needs of plants.

Thank you for the websites. I'll read up, see what you say to my comments and come up with more questions. I'll try to get to measuring the psi asap

Actually, I didn't understand about placing the cups. Do you mean place the cups on the ground with the soaker hose over them so the moisture will drip directly into cup?

Again thanks! I'm really looking forward to vodka and tonics instead of watering every day after work.


    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 11:04PM
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I guess you could place the cups below ground level with the soaker hose dripping into them(you could measure your differing flow rate for your actual slope). I was thinking just to test the the idea of sloping the line at 1.5% by suspending the hose at that slope in the air from stakes and have cups underneath measuring the depth in the cups for a certain period of time. If the hose slope was 1.5%, theoretically your water depth in each cup would be equal because your flow rate along your hose length would be equal. Measure the sources flow rate along with the psi. Let me know how much higher vertical height in feet the source of water is from your garden as well as the horizontal distance. JMHO Aloha

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 2:00PM
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Uh Oh, I just got Officially Lost! I think you just presented a "word problem" as they were called in beginning algebra decades ago. Let's start with the basics: how to measure the 1.5% slope? Are we talking about an angle? I know what that a hill at at 90% angle would be a vertical cliff! Sorry for asking for basic math instruction, but that's where I'm at. My husband would be better at this, but I want to understand it myself.


    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 3:10PM
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All math problems are word problems :-)

Slope: Put your 100 foot hose on the ground and lift one end 1.5 feet off the ground. If you could keep it perfectly straight without sagging (sorta like a rigid pipe) then it would form a 1.5% angle. Technically u would need just over 100 feet. 100.011246 to be exact :-), but that's close enough.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 3:49PM
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Got it, until you wrote "u would need just over 100 feet..." Need 100 feet for what...? What does this information tell me about running a soaker hose on a slope? This is the most interesting (and relevant) math I've ever dealt with.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 10:51PM
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Don't worry about that this is a math problem. Let's look at this as recording what is actually part of your yard. Your normal stride is 2 1/2 feet long(relaxed walking). Walk and count the step from your water source(neighbors faucet) to your nearest edge of garden plot. Count the steps for the length and width of your garden. Now to measure your vertical difference for from the water source to the nearest edge of your garden, using your height(approximately 5 feet), count the number of your heights that fit between the water source and your garden. Write what you have recorded here. Do you or your husband own a 2 foot long bubble level? Aloha

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 11:51PM
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He's a machinist and general all round fix it guy, so he as at least one two foot level.
OK, will do as you say. We are getting ready for a long weekend away so I won't have time to really attend to this until next week. Meanwhile, between now and Friday night I am watering all my new plantings 9(from last year and this) deeply and putting down more mulch. That will have to hold them until the long delayed rains come or the soaker hoses are set up.

I shouldn't be surprised you are helping me in such detail. Gardenweb people are really quite extraordinary.
Thank you again,

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 1:12AM
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What is extraordinary is that your neighbor is letting you use his water faucet. How great is that, but I will refrain from starting neighbor stories. Count your lucky stars. Aloha

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 12:21PM
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After 1.5 weeks of rain, I'm ready to tackle irrigation again!
We got solid rubber hose laid out to the points where we want the soakers begin. Have a number of y joints available. I'll be posting again as I figure out the pieces or get stumped.
Many thanks\

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 11:02AM
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What type of solid rubber hoses? Make sure they can handle 80 psi pressure. Any pipe that will be sustaining long term pressure should be PVC Schedule 40 or class 125. Fit with pipe thread fittings to the rubber hoses which should be pressurized, along with the soaker hoses, only during irrigation. This will make sure while you are away the line does not rupture(hoses do this at the worst time)and flood your yard and your neighbors and you have to explain why your friend has to pay a huge water bill. The PVC line can become a manifold or splitter with manual valves to your various irrigation rubber hoses. JMHO Aloha

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 5:18PM
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How does one know what the gauge of the standard hose is? I have tended over the years to buy good quality hoses, but some have been around for a while and I have no recollection of their 'fitness.' I doubt they are rubber. Whatever the human made substitute has been for many years.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 5:54PM
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Not a gauge or wall thickness but the following criteria for hoses minimum:

Working pressure: 100 PSI
Working temperature: 110�F
Coil hose burst pressure rating: 400 PSI

Again it is not a good idea to have a garden hose constantly under pressure downstream of a valve. When house valves (washing machines, showers faucets, kitchen faucet, etc)close and open, they send shock waves(small water hammers) through the line to the garden hose valve. Over time the hose or the hose connection is taking the brunt of the shocks. That is why the bursting pressure rating is so high and important. Hard pipe can stand the shocks better and is designed to do so. Enough said on this subject.

FYI, Approximate flow rates for hoses are:
1/2" hose at 60 psi delivers 8 gpm
5/8" diameter hose at 60 psi delivers 16 gpm
3/4" diameter hose at 60 psi delivers 23 gpm


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 9:34PM
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Thanks- very interesting. An entire physical world I am unaware of. The internet is truly a wonderful reasonable quantities.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 9:53PM
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