Learning how to garden in the narrow strip between your sidewalk and the street can be a challenge. For my project, the most important step was installing narrow strip irrigation in this area (you can see the rest of the process here). I am happy to say this was one of the easiest parts! Narrow strip irrigation is most efficient with micro-irrigation and it worked perfectly in this scenario. Read on to learn how this project was done:
Why Micro Irrigation?
Very narrow strips are hard to water with spray heads. They tend to overspray, wasting water on the sidewalk and street rather than the soil. Even the most fine-tuned system is going to have a hard time on our 22″ wide strip, almost 35′ in length. Micro irrigation is perfect for this scenario.
Over the past fifty years or so micro irrigation has been developing, primarily in the agriculture industry. With systems constantly being improved, micro irrigation has proved very effective in arid climates such as Israel. Crops are now growing in desert climates which would not have been feasible without drip irrigation. Water conservation efforts in some regions of the world susceptible to drought have incorporated drip irrigation as the primary method of watering crops. Crop yields in virtually all environments have significantly increased while utilizing less water due to drip irrigation technology.
What does this mean for my front yard? The supplies and process are now readily available and very easy to use. From the local hardware store to the big home improvement store, the supplies needed are easy to find and fairly inexpensive.
This project included:
- 1/2″ Poly Tee Fitting
- Hole Punch
- 360 degree Bubblers- this project used 9
- 1/2″ poly tubing
- 1/2″ Tubing End Closures (2)
- Sod staples (to hold the poly tubing in place)
- The first step involves attaching the 1/2″ poly tee to the existing sprinkler. I removed the existing sprinkler head, adding a small riser to the pipe to raise the attachment point level with the soil. This tee simply screws right on to the PVC riser and doesn’t involve any special glue or materials.
- I attach the poly pipe to the tee by holding the pipe up to the fitting and screwing the locking collar. Turning this collar firmly attaches the pipe to the water source. The 1/2-in Poly Tee allows you to send runs of 1/2-in poly tubing in two directions off a main line, perfect for narrow strip irrigation situations. Fortunately, this former sprinkler head is located in the middle of our narrow strip and allows one tube to run each direction.
- The 1/2″ poly tubing is easy to unroll and is simply cut with a pair of kitchen scissors. I find if it is possible to do this on a warm, sunny day the pipe is much more flexible and tends to “stay put” better.
- Don’t worry if it is cool though! Sod staples will help to secure the poly pipe in place. Try to buy the longest staples possible to aid in this process.
- I like to take a few minutes at this point and lay out where plants will be planted. There is the option to actually plant at this point or just know where you will install emitters and come back for planting later. Don’t fret about this too much! The emitters can easily be turned off or replaced with a “goof plug” if they aren’t needed.
- Installing the emitters is easy. The bright orange hole punch is pushed through the poly pipe without much effort. I like to listen for the small popping noise that indicates the plastic has been punched through and is ready for the emitter
- I chose Rainbird’s 360 degree bubblers. They spread water up to 3′ in diameter and are adjusted simply by turning the top cap portion of the emitter to decrease flow. The emitter is pushed into the hole and the barb on the end will keep it firmly in place. While other types of emitters are available but I chose these because they have such a low profile and will not be stepped on or tripped on by our dogs or friends.
- I install the bubblers near each of the plants and open the top cap to allow water to spray. Continuing down the entire strip I add nine emitters total for this area and get ready to test!
- The final step for me is to use the 1/2″ closures on each open end of pipe. Basically these figure-8 pieces keep the pipe kinked off so there is no leaking from the ends. The micro irrigation bubblers need adequate pressure inside the poly pipe and the closures ensure this happens.
Once everything is in place I turn on the water and see what happens…
For the few bubblers spraying too far, I turn the top clockwise to close down the water flower and decrease the spray distance. The new plants will not have a far reaching root system so they are dialed down to deliver water to a small area. As the plants mature and grow I will open them up to increase the spray distance. Finally I spread a light layer of mulch to clean things up and create a nice finished appearance. The entire process took me about an hour to complete and will save a lot of time and water in the future.
There are many options available and my friends at GardenAmbition have put together this piece on selecting an in-ground irrigation system.
If you are considering your first micro irrigation retrofit project I suggest starting with a kit. There are several companies selling these and I think they greatly decrease frustration and the number of trips to the store to get the pieces you forgot. Is it me or do most projects require at least three trips?
A few sources for micro irrigation supplies and kits include: