A step-by-step tutorial on how to install a DIY drip irrigation system, an automatic watering system for plants, perfect for flowers and gardens.
Make your life easier by installing a DIY drip irrigation system which is a fantastic automatic watering system for plants. This type of system waters a plant right at the base, so you are not watering extra soil which means less weeding.
I first discovered how amazing a drip irrigation system was when we installed one for our flower bed. This system used a hose faucet to work. So if you want a drip irrigation that works in replacement of a hose, be sure to check out this tutorial on creating a DIY hose drip irrigation system.
But if you really want to automate the system, so it works with a sprinkler timer, this is your tutorial.
SIDE NOTE: We did convert the other hose system to an automatic one.
How does a drip system work?
I explained this before, but let’s go into more detail.
A drip irrigation system works by releasing water slowly at the roots of the plant, which allows the soil to fully absorb the water before the water can evaporate or runoff.
Another benefit to a drip system is that water is only applied where it is needed, not sprayed everywhere like a sprinkler.
A drip irrigation system the most efficient way to water your landscaping, saving you water and money.
These systems are easy to install, easy to design, and can be inexpensive.
How much does it cost to put in a drip system?
I wish I could say it would cost “X” amount to install a drip irrigation system. But it will depend on how long the landscaping area is and how many plants you have.
To give you an estimate, if you are installing a drip valve that will water a 40-foot flower bed which has 14 plants. It will cost you about $110, about $2.75 per foot. Plus this will give you some extra supplies.
Now let’s talk about installing your automatic watering system and the materials you will need.
Automatic watering system for plants
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- drip irrigation valve (has a pressure regulator and filter)
- 1/2″ × size of the valve male threaded barb adapter (connects to the valve to tubing)
- 1/2″ blank tubing
- 1/4″ tubing
- extra fittings for 1/2″ tubing
- figure eight for ends
- barbed adapters (connects 1/2″ tubing to 1/4″ tubing)
- emitters (drippers)
- loop stakes
- tubing stakes
- pipe cutter
- hole punch
- tape measure
You can print the material list and instructions below.
SIDE NOTE: If you need more information about purchasing materials (fittings and emitters) be sure to see our guide about drip irrigation materials.
STEP 1: Design your drip irrigation system
It’s always a good idea to have a plan before starting any project. Before purchasing your supplies, you need to map out your landscaping where the system will be.
Use a tape measure to measure the distance of the landscaping area. This distance will be the amount of 1/2″ tubing you need to buy, plan extra to allow the tubing to wave around the plants.
TIP: I would recommend adding at least 5 feet extra to the distance.
Also, plan on about one foot of 1/4″ tubing for each plant but again plan on extra.
You will need adapters to transition to the 1/4″ tubing, so plan according to the number of plants you have and if you need a straight or tee adapter.
Use the loop stakes, about every two to three feet, of the 1/2″ tubing. And plan on a tubing stake for each emitter dripper.
Next, decide the best type of emitter for each plant or area and write this on your design.
Once your design is complete, you will know the exact amount of materials you need to purchase.
STEP 2: Place the tubing
Now you’re ready to lay your 1/2″ tubing according to your design.
Tip: Place the tubing in the sun for about 30 minutes to make it more flexible and easier to work with.
Because this is an automatic watering system that works with a sprinter timer, you first will need to install your drip irrigation valve into your valve box.
SIDE NOTE: If you need information about this, see my post about installing a sprinkler system (which includes the valves).
Next, attach the threaded barb adapter to the valve. I would recommend using a PVC union between the adapter and valve, to make it easier to remove the valve if ever needed. You may need teflon tape to secure it into place without leaks.
Then push the 1/2″ tubing onto the fitting and start placing the tubing according to your design.
Place loop stakes to anchor the tubing to the soil, so it does not move around.
If you need to branch off the main tubing, cut the tubing with pipe cutters then attach the fitting.
SIDE NOTE: You can cover your tubing with mulch later to hide it.
Once all the tubing is placed, you need to flush the line to make sure no debris got into the line that will clog the emitters. So turn on the water and let it run for about a minute.
SIDE NOTE: It’s a great time to check to make sure there are no leaks at any connections.
At the end of any 1/2″ tubing, add a figure eight now that the line is flushed.
STEP 3: Installing the emitters
To attach the emitters, you need to transition to the 1/4″ tubing.
Take your hole punching tool and punch a hole into the 1/2″ tubing wherever you need to add an adapter (where the emitters will be).
SIDE NOTE: If you do make a mistake, you can use a goof plug to patch the hole.
Push a barded adapter into the punched hole. Then attach the 1/4″ tubing by pushing it onto the adapter.
TIP: Sometimes there are two sides to the adapters the fat side goes into the 1/2″ tubing.
Take the 1/4″ tubing and lay it along the soil until it reaches the plant’s root base. Cut the tubing at this distance.
If you are using tubing stakes to keep the emitter out of the dirt, place the stake onto the tubing, then place the emitter onto the tubing.
Push the stake into the soil so that the emitter is at the root of the plant.
Keep adding emitters to each plant the same way.
Then run the system to make sure each emitter is working properly and watering the plants base. Adjust any placement if it’s not dripping at the plant’s roots.
Now that your drip irrigation system is ready to go, set your timer on your sprinkler timer and let it do the watering.
STEP 3: Maintain your irrigation system
Just because you don’t have to water the plants physically doesn’t mean you can completely forget about them.
There are a couple of things you should do to keep your system running smoothly.
- Inspect the emitters occasionally to make sure they’re working.
- If you live in a cold climate, make sure you winterize the drip system, so it doesn’t freeze.
And that’s it! Simple, right?
You should now create your design and purchase your supplies so that you can have your own automatic watering system for plants. No more plants are drying because you forgot to water them!
Interested in more drip irrigation systems? Here are some other posts you might enjoy: install drip lines in your garden by Home For The Harvest | how to install a drip irrigation system in your yard by Family Handyman
Or you will love these other landscaping projects of ours:
- Install Underground Gutter Drainage
- DIY Concrete Landscape Edging
- Build a simple hose sprinkler
- Install a rain barrel
And don’t forget you can see before and afters in our full house tour by clicking HERE.