Life with a Drip System

| October 3, 2018 | 0 Comments

An irrigation system that works properly will ensure a healthy and thriving garden.

Most of you know that gardening is not my favorite pastime. I love flowers and produce, but their care and feeding are not my favorite activities. As a teenager, I groaned in boredom during dinner conversations about crab grass, dichondra and orchids. My parents must be laughing at me now: 19 years of writing garden articles and attending at least one gardening meeting a month. However, if I am going to enjoy a cutting garden, a nice landscape and produce that tastes so much better when it is eaten seconds after it is picked, then I have to do more than plant the seeds or seedlings. Sadly, a full-time gardener is not in the picture.

Thus the day-to-day stuff falls to me. I know myself well. There are days when there is no way I would go out and water. Produce and most flowers need regular watering. I paid a man to install a drip system. Unfortunately, it has not held together well and no one came to repair it when I asked. I found another person. Once again, nothing was repaired. (He only blew leaves and left with my check in hand.) I called him to come and fix the two parts of the system that were shooting water at full throttle from two separate systems. One part watered my plant-free bedroom; the other watered a concrete set of stairs. One entire manifold blasted off into the canyon. I called my sprinkler/gardener guy who said he’d be there the following day at 11:30 a.m. Despite many phone calls, he neither appeared nor responded.

As the daughter of an aeronautical engineer, I am pretty good with mechanical devices. I replaced the manifold that watered our bedroom twice with no success. I did have another one in my bucket of irrigation supplies, so I switched manifolds. However, my hands were not strong enough to replace the hoses onto the manifold spigots. While the manifold remained in place, the tubes blew off it and spewed water everywhere. The concrete stairs were left to their own devices (and water), but I was really upset.

Toni Palafox of Mission Hills Nursery gave me the name of a specialist: Charlie Olson. For a fee, her went through my sprinklers and gave me a couple of lessons on replacing the emitters. He suggested I replace drip emitters with sprinkler heads that cover a bigger area. He also suggested that the systems (there are four; three small ones for planters and balconies and one multi-stationed one for the actual yard) be more unified. Olson is going to give me a bid for physically redoing anything that is amiss, but I’ve been given my homework: replace as many emitters as I can and try to unify the systems.

I went off to Home Depot. Why do they never have what you want? The last time I bought emitters they had these cool sprinkler types that are attached to a spike that goes into the soil. This time similar ones had a little attachment across from the barbed part that goes into the tube. No one was handy to help me, and no one really seemed to know much about the inventory. Consequently, I kept putting a bunch of one kind into my basket only to remove them since I had found something that looked more familiar. I bought a 12-opening manifold and at least 60 sprinkler type emitters. Since the ailing irrigation system had failed to water three or four potted plants, I bought new plants to replace the dead ones (I never noticed their emitters weren’t giving them water.)

The next day, I tried an experiment. The bedroom balcony’s manifold’s tube connections are really hard to see and reach. They sit on an upright pipe with the tube connections facing downward. Awkward! I unscrewed the old manifold and removed its tubes. The tubes came into the house with my bucket of irrigation materials.

As I lay on my bed, new twelve tube manifold in hand, I realized what the extra plastic was on the stake of the sprinkler emitters: it was an adapter. It enabled me to use my quarter inch tubes instead of the 1/8 inch which I couldn’t find to buy. My first guy had used 1/8 inch tubes. I couldn’t find any new emitters to fit into the 1/8 inch tubes he had installed. One by one, I installed the adapters and could attach tubes to 10 of the 12 spouts. Since I was tired and my hands hurt, I plugged the two I had left tube-less.

Then I carefully separated half of the tubes from the others and meticulously screwed the new manifold onto the pipe. It was a bit awkward, but not as bad as trying to force a tube over the little plastic openings’ rims. While crouching and looking up to see what I was doing! Then I changed emitters from drip to shower while I tried to figure out which tube belonged with which plant. I left the drip emitters for the cacti since they die if they get too much water. A drizzle will be enough. Olson is going to change my system from one-gallon per hour to two gallons. He says he thinks it will be more efficient and that I won’t need to run the water as long.

The secret to getting the tubing over the barbed portion of the emitter is to have patience and strength in your hands. Once you are over the barb, wriggle the tube until it is snuggly against the flange. This takes more patience than strength. Remember that a drip system or irrigation system with tubes and emitters needs constant maintenance or a full-time nanny.

There is no Mission Hills Garden Club meeting in October. In November David Root will create holiday arrangements at the Mission Hills Nursery at 1525 Fort Stockton Drive, from 6 until 8 p.m. If you haven’t renewed your membership, now is the time to do so.

Category: Life Style, Local News

About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.