Drip irrigation uses plastic pipes to deliver water to precise garden locations in precise quantities. This method of irrigation reduces water loss through evaporation and ensures that each garden area or plant receives the proper amount of water. Water is applied through a network of low-pressure tubes. Drip irrigation is 90 percent efficient, versus 50 to 70 percent efficiency in traditional irrigation systems, according to the Colorado State University Extension Service. Understanding the components and tools of the system is the first step to efficient use of drip irrigation.
Drip tape is the water carrier that runs along each row of your garden. Drip tape is designed with emitters that are 6 inches, 12 inches, or 18 inches apart, according to Louisiana State University (LSU) Extension. Drip tape with emitters 12 inches apart is usually best for general gardens. According to LSU, the conventional way to use drip irrigation in a garden is with a row of drip tape down each row of crop.
Although not required, plastic mulch will help reduce water loss through evaporation. It also will help control weeds around the plants being irrigated. According to LSU, properly installed plastic mulch will keep drip tape properly placed as well.
Although drip tape has built in emitters at regular intervals, you can install a separate emitter for each plant. To use individual emitters, you will need to run thin water pipes to each plant to be watered. You will then attach an emitter to the end of the tube. There are two general classifications of emitters, according to Colorado State University Extension. One delivers more water as the pressure increases. The other delivers the same rate of water regardless of pressure in the system. Emitters are generally rated as quantity of water per hour. For example, an emitter could be rated to deliver 1/2 gallon of water per hour.
Some drip irrigation systems require regulated water pressure to ensure proper flow of water through the emitters. These systems have a water pressure regulator. This regulator often screws to an outdoor faucet. The purpose of the regulator is to limit the pressure of water flowing through the system.
According to Colorado State University Extension, some emitters can become clogged. To reduce problems with clogging, some drip irrigation systems include a filter. The purpose of this tool is to remove sand or other impurities that may be suspended in the water source.