Sue Sanderson shares her step by step guide on installing a drip irrigation system.

There are three really good reasons to install a drip irrigation system in your garden - it will save you time, water, and money. Drip irrigation systems are far more efficient than watering with a hose or sprinkler system as they deliver the water to the base of the plant - precisely where it is needed. In fact this is the reason why irrigation systems are often excluded from a hosepipe ban. And if you hook it up to an automated timer, you won’t even need to be in your garden to turn it on and off!

Drip irrigation is really versatile so you can install it at ground level throughout newly planted borders and vegetable patches; or you can attach it to a fence and run it among your containers and hanging baskets. Installing a drip system is fairly straightforward and you won’t need any special tools or knowledge. But it’s worth familiarising yourself with the pieces before you start.

How to set up your drip irrigation system

Step 1: When you choose a location, check to see that you have enough of the large supply tube to reach back to your tap. In order to maintain sufficient pressure in the system its best to make sure that the supply tube doesn’t run any further than 50m from the tap.

Step 2: Begin by attaching the computer control unit to the tap and then add the pressure regulator. You may find it helpful to soften the supply tube before attaching it, by putting the end into a bucket of hot water for a few minutes. If you don’t have a computer control unit then just attach the pressure regulator straight to the tap. The main supply pipe then connects to the pressure regulator.

Step 3: Now you can start to create your water pipe network. First of all, lay out the large supply pipe. Don’t try to bend the tube as this will restrict the water flow. If you need to go round a corner then use scissors to cut the pipe and add an elbow connector. If you want to add another piece of supply tube at a 90 degree angle then use a T bar connector.

Step 4: Most importantly, once you have created the main supply network make sure that you seal off the end of the supply pipe, to prevent water pouring out of the system. Simply fold over the end of the supply pipe and hold it in place using the end pieces. Once again, you may need to soften the ends of the pipe by heating them in a bucket of hot water first.

Step 5: Next you can start to add the micro tubing which will direct water to the individual containers. Cut each piece to the required length. Punch a hole in the supply tube using the hole punch provided and then attach the micro tubing to the supply pipe, using the adaptors. It’s important to make sure that these tubes are added at a 90 degree angle to prevent the system leaking. If you make a mistake you can fill in any unwanted holes with the blanking plugs.

Step 6: Next attach the drippers to the ends of the micro tubing. (If you are setting up a system on the ground through a border then you may decide that you don’t need to use the micro tubing. In which case, simply attach the drippers directly into the supply tube.

Step 7: Finally you can secure the pipe in place. Use the large stakes if you are laying the system on the soil. If you are attaching it to a fence or wall then use the wall clips. You can hold the micro tube in place with the smaller stakes.

Step 8: Turn on the tap and check that everything is working properly. The drippers are like mini sprinklers and you can adjust the flow rate by turning them. If you are using a computer system then you will need to program this too. Once your system is set up you will need to try it out a few times in order to get an idea of how long to run it for. This will vary depending on the size of your containers, what type of plants you are growing and what the weather is like - but you will quickly get a feel for it.


This article appeared in Smallholder magazine, subscribe by calling 01778 392011 or emailing