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Skaggs: Don’t be a drip; just use it on your yard

POSTED: March 13, 2009 1:00 a.m.

On March 3, landscape professionals and home gardening enthusiasts received some much-welcome news from Carol Couch, director of the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Couch announced that the use of soaker hoses and drip irrigation will be allowed for three days per week, one hour per day, on an odd/even schedule, between midnight and 10 a.m.

If you are not familiar with drip irrigation, it is quite different from "conventional" irrigation methods.

Sprinklers and spray heads apply water to an entire area, while drip irrigation components apply water only to the root zone area near the plant. This allows a drip system to provide needed water to the plant without irrigating large portions of unplanted ground that may harbor weeds and weed seed.

Drip irrigation systems apply water directly to the ground. A drip irrigation system can be operated at any time of day with little concern for disease pressure, since the plant foliage is not wetted during irrigation.

Applying water directly to the ground also makes drip systems highly efficient - some sources say it's 90 percent efficient at delivering water to the plant.

Drip irrigation has gained acceptance in the residential irrigation market over the last several years. Its benefits have made it an indispensable part of the irrigation contractor's toolbox.

The drip emitter is the heart of a drip irrigation system. It not only emits water, but more importantly it regulates the water flow.

Consider a long pipe placed in a flower bed with holes drilled every foot or two. If we attach a garden hose to this pipe and turn on the water, quite a bit of water will squirt out of the first hole in the pipe. The second hole will also provide a good bit of water, but not quite as much as the first due to a slightly lower pressure.

Each successive hole will provide slightly less water than the one before it. The last hole in the pipe will be applying substantially less water than the first one.

The drip emitter overcomes this problem. Each emitter provides a given flow rate of water. The emitter is designed so that the flow rate will change very little with changes in pressure.

If we were to install emitters in each hole in the pipe in that flower bed, the first emitter would apply the same amount of water as the last emitter in the line.

There are three standard emitter flow rates: « gallon per hour, 1 gallon per hour and 2 gallons per hour. The flexibility of a drip system is due in part to these flow rates.

For example, a 1-gallon-per-hour emitter may be placed near a small shrub, a pair of 2-gallon-per-hour emitters may be placed around a small tree and a 1/2-half-gallon-per-hour emitter near a small flower - all on the same section of drip tubing.

Other components of a drip irrigation system include the drip tubing, drip line, filter, pressure regulator and timers.

It's easy to install and allows for responsible, efficient irrigation of the landscape.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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