Micro Irrigate to Save Water

This article was written by Beth Bodenstein of Polk is Florida-Friendly and was originally published by Metro i4 News

For almost two years now I’ve been preaching the gospel of micro irrigation. Estimates are that 50% of our total potable water consumption goes towards lawns and gardens. The use of micro irrigation is a valuable tool conserving our water resources.

But here’s the catch – I’d never actually installed or used a micro system, and was thinking it was about time to rectify that situation. Then I spent a week sharing a booth at Sun n Fun with Jo Reese, the charming sales rep for the Dundee company that manufactures one of the most popular brands of micro irrigation products . I learned that the concept for micro irrigation was born in Polk County, as an option for the citrus industry. The residential use of micro was an offshoot of that commercial use and the product is still manufactured right here in Polk, and distributed nationally.

Last week I realized the time had come. I enlisted a ‘supervisor’ and we traveled over to my local retailer. I only have three beds that needed to be watered, but I purchased the starter kit plus extras because I really wasn’t sure how many misters I’d need. The kit comes with a very useful DVD that explains the installation process, and we took the time to watch that first, while leaving the large supply tube unrolled in the yard, softening up in the sun.

I’m always a little nervous when a project involves the cutting of materials, so it was with great trepidation that I lifted my tool to make the first cut of the supply tube. My ‘supervisor’ assured me that it was the right thing to do so I snipped away. We fed the tube under the house behind the front steps, and then stretched it around to the end of the beds. The kit comes with a handy dandy gizmo that clamps of the tube, but leaves you with the ability to extend the system if desired. Now we realized that I’d probably want 90* elbow connectors so the tube would follow the lines of the house, so back to my local retailer went.

Armed with the new fittings it only took about twenty minutes to get the supply tubing in place and connected. Now came the fun part – time to hook up the individual misters. Everything needed to do this, including the hole punch tool, is included in the starter kit. To my surprise I only needed one of the extra misters that I bought, for a total of 6 along a 50’run. After my ‘supervisor’ demonstrated on the first one, installing them went quickly. Adjusting the spray heads took a few minutes more. I’d estimate total time involved for this part was about 30 minutes.

I had so much material left over that it warranted a third trip to my local retailer. I returned enough items to pay for a pack of drippers and a timer. I didn’t want to think I was too lazy to walk outside and turn on the faucet, so I had considered the timer to be a luxury item – once installed I realized it made sense. I used the drippers for potted plants, including a new potted herb garden. Now, when I go on vacation, my garden will continue to be watered regularly and I won’t come home to find dead plants.

Total time spent on this project was about 4 hours. Most of that came from the three trips to the store. Actual time spent on the actual installation was maybe an hour, and the only tool I needed was a pair of scissors. As for water conservation, this system uses ten gallons/hour. I have the timer set to water for 20 minutes every other day, so I’m only using about 10 gallons/week. This is probably about 25% of what I used when I was watering everything with a hose. The system comes on at 4:00AM, so the water has a chance to sink in slowly before the heat of the day. The timer has a manual mode so if/when the summer rains begin I can turn it off.

For minimal effort and reasonable cost I’ve made a great improvement in my garden, while at the same time doing my part to conserve water…truly a win-win situation. And now when I talk to people at events and workshops I can speak from personal experience, making my message more effective.