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How to Set Up an Irrigation System: Simple Guide 2024

How to Set Up an Irrigation System: Simple Guide 2024

Having a lush green garden is a joy, but keeping it healthy can be time-consuming, especially when it comes to watering. An irrigation system can take the guesswork out of watering your garden and help you conserve water. Here's a simple step-by-step guide to plan your irrigation system:

Before you can get designing, there are three key tasks for you to complete on your property before you proceed:

  • Find your home water pressure and flow rate
  • Identify the specific areas and types or your property requiring watering
  • Decide on your budget and requirements

Step 1: Figuring out your flow rate

To get you started on measuring your flow rate, check out this simple tutorial by Pope! It’s really very easy to do, and is important to know how much water you have access to as sprinklers have their own individual flow rates.

The total flow rate from your total number of sprinklers can’t exceed your household’s water flow rate. Irrigation parts will usually quote how much water they’ll disperse using a measure called Litres Per Minute (LPM). To get the right amount of water for your type of garden, your flow rate can be found in three easy steps:

  1. You’ll need a 9 litre bucket, a stopwatch and your garden tap
  2. Turn the tap on to full flow
  3. Time how long it takes to fill the bucket using your stopwatch

From here, you can calculate your home flow rate (LPM):

[60 ÷ (seconds taken to fill bucket) ] x (bucket size in litres) = flow rate, e.g. 60 ÷ 12.4 seconds x 9 litres = 43.5 litres per minute (LPM)

Step 2: Planning Your Irrigation System

Grab a pen, paper, and head outside! Sketch a map of your garden, marking the location of your house, outdoor taps, hose bibs, garden beds, trees, shrubs, and any other landscape features. Once you've got your basic layout, grab a measuring tape and measure the size and shape of each planting area in your garden. Note these down on your map.

For example, a vegetable garden might need more water delivered via a spray head, as opposed to a hedge line or flower garden which would use a drip tube. The way your water is delivered will make a substantial impact on the volume of it you use, so its important to know the different types of garden on your property.

Make a note of all the types and their approximate size. For example:

  • Vegetable garden, 2 square metres
  • Hedge line, 10 metres
  • Front flower garden, 4 square metres
  • Back lawn, 8 square metres
  • Front lawn, 15 square metres

Take stock of the different types of plants you have in your garden. Remember, different plants have different watering needs. For example, vegetable gardens typically need more frequent watering than established trees.

Additionally, you should consider the amount of sunlight different parts of your garden receive. Plants in full sun will need more water than those in shadier areas. This ties in with the soil type you have. Different soil types retain water differently. Sandy soil drains quickly and will need more frequent watering than clay soil.

    Step 3: Choosing the Right Irrigation System

    Now that you have a plan of your garden and understand your plants' watering needs, it's time to choose the right irrigation system:

    • Sprinkler Systems: These are ideal for watering large areas like lawns and expansive garden beds. They come in various configurations, including rotors for covering large areas, pop-up sprinklers for in-between spaces, and oscillating sprinklers for rectangular areas.

    • Drip Irrigation Systems: A water-efficient option perfect for delivering water directly to the root zone of individual plants or rows of plants. Drip irrigation systems use emitters, which are small drippers that release water slowly and precisely. This is a great choice for gardens with a mix of plants or areas with poor drainage.

    • Micro Irrigation Systems: Similar to drip irrigation, but with even smaller emitters, micro irrigation systems are ideal for watering delicate plants, container gardens, and seedlings.

    • Soaker hoses: These are perforated hoses that lie along the base of plants and slowly release water directly to the root zone. Soaker hoses are a water-efficient option for watering rows of vegetables or flower beds.

    • Computerised irrigation controllers: These timers allow you to program watering schedules based on specific days, times, and durations. This can be helpful for ensuring your plants receive the right amount of water, even when you're not home. 

    Step 4: Budget and Getting Help

    • Irrigation on a Budget: Irrigation systems can range in price depending on the size and complexity of your garden. Determine your budget before you shop so you can choose a system that fits your needs and avoid overspending. Some systems may cost less than $100 when planned properly, and others can range up to $10000. The difference lies in the amount of research and digging you do. 

    • DIY or Hire a Pro? While setting up a small drip irrigation system for a vegetable garden can be a DIY project, larger or more complex systems may be best left to the professionals. Licensed irrigation specialists can design, install, and maintain your irrigation system, ensuring it operates efficiently and meets your garden's specific needs.

    Bonus Step: Water Conservation Hero!

    • Be a Water Wise Wizard! No matter which irrigation system you choose, watering during the cooler parts of the day (early morning or evening) will help reduce evaporation. Additionally, a rain sensor can be added to your system to automatically shut off watering during rainy periods.

    It might seem like a little bit more effort, but with recent water shortages across NZ, particularly Wellington and Auckland, it makes sense to choose systems which minimise wastage. Some areas have water restrictions in place during dry periods. Be sure to check with your local council to see if there are any restrictions that may affect your irrigation system design. 

    By following these simple steps, you can plan an irrigation system that keeps your garden healthy and thriving while conserving this precious resource.

    We hope this comprehensive guide empowers you to create a water-efficient irrigation system for your home!

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