Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mexican Drip Irrigation

My house has a standard 1/2 irrigation system. However, the previous owner must had designed the layout and laid the pipes himself. Nothing is right. Grass is supposed to grow right up to the edge of the house and the fences. It is extremely difficult to cover all the areas to be watered.

But that doesn't bother my gardener. He adjusted all the sprinklers so that all green things are covered. He doesn't care how much water is wasted. He doesn't care about water damage to the stucco. Those are not his problems. I changed new quality spray heads and adjust the spraying distance without success.

Out of frustration I changed to drip irrigation gradually. Initially it looked good. Though the 1/2 underground pipes are fixed, I can now place 1/4 tubes over the ground wherever I wanted, so the tiny, precise spray heads are right next to the plants. Can't do anything about the standard pop-up sprinklers, but with the help of fixed drip irrigation spray heads, I can cover grass that the pop-ups cannot.

The problem is, the 1/4 adapters got blown off by the water pressure, or the spray heads got blown off. But I cannot install a pressure reducer that is usual for drip irrigation. My system is mixed. Though this could be done if I change over completely. Luckily I didn't. Silly me. Recently, when I replaced the shut-off valve to the yard, I discovered that my pressure regulator deals with water to my house only. All other water are not regulated.

So my irrigation system was at over 100 psi. No matter the electric valves cannot be adjusted and so short lived. No matter something burst all the time. No matter all the sprinklers and spray heads seem to be out of control with water spraying everything. No matter it was so difficult to adjust the volume of everything. No matter that when something was wrong with my neighbor's swimming pool plumbing, we both burst some sprinklers together.

The major problem was my gardener, his successors, and their whole team members. When they clear weeds they will clear the over ground 1/4 tubes too. Or they will cut the spray heads off without knowing. It's not surprising because often they destroy indestructible pop-up sprinklers with their mowers.

Gradually I moved back to a standard 1/2 system, leaving nothing over ground to be destroyed. My 1/4 system resigned to the garage.

Until recently it dawned on me that I was visiting the wrong department for drip irrigation. I used to get everything from the garden center - the 1/2 to 1/4 adapters, the tubes, the spray heads, the connectors. Either they are too tough to join together, or too easy to connect but will be immediately blown off when water pressure is applied.

I also used the standard plumbing department for 1/2 tubes and connectors. I tried to add something rigid, like splitting one outlet into two, before converting it to 1/4 at the end, which is much less rigid.

It suddenly dawned on me that the ice making, 1/4 tubing department, that I visited many times for my reverse osmosis system, are compatible with the 1/4 drip irrigations. I never realized that the drip irrigation uses standard 1/4 tubes. That made a lot of difference.

Now instead of the T's and couplers from hell, I just use quick connect. It's a few dollars a piece but saving my fingers is priceless. The 1/2 to 1/4 adapters are industrial strength, not plastic toys as from the drip department. Now designing and installing the system is a joy.

Now I have more tricks to fix the system in place. In the past I rely on stakes to hold the tubes and spray heads. Now I can use rigid 1/4 tubes as far as I can. In the past my stakes get bigger and bigger so as to survive the onslaught of my gardeners and their teams. Now I use custom made acrylic pieces to hold the tubes and spray heads, and glue or screw the whole thing to something rigid. As the acrylic is crystal clear. The whole thing can look good or not visible at all.

One final thing. All spray heads are directly pushed or screwed into the end of tube directly. I will now only use the screw ones which is easier. And before screwing them into the tubes, I apply some gorilla glue. In the past you can hardly reuse the spray head this way. Now all the spray heads are mostly attached to half an inch of tube, to be pushed effortlessly into quick connectors.

Now I can add something, change the spray heads, replace damaged materials fast. Don't know why don't sell it that way, instead of in 3 separate areas of the plumbing department.


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