How we made an automatic watering system in the country
Every year, the process of growing vegetables is becoming easier - some routine procedures help us to produce all kinds of garden gadgets. Today, many gardeners no longer stand for hours with a hose and do not carry heavy buckets to water the plants in drought. All accessories for drip irrigation can be bought in almost every garden store, and it is not so difficult to assemble the system design. In this article, I would like to share our experience in designing an automatic irrigation system that has been watering the beds without fail for about 10 years now.
How does drip irrigation in our garden work?
To begin with, I would like to briefly talk about the functioning of autowatering in our country house, after which we will examine in more detail all the elements that make up this system.
In our case, water is supplied to the beds using a submersible pump, which is located in a shallow well located near the garden, since there is no central water supply in our gardening.
A tap is withdrawn from the well, from which a plastic pipe further departs. Thanks to the switch, you can simply wash your hands under the tap or direct the water into the automatic sprinkler system.
A long polypropylene pipe runs along the entire garden perpendicular to the beds. Opposite each bed there is a tee on which couplings with an internal thread are installed. As it turned out, among the components of plastic pipes, you can choose the right size for specialized accessories for irrigation systems. Thanks to this, we easily picked up a male thread connector that easily connected securely to a plastic sleeve.
Next, a drip irrigation tape is put on the tip of the connector. Despite the fact that the drip hose usually sits very firmly on the nose of the connector, for reliability, we fasten the tape with metal clamps.
At the ends of the drip tapes on the back of the bed, special plugs can be installed. However, we used ordinary electrical tape by folding the tip of the hose several times and fixing it.
There are several options for how to place the drip tape on the bed: one in the middle, two tapes along each row of crops, or one long tape with a snake. Depending on the moisture requirements of a particular crop, we used all three options. In the latter case, the drip tape is fixed in the selected position by hooks so as not to dislodge it during the care process.
Since we are working summer residents and most often visit the garden only on weekends, the system turns on and off automatically using the electronic timer several times a week. When visiting the cottage, we can only adjust the settings for the next week, taking into account the weather forecast.
Mandatory components of the autowatering system
The so-called frame of the automatic irrigation system, to which droplet tapes will later be connected, is usually made of pipes, which can be metal or plastic. Sometimes a reinforced hose is also used for this purpose.
In our opinion, when installing an automatic watering system, it is better to pay attention to plastic pipes, since, as mentioned above, accessories for drip irrigation are compatible with a fitting for plastic pipes, which often also have a 1/2 ″ (inch) section.
In this case, pay attention to the material of the plastic pipe, since the pipes made of polyvinyl chloride are negatively affected by subzero temperatures. In the middle lane with frosty winters, it is better to use pipes made of polypropylene.
Earlier in mass sales, there was often a tape for slotted type automatic irrigation. The basis of this design is the inner labyrinth, which slows down the flow of water. At the same time, the liquid seeps into small holes (gaps).
The main disadvantage of such tapes is the need for good water filtration, as the water outlets are very easily clogged. In this regard, this type of tape in household plots is used extremely rarely, and nowadays, in garden stores, the most common type of tape for drip irrigation is emitter.
For such tapes, water flows from special droppers built into the tape. The special design of the droppers helps create turbulent water flows that allow the dropper to self-clean.
Of course, if there is a large amount of suspension in irrigation water, such as, for example, sand, droppers can not cope with large particles and occasionally clog. But still, such tapes are much more reliable than slotted ones, but their cost is higher.
Emitter tapes can vary the distance between the droppers. A step of 10-20 centimeters is used on sandy soils, it is also best suited for crops growing close to each other (spicy herbs, lettuce, onions, peas and others). Also, such a tape can be used for hygrophilous plants (cabbage).
A step of 30 centimeters is recommended for medium-sized garden crops (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant). The step between droppers of 40 and more centimeters is used on beds with vegetables, forming powerful bushes, and not requiring strong watering (watermelons, melons, pumpkins, squash).
The diameter of the drip tape can also be different, for the summer cottages the most common type of 16 millimeters is quite suitable (the total length of the line for such tapes should not exceed 250 meters).
But for larger irrigation systems up to 450 meters, a tape with a diameter of 22 millimeters is needed. In addition, the thickness of the droplets can vary. The universal indicator is “8 mil” (0.2mm). This tape is suitable for growing most garden crops with a long growing season, and with careful handling it will last several seasons.
A denser drip tape is mainly intended for stony soils, its cost is higher, and there are no special reasons for summer residents to buy it.
To connect a pipe or garden hose with a tape of drip irrigation, a special connector is required. In garden shops, there is always a wide selection of such accessories. When choosing a connector for an autowatering system, pay attention to the following characteristics:
- Internal or external thread. Her choice depends on what type of fitting will be connected;
- The presence of the switch. Many connectors are made in the form of taps. This option is more expensive, but for autowatering systems it is most preferable. For example, when you harvested on one of the beds, the faucet easily shuts off, and water locally stops flowing into this part of the garden, while the remaining beds continue to be watered in the same mode. Also, such a faucet is useful if there is onion on the bed, which is no longer watered before harvesting.
- The lack of aquastop. Aquastop is very convenient for irrigation hoses, but in the case of an automatic watering system, this device is completely useless. Aquastop connectors are often more expensive. At the same time, if the aquastop is brought to the closed position, then this will disrupt the system.
- for hygrophilous crops or on wide beds with a two-row planting type, it is worth using double connectorsallowing to lay at once two parallel tapes on one bed.
Desired accessories for the autowatering system
A timer for auto-irrigation is not just an invention for lazy gardeners. Often, citizens do not have the opportunity to live in the country all season, in which case the controller is simply irreplaceable.
In systems where water is supplied using a pump, universal timers are suitable that are installed directly in the outlet from which the pump is powered. Such timers can be purchased at any electrical goods store.
But for gravity systems (when water comes from a separate tank), as well as when the autowatering system is connected to a water tap, specialized controllers are used.
There are several types of timers for autowatering. The simplest and cheapest is mechanical (closing the valve is done by means of a spring). This type of timer is turned on manually and off automatically. And for vacationers "weekend" this option is not suitable.
Expensive programmed electronic timers are also not the best choice, due to the high cost and the need for difficult program settings. This option is more suitable for farmers or professional gardeners caring for an extensive estate.
The best choice for personal plots - electronic timers with manual control. Such controllers allow you to program the mode and duration of irrigation for one week. After the necessary settings are set, the timer will be able to turn on the system every day at the set hours and turn it off after the set watering time has elapsed, completely without your participation.
Attention! If your autowatering system will receive water from a separate tank (tank), then when buying a timer it is important to purchase a device in which the supply / shutoff of water is carried out by the built-in ball valve. Timers of another type with an electromagnetic (solenoid valve) in this case may not work, since in gravity systems there is not enough pressure that is present in the central water supply.
Typically, in summer cottages, the water in the water supply leaves much to be desired, and the presence of mechanical suspension (sand, clay, etc.) clogs drip tapes and reduces the life of all equipment. To extend the operating time of the automatic watering system, it is advisable to install a filter, placing it at the beginning of the system (between the tap and the main pipe).
There are several types of filters, but for household plots the most optimal are the mesh and disk types. The first one is filtered due to the fact that water passes through the mesh cells, and the second one has a porous structure, like a sponge. Water purification levels are characterized by cell size. For drip irrigation systems, a lattice frequency of 100-150 units will be sufficient.
Filters of various price categories are presented on the market, the cost of the apparatus depends on the quality of the parts, the presence of a self-washing mechanism, the presence of a gearbox to regulate the pressure in the system, and so on. For use in summer cottages, inexpensive models of strainers or disk filters are quite suitable, but it is better to refuse completely cheap filters (usually made in China) (as you know, “stingy pays twice”).
The rain sensor is used as an addition to programmable controllers, as well as manual electronic timers. During rainfall, the rain sensor will stop the automatic irrigation or prevent the system from turning on again if the humidity is excessive.
Then, depending on humidity and temperature, the rain sensor will itself “decide” on the resumption of the autowatering system in the previously set mode. The sensitivity level of the sensor can be adjusted manually, in accordance with the requirements of cultivated crops. As a rule, this device has a wide range of precipitation: 3-25 mm. Using a rain sensor can not only save water, but also protect plants from overflow, which can be critical for some crops.
Cons of using auto fuel from personal practice
I would like to start with the most important drawback - financial costs. At the very beginning of the installation of the system, an investment of funds will be required. Of course, the auto-irrigation system, fortunately, does not equal the “cost of the aircraft”, nevertheless we had to fork out for the purchase of equipment.
And in the future, drip tapes will need to be periodically changed, and if necessary, replace individual components (for example, in our country, after three years, the submersible pump burned out). And the cost of electricity, in the case of a pump, should also not be forgotten.
In addition, on wet beds, wood lice and slugs are more bred, and the bear also prefers places where it is wet.
Another difficulty is that the weekly set mode is not always optimal. After all, the weather can change dramatically, rains will charge, and we are in the city and will not change the timer settings. The system, despite the presence of dampness, will turn on properly and continue to water the beds. But, of course, with a rain sensor, this problem disappears.
Another significant minus is the possibility of technical problems. Once the electronic timer crashed for unknown reasons, and our garden was continuously watered 24 hours a day, every day. Fortunately, the neighbors noticed something was amiss, and we were forced to urgently go to the cottage in order to set the correct settings.
Also, due to the fact that in our case water is supplied to the system from a well, it turns out to be very cold, and pouring ice water is not the best option for plants. With this, in addition, it is also connected with the fact that during feeding, you still have to fertilize by watering the garden from a bucket.
But summer residents who have autowatering from multi-cubic tanks were much luckier in this regard, because the water has time to warm up there, and if necessary, fertilizing can be spread directly in the tank.
And the last small minus is the need for care. With buckets and watering cans, everything is much simpler. Roughly speaking, you don’t even have to wash them, but with the automatic watering system this will not work. If you do not have a filter, drip tapes will clog from time to time, which significantly reduces their service life. And if there is a filter, then the filter itself will have to be washed.
In some cases, such an event has to be done during the season, but at the end of the season, washing and drying the entire automatic irrigation system is required.
Positive aspects of autowatering in the country
Despite some disadvantages, we are still very pleased that we installed a drip irrigation system in the country. It has undeniable advantages:
- significant time savings;
- facilitation of physical labor;
- the ability to safely grow most of the garden crops, arriving at the cottage only on weekends, even in the driest period;
- moisture gets directly to the roots of plants, so we do not waste water on accidentally watering paths and other nearby territories, contributing to the prosperity of weeds growing there;
- due to the fact that the soil is saturated with water very slowly, no crust forms on its surface.