MARCH LUNCH & LEARN – Drip Irrigation

By Sherri McShane, Bexar County Master Gardener

April 2023

March’s Lunch & Learn was an interesting, fact-filled presentation on Drip Irrigation by John Vann, Bexar County Master Gardener.  His stated goal was to make the listener feel confident to install drip irrigation independently.  Judging from the frantic note-taking and the many pertinent questions, I believe he reached his goal. 

Water conservation is vital as the city’s population increases and our water sources are depleted.  John shared a quote that summed it up nicely: “ Conservation is the cheapest source of water.”  Common conservation methods for the homeowner include: using compost, mulching, planting drought-tolerant plants, and using effective watering methods. 

Drip irrigation is a central element for efficiently watering your garden and lawns.

Drip irrigation has many benefits:   

  1. It targets the roots instead of needlessly watering the whole plant. 
  2. It reduces water loss due to evaporation and run-off.
  3. It reduces the leaching of nutrients as well as reducing the presence of mildew, black spot, and other foliage diseases. 
  4. It helps control weeds.
Overall irrigation plan

As a basic guide for the do-it-yourselfer, there are several steps in setting up your own drip irrigation system. 

First, measure the area and the mature plant sizes. 

Second, create a drawing to include any hardscape, water sources, plants, tubes, and emitters.  Consider that the system will need 30 lbs. of pressure and will dispense a gallon per foot in a 250-ft. area. 

Third, lay out your tubing according to your drawing (John highly recommends using string first to decide the actual placement for tubing). 

Finally,  connect your system, being cautious to use the same sprinkler product line consistently through the project. 

There are two delivery methods for drip irrigation: using a garden faucet or modifying an existing sprinkler system.  John gave directions for both

If you are interested in installing your own system, John has a wealth of information.  SAWS (San Antonio Water System) will do a free consultation, and our own Bexar County Master Gardener Hotline (210) 631-0400 is also a good resource.

Be sure to test your installation to work out any problems.  You can get “goof plugs” for mistakes that may arise.  Consistent management of the system is critical no matter how good the design!