DIY Files: Sarah Sets Up a Gravity-Fed Drip Irrigation System – 10 Steps to Success!

Contributed by Sarah DePhillips

As part of BlueBarrel's customer service team, I have fielded LOTS of questions about setting up a DIY drip irrigation system. These systems pair wonderfully with rain barrels to water gardens, shrubs, and trees. If you're feeling a bit mystified by the irrigation component of your rainwater setup, you are not alone! In this post, I'll walk you step by step through setting up our inline emitter kit, which is what we most often recommend for watering vegetable gardens.

See this post for how to set up our bubbler emitter kit, which you might prefer for ornamental gardens.

These steps will be useful once you have the parts in-hand. If you're looking for more general information about how to think through a gravity-fed irrigation setup, including videos and a number of different gravity system types, start here.

How to install BlueBarrel's DIY Drip Irrigation Kit for Gravity-Feed, Inline Emitters:

Step 1 - After setting up your BlueBarrel Rainwater Catchment System, attach a 100 micron filter to your drain valve. It screws directly on to the drain, no extra pieces needed.

Step 2 - You'll see that the filter has male threads coming off perpendicular to the drain. That's where you can attach your no pressure irrigation timer or a hose. If your garden isn't right next to your barrels, you can either run a regular garden hose to the point where you want your 1/2" irrigation line to start, or you can use the 1/2" line itself to reach the garden. In my photos, I used a garden hose to span the distance between barrels and garden.

Step 3 - Next comes the swivel adapter. This part transitions from a standard garden outlet (a hose in my case), to the poly tubing in the drip irrigation kit. Depending on your setup, this piece will either go directly onto your filter (or timer if you're using one), OR go at the "garden" end of your garden hose - it's where your 1/2" irrigation tubing will start.

Step 4 - Press the 1/2" tubing firmly into the swivel adapter. If your garden has rows, it's a good idea to run the 1/2" perpendicular to the rows. The actual rows of pre-drilled 1/4" drip-line will tee into this 1/2" main line.

Step 5 - Using the hand-held punch tool in your kit, punch a hole in the 1/2" main line where you want your first 1/4" line to begin. Remove the punch and insert one of the barbed connectors, pushing it into the hole until one side is all the way in the 1/2" tubing.

Step 6 - Press the 1/4" drip-line over the other end of the barbed connector until the connection feels snug.  Run the line the length of your garden row, staking it in place where necessary. This drip-line has pre-drilled emitters at 9" spacing, meaning the water will come out every 9"  without you having to do anything.

Step 7 - At the end of your row, cut the 1/4" line and insert a goof plug to seal the end of the line.

Step 8 - Repeat steps 5-7 for each place you want to run 1/4" line off the main 1/2" tubing.

Step 9 - When all your rows are in place, leave a few feet of extra 1/2" tubing at the end and cut it off. Use the figure 8 fitting to crimp it off and secure the end.

Step 10 - Turn on the water (or let your timer do that for you) and watch the magic happen!

Step 1
Step 1
Steps 2 & 3
Steps 2 & 3
STEP 5 (punch hole)
STEP 5 (punch hole)
Step 5 (insert barb)
Step 5 (insert barb)
Step 6
Step 6
Step 9
Step 9
raised bed with drip irrigation
Step 10 - ENJOY!

Photo credits: Sarah DePhillips

Another Example Inline Drip Irrigation Setup: Raised Beds!

2 barrel system
drip irrigation in raised beds
Additional photos provided by BlueBarrel customer Robert in Virginia.
Additional photos provided by BlueBarrel customer Robert in Virginia.

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