Having to water each of your container plants can get tedious when you have 20 or more plants in the garden.
That’s when a tool such as a drip irrigation system can save you hours of back-breaking watering effort. And providing water to the container plants efficiently.
Now it may sound challenging to set up such a system. But don’t worry because you don’t need any plumbing skills or tools to do this. Just follow the basic instructions and you’re good to go.
So let’s take a look.
What is a drip irrigation system?
Drip irrigation is a setup that allows a slow, controlled release of water directly near the roots of container plants. It’s a simple system made up of supply lines, emitters, filters, and a timer.
You set up a drip irrigation system once and it will release the required water for the plants like clockwork. So you don’t need to water the plants manually, but you’ll need to check and maintain the drip irrigation system every few weeks or months.
What are the benefits of a drip irrigation system for container plants?
Reduces wastage of water
One of the biggest benefits of using the drip irrigation is that you save a lot of water.
There are several methods of watering, such as surface irrigation or using a sprinkler, but those can waste a lot of water.
When you use a watering can or garden hose, you spray water on the potting soil until it drains out of the drainage holes. This means you provide more water than required for each container plant.
You can set how much water should be allowed near the base of each container plant when using a drip irrigation system. So this helps with efficient use of water and avoids wastage.
Lowers effort required to water plants
Most people set up drip irrigation because they have a lot of container plants in their garden and it becomes a tedious chore to water them every day. You may have to water them more than once during the hot summers.
The benefit of drip irrigation is you set it up once with a timer and it will provide the right water to the container plants every day like clockwork.
You will need to do some maintenance of the system every few weeks or months, but that’s a lot less effort than watering several plants each day.
Helps prevent weeds in the container plants
You set up the emitters so they pour water only at select locations in the container. You can place them close to the base of the plant for efficient watering.
This will avoid watering of the entire potting soil at the surface and prevent weeds from germinating.
Needs less energy compared to sprinkler systems
The drip irrigation system needs a lot less energy than a sprinkler system. And the only energy used is for the battery-operated timer.
Helps reduce leaching of nutrients from the potting soil
The drip irrigation system only drip water gently on to the potting soil at selected locations. The watering happens at specific time and for a limited time.
This helps reduce the leaching of nutrients from the soil compared to watering the potting soil with a watering can. So you’ll need to add fertilizer less often.
What are the drawbacks of a drip irrigation system for container plants?
You need to invest some money
You need to spend some money buying the drip irrigation equipment. I would recommend getting the drip irrigation kit as a beginner. It will contain all that you need to set up a basic system.
The drawback of using a drip irrigation kit is you may either get some extra equipment than required for the number of plants you have. Or you may get less equipment and need to purchase some additional.
You need to maintain the drip irrigation system
Once you set up a drip irrigation system, it will work efficiently for weeks or months. But you’ll need to maintain it to keep it in the best condition.
It can happen that the emitters or supply lines get clogged and you need to fix them. They may break or leak that would need to be fixed.
You have a filter in the system that prevents dirt and debris from flowing into the supply lines. So you’ll need to clean it up or replace it as required.
You need to set up and adjust the system correctly
It’s not difficult to set up a drip irrigation system, but there is a small learning curve, so you can do that. It will also take some adjustments after you’ve set up the system.
You’ll need to ensure the right amount of water is reaching your container plants at the right time. So you’ll need to adjust the timer, water pressure, and emitter position.
You may need to adjust this during the different seasons as well, because the plants may need more water in the summer.
What materials do you need to set up a drip irrigation system?
Drip irrigation kit
I would recommend a drip irrigation kit for beginners because it contains all the materials you need to set up a basic drip irrigation system. Get one that comes with a timer as we want to automate the setup and not manually water.
You can find some good drip irrigation kits at the Amazon links below,
- Raindrip Automatic Drip Irrigation Kit
- Carpathen Drip Irrigation Kit For Potted Plants
- Flantor Drip Irrigation Kit
It’s important to have a pressure regulator, so that the required pressure of 20 to 25 PSI is available for the system. Too little pressure and the water won’t reach your plants. Too much pressure will cause excess water or damage the system.
You don’t want the unwanted debris from flowing back into the water system and a backflow preventer can help with this. The good thing is that you can get a 4-in-1 adapter that contains the pressure regulator, backflow preventer, and filter in a single device.
The tap water will contain dirt and debris that can clog the drip irrigation system. So it’s good to have a filter that can protect against this.
You’ll need tubing so the water can reach from the tap or spigot to the container plants. You’ll need a main supply line and the tubing to connect the supply line to the potting soil.
You can get 1/4th inch or 1/2 inch supply line tubing depending on your needs. If you have less than 100 feet to cover, then 1/4th inch tubing is sufficient or you’ll need the 1/2 inch one for the supply line.
For the tubing from the supply line to the container plants, the 1/4th inch tubing is sufficient.
Figure 8 clamp
This clamp will help block the other end of the supply line and prevent water from leaking out. It will also help maintain enough water pressure so the water reaches all the plants.
You’ll need connectors for connecting the tubing from the main supply line to the container plants. A T-shaped connector is useful for this purpose, where the main line is connected on both ends while the central connector is used for the tubing from the main line to the container.
These emitters are connected at the end of the tubing that will be placed in the container potting soil. The emitters will drip water into the potting soil at a particular rate such as 1 or 2 GPH (gallons per hour).
A timer is optional, but I would highly recommend you get one, so you don’t need to turn the faucet on and off manually. You can set up the timer once and it will drip the required amount of water at the right time into the container plants.
Y-valve or hose splitter
This is optional but useful if you want to have one spigot available for filling up your watering can or sprayer for seedlings. One of the ends can be attached to the drip irrigation, while the other end is available to fetch water as you need without having to detach the drip irrigation.
This is another optional material, but you may need it if the faucet or spigot is a long distance away from your container garden. You can use a hose that reaches from the faucet to the container garden and attach the drip irrigation system starting from there. This helps keep the right water pressure in the drip irrigation system and reduce your cost of tubing.
Plant stakes or clips
You’ll need the stakes or clips so you can keep the tubing firmly attached to the ground and to the potting soil in the containers. This helps prevent displacement of the tubing and emitters once you have set up the system in the garden.
How to set up the drip irrigation system for container plants
If you need to use a hose splitter, attach that to the spigot. Connect the timer to one outlet of the hose splitter.
Connect the adapter that contains the pressure regulator, filter, backflow preventer to the inlet of the timer.
Now you can connect either the main supply line or the hose to the outlet of the timer. If your container plants are at a distance from the spigot, you’ll need to use the hose. Otherwise, you directly connect the supply tubing.
Ensure that the supply tubing can reach the end of your container garden and there is still some slack in it. You can cut the tubing to the required length and clamp it shut at the end with the figure 8 clamp.
Adjust the supply tubing on the ground so it’s at the right location you need close to each of the container plants.
Use the punching tool available in the drip irrigation kit to punch the 1/4th inch hole in the supply tubing at the location closest to the container plant. Put one end of a connector into the punched hole.
Insert one end of the 1/4th inch tubing into the other end of the connector. Adjust the other end of the tubing so it reaches into the container and potting soil. Attach an emitter at the end of the tubing that you placed in the potting soil.
You may need to use more than one supply from the main line to the container depending on the size of the container and plant. I would suggest keeping the emitter close to the base of the plant so the water reaches the roots. Repeat this process until you have the tubing and emitters placed in all the containers.
Use the plant stakes or clips to attach the main supply tubing into the ground firmly. Use the clips to attach the 1/4th inch tubing into the potting soil.
Turn on the spigot and check that the water reaches the end of your container garden and the emitters are functioning as expected. You’ll need to adjust the timer and water flow after this.
If you’re using the hose splitter, there will be a valve to control water flow. If not, you can use the spigot control to adjust this.
You can adjust the valve as required and check how much water is flowing through all of your container plants. Note that the supply tubing you use will also determine the flow rate, as you can get a 1GPH or 2GPH (gallons per hour) tubing.
You can set the timer as per your required schedule to water once or several times per day. It is best to set up multiple watering schedules for different times of day so you can adjust them according to your plants’ needs throughout the season.
Once you have set the schedule in the timer, you can test this out that the water flow works at the scheduled time and reaches all the containers. If you find any problem with too much or too little water, you can adjust the timer schedules again.
You can leave the main supply tubing on the ground if it does not bother you. Or you can cover it up with a little mulch so it’s hidden under it.
How to maintain the drip irrigation system for container plants
Once you set up the automated drip irrigation system, it will work like clockwork, but you’ll need to check on it at least every month.
The most common problem that you’ll find is the emitters and tubing could get clogged with dirt and you need to remove that. The tubing could have leaks you will need to plug. You can use plumbing tape to fix this. If the leak is huge, you’ll need to get the tubing replaced.
To prevent clogged emitters, be sure to flush out your system regularly and use a filter on your water supply line if necessary.
Another issue could be the tubing and emitters have moved away and you need to bring them back to the right position.
You need to check that the right amount of water is reaching the plants at the right time. Or you need to check on the tubing, pressure in the system, and the timer adjustments.
If your drip irrigation system is not delivering enough water to the plants, make sure there are no kinks in the tubing or clogs in the emitters. If needed, you can also increase the water pressure by adjusting your timer settings.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.