While planning ahead for a plant’s growth with pre-installed drip rings is ideal, it doesn’t always happen and contractors are often called in to update drip irrigation lines to support a more mature plant. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to update these lines after the plant is fully grown. Here are a few easy steps to follow.
Determine the width and depth
Before you get started, you need to determine how wide the drip irrigation needs to be. With a plant that is already matured, you can follow the outer edge of the canopy. This will encourage the roots to sprawl out and seek the water, which creates a broader root structure.
You also need to determine how deep you want the water to penetrate in the ground. In the video below, Hunter Williams, Branch Manager of Ewing Chandler, recommends the 1-2-3 Rule: watering to the depth of one foot for small plants and shrubs, two feet for larger shrubs and small trees and three feet for larger trees.
Both of these tactics will result in broader and deeper root structures, which are more drought tolerant, disease resistant and can protect a tree from falling or breaking in heavy wind storms.
Extend existing lines
After you calculated how wide you need the irrigation to reach, you can extend the existing drip lines. However, often times extending the line isn’t enough to get the job done. When the plant was initially put into the ground, it probably only needed one or two emitters. Now as a matured plant, it needs more emitters to really reach around the canopy line.
To accomplish this, dig up the exiting poly line and tap into it with connectors. If possible, inspect the line in advance, so you can be sure you have the proper size connectors and tubing. Doing so, will save you a trip back to the store to pick up materials.
Once you have the connectors in the poly line, use tubing to connect emitters or drip line around the outer canopy of the tree.
Test the system
After the lines have been extended and the new emitters added, manually run the zone for a full cycle. Check to make sure all the emitters are working and there aren’t any unforeseen leaks at any of the connections.
After the cycle completes, check to ensure the water is reaching the correct depth with a soil probe. If it’s not reaching the correct depth, you can either adjust the run time or break the total run time into multiple cycles, allowing for some soak in between.
Watch Hunter extend the drip irrigation of a large tree in this Ewing video. For more tips and tricks for landscape management, subscribe to Ewing’s YouTube channel.
Have you had to extend a matured plant’s irrigation? What techniques did you use? Share them in the comments below!