07.24.12Kelly Duke

Drip Conversion – Admitting Emitters

Drip emitters in a garden The challenge is to install emitter line in an existing mature shrub bed with minimal damage.Aligning the Temporary Emitter Sleeve With the Supply Header Risers The temporary emitter sleeve is lined up with the supply header risers then snaked under the shrubsInserting Emitter Tube Into Temporary Sleeve Once the sleeve is in place below the existing shrubs, the emitter line is inserted.Ready to Wrap-Up Once all emitter lines are installed and flushed, a terminal header and flush valve can be installed.

As I may have possibly mentioned in prior posts, I removed all of the turf from my yard and switched over to a landscape of trees and shrubs.  This included a drip conversion that eliminated overhead spray heads in favor of drip emtters.  I did all of the work myself and, as such, it did not happen overnight.  Rather, it has been a slow journey of experiment and discovery all in the name of “sweat equity.”

Several years back I removed about one third of the turf in the two front parkways (I live on a corner).  I installed concrete mow curbs and made the sod-free shrub beds where my drip conversion approach used a system of parallel drip emitter lines.

Some years later I decided to remove the remainder of the turf.  I got lazy and opted for a drip conversion that retrofit the existing Rain Bird 1806 pop-ups with those nifty 1800 drip conversion kits.  Basically you remove the pop-up cap, stem, and nozzle and replace it with a cap that includes a 30 psi regulator and 200 mesh filtration screen.  I then installed Xeri-Bird 8-outlet emitter bodies and ran tubing to the new plant arrangements.

This approach to drip conversion has worked exceptionally well but did not support the kind of wild garden that I like to grow.  I tend buy a lot of oddball plants with which I experiment.  I move things around a lot.  I remove under-performers.  I let things go to seed.  In short, the point-source emitters did not give me the kind of flexibility I needed to keep up with my “random acts of gardening”

This year I bit the bullet and decided to change out the balance of the system to surface-installed emitter lines.  I have put this off for some time in fear of tearing up the existing shrub masses in the process of installing the emitter lines.  This bothered me until I devised a method of installing the lines which is relatively easy and leaves the garden somewhat unscathed.  My technique may be nothing new but, if by some chance I have hit on something clever, you are welcome to use it.

 Step 1:  I exposed the supply header of the existing emitter line systems installed in my first rash of lawn reduction.  I removed the elbow fittings and replaced them with tees to allow the header to supply in two directions.

 Step 2:  I assemble a long run of ¾” CL-200 PVC with a cap on one end.  I snaked this line, cap first, along the ground, in the mulch under the existing plants, steering it along the route of the proposed drip emitter tube.  Once this had reached the end of the planter bed, I fed the drip emitter line into the PVC sleeve.  When the emitter line had hit the cap at the end of the sleeve, I walked to the cap end and pulled the sleeve out of the shrubbery leaving the emitter line in place under the shrubs and in the mulch bed.  I repeated this across the various emitter runs until the bed was fully fitted out.

 Step 3:  I tweaked the tube layouts into roughtly parallel runs and stapled them in place.  I then linked the ends together with a terminal header and flush valve.

 This drip conversion process worked well.  I accomplished this solo but it would surely go better with a helper.  In the end, a good time was had by all and no plants were destroyed in the making of this blog post.

 K. F. Duke

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Kelly Duke

Not many people can say that they have dedicated their life to the landscape industry. Kelly Duke can. His diverse background ranging from maintenance to estimating, to design, along with a passionate commitment to his trade has given Kelly a lifecycle perspective to landscaping. As the leader of the ValleyCrest’s Pre-Construction Services team, he analyzes early conceptual designs to determine whether or not and how they can be built within budget while meeting long-term design and maintenance goals. Many of the projects that come across Kelly’s desk require he examine the cost and savings of baseline water use in comparison to high efficiency alternatives.


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  2. [...] my last post I wrote about converting from individual point source emitters to a drip emitter line in a portion of my yard .  That project was relatively easy in that each of my two parkway areas [...]

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