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Garden Help Desk: How to work the kinks out of drip irrigation problems

By USU Extension - Special to the Daily Herald | Aug 25, 2023
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Just as with lines that have individual emitters attached, drip tubing with inline emitters will have distance limits that you must keep in mind when setting up a drip system.
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Correct water pressure can be a challenge, especially when attaching drip irrigation to a hose bib. A simple, easy-to-install pressure reducer can help with this problem.
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When garlic is planted in the fall, it has plenty of time to develop a robust root system and plenty of the foliage needed for good garlic bulbs.
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If you're saving garlic from the garden to plant for the following year, choose the largest, nicest cloves for your planting and set the rest aside for your kitchen.

I set up a drip line from my hose faucet for this small flower bed and am having a problem getting every emitter to work. I have ½-inch tubing as the mainline and ¼-inch tubing coming off of it with emitters for each flower and boxwood. There’s probably about 20 feet of mainline tubing that runs back to the hose. I don’t think main tubing is too long, and my faucet has great water pressure. About 60%-70% of the emitters work great, and the others either have no water coming out or barely any. I’ve tried washing out the emitters and even attaching new pieces of ¼-inch in case there were clogs, to no avail. Do you have any guesses what might be wrong, or any ideas I could try?

Drip irrigation is a great option for vegetable gardens, flower beds, home orchards and shrub beds. It’s a water-wise choice, but it does take some attention to detail during setup and regular maintenance to keep things working at their best.

Here are some things to check or consider for troubleshooting your flower bed setup.

Do you have a pressure reducer between the faucet and the ½-inch tubing? Drip emitters won’t work properly if the pressure is too high or too low. Some emitters are pressure compensating, but not all of them. A pressure reducer is easy to use and available at home improvement stores and sprinkler supply businesses.

There is a limit to how far you can run a single drip line and how many emitters you can use on a single line. It’s easy to add too many emitters, or to run your ½-inch line or ¼-inch lines too far without realizing it. Check the packaging and specifications on the products you’ve used, then do a little math to see if you’ve “overextended.”

Are you using culinary water or secondary water? It’s common for secondary water (pressurized irrigation water) to have small debris particles in the water. Even culinary water can carry particles that clog an emitter. A filter at the beginning of your ½-inch line can eliminate many problems with drip irrigation.

Did you flush out the main line (½-inch tubing) and ¼-inch lines before attaching the emitters? If not, it might help to open the end of that ½-inch line, remove the emitters from the ¼-inch tubing and run some water through to flush out any debris from the ½- and ¼-inch tubing. Then you can attach new emitters (it’s best to use new emitters instead of trying to wash out clogged emitters).

Should I plant my garlic now or can I wait until late fall?

Hold off on planting your garlic for a few more weeks if you can. Garlic can be planted anytime between the middle of September and early November and will do well if it’s planted somewhere in that window of time. You can plant garlic in the spring, but the quality and yield will be poor.

Use the next few weeks for good soil preparation to give your garlic plants what they need to thrive and reward you with a good harvest next summer. Garlic does best in soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter. Work an inch of compost into the upper few inches of soil where you’ll be planting your garlic if you haven’t added any organic matter for the past year or two.

Once you’re ready to plant, carefully separate large, healthy heads of garlic into individual garlic cloves but don’t peel them. Plant the largest cloves, pointed end up, about 2-3 inches deep and about 4 inches apart. Crowding the garlic too closely together can reduce the size of the heads. If you’re planting multiple rows, or planting your garlic in a block, make your rows several inches apart so that the garlic has enough room for good growth.

Shallots can be planted at the same time you plant your garlic. Plant them like you would garlic — unpeeled, pointed end up and about 2-3 inches deep, but space them a little farther apart.

You won’t be able to tell just by walking through your garden, but during the rest of the autumn your garlic cloves will be busy developing the root system they will need next spring. Water deeply as the season warms up next year, provide nitrogen fertilizer in mid-April and late May, and you’ll have a nice supply of garlic by early to mid-July.


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