You looked at installing a underground sprinkler system on your property. And then stopped short when you realized the thousands of dollars it would cost! How could plastic pipe and sprinkler heads cost so much? Here is a lasting inexpensive water irrigation system that is near maintenance free and will have your neighbors wondering why they never see you watering your garden and plants. You can claim yours to be an environmentally friendly garden soaker system (or water drip system), using the minimum amount of water to sustain your plants and shrubs.

Get the water as close to the plant roots as possible. Using less water is important to our global environment.

Communities now encourage water soaker systems instead of sprinkler systems. Water applied near the ground will mostly be absorbed into the earth where it is needed by the plant and grass roots. Water sprayed above the plants and grass lands on the leaves and flowers before dripping to the ground. This longer exposure to the air will cause much of the sprayed or sprinkled water to evaporate into the hot summer air.

More than ever now communities control the watering of lawns and gardens during the summer months. Sometimes you are restricted to garden watering only – not lawns. An automatic water timer system combined with a soaker hose system makes plenty of sense in reducing the amount of water dispensed to water your garden plants and shrubs.

So how can I make an effective soaker system for my garden for under $500?

With some off-the-shelf components, you can have a simple but elegant soaker system that with be automatic and near maintenance free. With a simple water timer system, Y-connectors, faucet multipliers, some 1 1/2″ ABS pipe, quality 1/2″ garden hose and your choice of soaker hoses or irrigation hoses for potted or hanging plants, border gardens, row gardens or (dare I say) even lawn sprinklers. You now have the elements for a simple soaker irrigation system for your garden. This do-it-yourself automatic water irrigation system will ensure you water plants at the best time every day; specifically, early morning and late afternoon. As an added home security feature, when you are away from home your garden will sustain its beauty and make it look like someone is at home.

Here is the material list required for your automatic garden soaker system. (Note: there is a complete Picasa image gallery of all the required components of this inexpensive soaker system at http://picasaweb.google.com/carl.chesal/GardenIrrigationSystem ):

1) Select your water timer – I selected Orbit from Home Depot. Make sure it has a battery timer so power outages won’t alter your scheduled watering times. It should allow for at least 3 watering zones.

2) Select your main faucet multiplier (or Valve splitter) that will attach to your outside water faucet and can accommodate the 3-4 water zones plus a spare to allow for regular garden hose watering. You can secure these special faucet multipliers from garden centers or at Lee Valley Tools

3) Enough 1 1/2″ ABS pipe (and glue) and 22.5 degree elbows to run underground (6″ – 10″ depth). Use the 22.5 degree elbows only to allow for easy insertion of the garden hose into the ABS pipe. You can cut further costs by burying the garden hoses directly underground. The ABS piping does provide added protection from accidental puncture from aerators, pitch forks and other garden tools. This ABS pipe can also serve double duty to run low voltage wire or speaker wire to the remote areas of your garden.

4) Enough quality garden hoses to run through the ABS pipe and connect to the soaker hoses in all your garden beds.

5) Soaker hoses for all your garden beds.

6) Enough Faucet multipliers (Valve splitters) to extend each watering zone with soaker hose as required.

Creating your automatic garden soaker system involves more of a landscaping effort than anything else. Here are 3 steps to completing your eco-friendly automatic garden soaker system (Note: refer to the Picasa image gallery for details of component assembly):

1) Bury the ABS pipe feeding the garden hose through it as you connect and glue the pipe sections. Bury the pipe 6″-10″ under your lawn or sidewalk. Have both ends extend out of the ground using the 22.5 degrees elbows so that the stiff hose can still be easily pulled through the pipe.

2) Connect the soaker hoses to the ends of the garden hoses and weave the soaker hoses through your garden under plants and around shrubs. Follow the installation instructions of the soaker hose manufacturer.

3) Install the water timer and water zone valves on the faucet multiplier. Connect the hoses for each zone. Follow the installation instructions of the water timer manufacturer. Do not set the water time for each zone more than 20 minutes each. Set two water times – early morning (around 6 am) and late afternoon (around 7 pm).

Maintenance of your Irrigation System and Preparation for Freezing Winter Temperatures:

1) Disconnect the [zone] hoses at the main faucet where the Water Timer is located.

2) Using a Shop Wet Vac, suck the excess water from each zone hose. Use electrical tape to secure the vacuum pipe against the end of the hose. Turn on the wet vac and let it run for 10-15 minutes. Empty the water extracted before repeating this for each hose at the main faucet. You will extract enough water from the hoses so as not to incur any winter damage to your hoses from freezing water.

3) Tape a plastic bag over the ends of each of the [zone] hoses. This will prevent little critters from getting in the hoses and clogging them when you reconnect the system in the spring.

4) Remove the water timer and faucet multiplier. Store them in a warm place where they will not freeze.

5) Note: you DO NOT need to disconnect and remove the soaker hoses. They should last 4-6 years before you need to replace them. Check the soaker hoses each spring for holes. You can patch these holes with high-friction Silicone tape. You may also leave outdoors all-year-round any valve splitters that were used to increase the soaker hoses in a particular water zone.

You now have an inexpensive water soaker system that won’t break the bank. You have saved thousands of dollars and can boast of being a friend to our environment. You clearly are doing your part for water conservation and the ecology. Nice going!