It’s easy to get excited in spring and bring home a bundle of plants from the local garden center on a whim one day. They look so perfect in their pots, all ready to blossom. The first 6 weeks are an absolute wonder; the weather is still cool and your new garden seems to grow and bloom effortlessly. But then, something happens: summer comes.
Maybe it happened over Memorial Day weekend while you were away and the thermometer first hit 90 degrees. Or maybe they made it until late June when you went to the beach for a week. At some point, however, every container gardener learns a hard lesson—potted plants dry out and wilt in as little as 24 hours in the hot sun.
Drip to the Rescue
Next time, buy a drip irrigation kit along with your potted plants. These ingenious systems include a small battery-powered computer that delivers the perfect dose of water through specialized ‘drip emitters’ to your plants every day. A discrete network of tiny tubes delivers water directly to the root zone of each plant. Best of all, drip systems are completely adaptable to the evolving needs of a container garden; adding or removing emitters for individual plants takes just a few minutes.
Putting the System Together
Besides a timer, two sizes of tubing and an assortment of emitters, a drip kit should include a pressure reducer (typical household water pressure is unsuitable for a drip system) and an anti-siphon valve (a safety precaution to prevent irrigation water from entering the drinking water supply).
Screw the timer onto any outdoor faucet, then the anti-siphon valve, followed by the pressure reducer. The kit should also contain an adapter that threads onto the pressure reducer and has an open round hole on the other. The open hole is called a compression fitting and one end of the larger drip tubing will be pushed into it to bring water to the plants.
Run the tubing from the water source to the location of the container garden and then snake it along the length of the planted area, hiding it behind the pots. This supplies water to the smaller piece of tubing that terminates with an emitter at each individual plant. It may sound complicated, but once you are familiar with the basic components, putting together a drip system becomes an intuitive task.