Thursday, October 8, 2009

Winterize Your Drip

It got down to 36F here last night. So, it's almost that time of the year when light frosts begin to glaze the flowers. Soon many parts the country will be having hard freezes.

I've outlined how to get your drip system as described my book Drip Irrigation for Every Landscape & All Climates. Here's an excerpt.

A proper drip irrigation system is too valuable to leave neglected like an abandoned garden hose at each winter’s nippy return. Shut off your system’s water supply at a point inside the house where the water supply is protected from freezing. Loosen all unions at each main assembly to drain all water out of the pipes, filters, pressure regulators, and check valves. Make sure you don’t loose the O-ring which seals each union. Be sure to open the flush ball valve on the Y-filter so the filter chamber doesn’t crack. Better yet, bring the filter or the entire main assembly indoors. Also bring inside any battery-powered controllers which you have attached to faucets.

The drip irrigation hose can stay in place in the landscape, but as much water as possible should be drained out. The photo on the left shows draining a system with a figure eight closer device. Open the end-closures on all lines, let all water drain out, and close. Start at the highest elevation and work downhill. I prefer to use threaded end caps because the Figure-8 end closures (The photo on the left. Not my finger nails.) will quickly wear out the kinked end of the hose. I prefer the threaded end cap for its strength. (The photo on the right.) It’s essential that the water is drained from every low point of the system.

A deep mulch will help protect in cold winter climates. You don’t want anyone stepping on cold plastic tubing, but since many drip systems are primarily located in perennial plantings, the risk of trampling the tubing is low. Some compulsive people do lift out the entire assembly of header and lateral lines, roll up the tubing and store it in the garage for the winter. Porous pipe and in-line emitter tubing make this a lot easier than hose with emitters punched in or hose with, God forbid, spaghetti tubing with emitters.

If possible, lay out your drip irrigation lines so they can all be drained from the low ends. Otherwise, install your drip lines so they naturally drain to various low spots, install an access box at the lowest spot in each line of the system for the winter. Install a manual drain-down valve a simple ball valve. Each fall, the metal drip irrigation ball valve should be opened to fully drain the line.

Lonnie Zamora, a former rooftop-gardener and irrigation designer in New York City, used drip irrigation for over four years on most of his jobs, even in the flower boxes for a penthouse on the 27th floor of a Manhattan apartment building. To winterize his client’s drip irrigation systems each fall, he would:

l Drain the pressure regulator.

l Close the faucet at the home’s wall.

l Attach a 110VAC air compressor with the necessary fittings to the female hose thread at the beginning of the drip system.

l Set the timer to run each line or zone for five to seven minutes.

l Run the air compressor pumps at 25 psi or less to blow out all the lines.

l Manually drain all lines on multilevel, terraced gardens.

l Open the Y-filter’s ball valve to drain the filter cartridge chamber.


Please post a comment - I want to know what you think.

Visit my web site to learn about my new book on drip irrigation and other gardening books.

NOTE: The comments section at the bottom of the post has disappeared. Click on the "___ Comments" button or the title under the "Blog Archives". Thanks, Robert

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