Soaker Hose on a Timer?

CoDIY(XER CO 5)May 2, 2005

Hello all, I am new to the whole gardening forum, but would like to tap some of the expertise out there.

My wife and I are looking at doing a Xeriscape herb and tall grass garden in the back yard of our townhome south of Denver. The herb and flower beds that we are planning are fairly small (4'x10'), and we have two trees and an 8'x3' raspberry bed as well. I was thinking that I would put in a Rain Bird timer set up to a 1" PVC manifold with flow control valves, then out to 3/4" poly tubing to each of four zones that would end in a PVC tee with a Rain Bird filtered drain valve at the low point and a soaker hose attachment point above ground for each of the watering zones. One zone for the trees, one for the herbs and flowers, one for the grasses, and one for the raspberries.

I would appreciate any advice that anyone has.

The main goal here is to have a system that will be easy to winterize (i.e. pull off the soaker hose and disconnect the system from the hose bib), and will provide attention free watering.

Thanks for you help

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ABQ_Bob(USDA 5a/SS 2A)

I have a set-up as follows:
Short hose from bib to 4-valve manifold w/ hose-to-pipe thread fitting at the manifold intake ("always on" - the bib is always turned on, and flow control is done at the valves)

At the out going side of each valve I have pipe-to-hose fittings to attatch 3/4" soaker hoses and drip system conduit as needed. The valves are attached to a timer, which runs off an outlet in my garage and has wires running discreetly out-of-the-way to the manifold.

When winter approaches I undo each hose from the manifold and un-cap their ends to drain and allow for any flexing/freezing. I just leave them lying in place. I pull the wiring (which is connected/disconnected w/ twist caps) and take the valve manifold into the garage near my water heater/interior wall. This is the expensive part of the system and since it's above ground you don't want it freezing/breaking the valves.

When spring comes I bring out the manifold and re-attach all the hoses/wires and test the system. Been working great for 3 years now. Have only had to replace soakers from mineral build up. Got all the parts, including the manifold from HomeDepot:
(1) 4-valve manifold

(5) 1" to 3/4" pipe converters (1 inflow, 4 outflow)
('cuz it's nearly impossible to find 1" Pipe to 3/4" hose fittings) Also seems like some of these may have been slip converters that I had to cement in place, but that will depend on the manifold you have.

(1) 3/4" MPT - 3/4" FHT adapter
(Male Pipe Thread to Female Hose Thread, this hooks the female inflow pipe thread on the manifold to the male hose end coming from the hose attached to the bib)

(4) 3/4" FPT - 3/4" MHT Adapters
(Female Pipe Thread to Male Hose Thread to convert the outgoing valve pipes to hose threads)

(1) 1-way suck-back preventer to go anywhere between the bib and manifold, just a precaution...

The best thing about the whole thing is that it's flexible. I can use soakers or drip systems, multi-zoned and they're all on timers. Nearly totally carefree, automated watering. I do have "Y" at the bib with a standard garden hose so I can hand water trouble spots if I need to... but once I have those identied I try to get a dripper or a soaker to that spot so I don't have to worry about it anymore.

You can get hose timers now days, but they run on batteries - so if the batteries die, you may not know it until your yard starts dying, and I don't find them nearly as easy to program as the standard sprinkler timers (I tried this route first, but I'm much happier with the system I have now).

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 3:07AM
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CoDIY(XER CO 5)

Thanks for the reply Bob. It sound like your system is very similar to what I decided to do. My wife and I are trying to finish up a flagstone patio this weekend, and I am hoping to have the rest of the irrigation system run as well, minus the timer and rain shutoff.
I decided on a short hose run from the bib to an underground home made 1" PVC manifold. Four rain bird valves that are attached via unions so I can undo them for the winter to facilitate draining. Then on to 3/4" poly pipe out to riser points that will have brass hose adapters. I'll try to post some pictures if I have time this weekend.
One thing I was thinking about with my wires was trying to find quick connectors at Radio Shack or something. Failing that, I will probably be using twist connectors as well. I just don't like the idea of having to twist and untwist wires every year. Usually leads to weakened wires in my experience.
Thanks again for the ideas.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2005 at 9:43AM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

I have something kind of like that, only more primitive. I have a kitchen timer, and a lot of hose and Y-valves, hooked up to a mess of Raindrip 1/4" hose and from there to a tangle of 1/4" soaker hose (you can get it at Lowe's). Whenever I add more plants, or discover something needs more water, I add a couple more loops or lines of the soaker hose, with feeder line as needed. I just leave the soaker hose right on top of the ground, to make it easy to modify and service, and the plants grow to conceal it pretty well anyways. The only time it looks pretty awful is in winter, when it looks like black spaghetti rained down all over the yard. But then, my whole yard looks awful in winter. I haven't got that "winter interest" thing mastered yet.

With my system, I turn on the water, go in and set the timer, and when it rings, I go outside and turn the water off again. I carry the timer with me if I won't be within hearing distance. No leaks, no problems with electric failures, no hassles really.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 1:26PM
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CoDIY(XER CO 5)

Well, the timer, valves, poly tubing and risers are all installed. We've even put in a soaker hose for our raspberry bed, though I doubt that it will end up getting used much since the raspberries have survived without our help since we moved in. The trees are on a separate valve, and those hose rings are already in use. I provided for a small foutain that I am in the process of making, and I am just about done with the design of a solar charged battery operated pump system. Additional fountain filling will be done using a dripper off of one of the main lines. I don't think we'll lose too much water to evaporation, but I also have no wish to monitor the level. I thought about putting in a float switch of sorts, but that introduced more complexity to a small 12V system than I wanted to deal with. I figure that if the evaporation losses are high enough, I will use the dripper, otherwise I won't worry about it and use the dripper connection for a container plant or something. Time will tell.
The next step is the final decision on what plants will be going in what beds. We plan on having two more watering zones, so it is just a matter of finding Xeriscape plants that we like that will fall into one of two watering groups. Not too bad, I think. We are hoping to attract some butterflies with some of the flowering plants, so that is a consideration.
If anyone can give me instructions on how to post pictures, I will provide before and after shots. With the addition of the flagstone patio and new planting beds, the weed garden we had was sucessfully transformed into a place that we like to relax. Come next spring, I am sure I will be found in the garage making adirondack chairs.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 5:12PM
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CoDIY(XER CO 5)

So, the irrigation system is now in. We used soaker hose in our calendula bed, raspberry bed, and for our basil, rosemary and thyme, and some parsley (that isn't faring too well.) I also added a couple drippers on the same system to water tomatos and a container of dill.
In the end, I am thinking that next year I am going to remove the soaker hose from the herbs (minus the basil) and go to drippers for all of our annual plants. We'll keep the soakers in the calendula since they should self sow and would defeat the positioning of drippers, the raspberries, for similar reasons, and the basil because it did so well on the soaker hose. I think that the thyme and other herbs (eventually it will be parsley, sage rosemary and thyme, but not because of the song) will benefit from the direct watering. We are also planning some poppies and tall grasses. Those may get soaker hose as well, but I am not sure yet. When it is all in, I may post some pictures now that I have discovered Photobucket.
PS, biggest lesson learned... don't use old hose (even for a little while) as a jumper from the hose bib to the valvebox. Ours blew (fortunately the day before we went on vacation for a week) and washed down about a yard of new soil! It has since been replaced with 100 psi poly tube.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2005 at 9:13PM
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CoDIY(XER CO 5)

And some pictures of the process (just learned how yesterday!)
This is the PVC manifold I built:

And the valve box with manifold installed:

I ended up using mated power connectors for ease of removal in the winter:

All dug up:

And put back together:

And finally, some plants:

Still working on it, of course, but at least the irrigation infrastructure is in.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2005 at 1:34PM
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