Organic Kitchen Gardening and my personal musings

This blog is about my experiments with Organic Kitchen Gardening and sometimes about other personal experiences of my life… Please leave a comment about anything that touched you. Comments help to keep the blogger motivated to keep blogging :)

Drip Irrigation for Kitchen Garden – DIY November 1, 2010

Filed under: Organic Farming and Kitchen Garden — rajapanda @ 5:00 pm

This has to be one of the most common problem faced by gardeners – How to take care of the watering needs of the garden while travelling out of station.

1 or 2 days travel days is still ok, plants can manage, but when one is travelling for over a week and has to leave the plants either on the mercy of rain gods (if the plants are in open to sky position) or some one else’s mercy then half the fun of travel is killed by worrying about the plants.

So, i thought of setting up a drip irrigation system to take care of my plants for my upcoming travel and here I’ll share the learnings from the whole exercise for my readers.

I was keen on exploring 2 optoins:
1. Set up a motor controlled by a timer and connected to a tap, which operates (switches on and off) at pre-determined times and connect the garden with pipes from there.
2. Set up a drip system where the input is directly from my tap and the tap is kept running continuously (probably 10% open) but drip system takes care to release a very a low and controlled amount of water to the plants.

After lot of deliberation I selected the 2nd option mainly because it was cheaper (no motor & timer cost), less complicated and doesn’t involve use of electricity. The only negative i could think of against the 2nd option was it should might waste more water and also the risk of over watering the plants. Remember – over watering is equally or even more dangerous than less watering.

The exercise started with a trip to the KR Market,Bangalore with plenty of time in hand (started early morning around 9). KR Market can look very chaotic and intimidating for someone who is not very familiar with the structure in which it operates. But once you know how to navigate it, it’s really the best place to shop for such ‘Do It Yourself’ – DIY projects in Bangalore. Basically every category of stuff is available in a particular section (street?) of the market, be it machine tools, electrical stuff, pipes, etc etc… One just needs to first navigate to the right street and after that its really a cakewalk. Typically there are number of shops offering the same kind of stuff in any particular street and the prices are mostly at wholesale level. Unfortunately the streets are not clearly marked with Main,Cross numbers like in the city and hence most of the direction are given by locals in terms of 2-3 streets after/before such and such place. So, i’ll stick to the same method. The street that we are discussing here is very close to the Juma Masjid. If you consider standing on the SJP road with Masjid to your left side then the street will come to your right. Take a right turn there and navigate your way through maze asking local shop keepers about drip irrigation shops and you should reach at the right place.

All the shops there have more or less similar pricing vis-a-vis quality of goods. But it’s always advisable to do your homework well before you reach there for buying stuff as you read in a little while.

Drip Irrigation Material Required

Before that let’s start with the components that were required to make the drip system work for my garden:

1. A connector from the tap to main pipe line of the drip system. This will depend on the kind of pipe you have as input. So, it’s better to take a measurement of the pipe with you.

2. Main pipe line –

This is like the backbone of the drip system. It will be required to be laid through out the garden where one needs water to reach. It’s available in 3 sizes – 10mm, 12mm, 16mm. I chose the 12mm as it looked reasonably wide for my garden size and was priced ok. It cost me Rs. 3.75 per meter. so, it makes sense to measure the size of pipe you will require for your garden before going shopping. It will depend on the layout of ones garden and where the main pipe is etc.. Just for convenience sake keep the measurement handy in units of meter (a meter is roughly equal to 3 ft.) The first pipe in the pic below is of main pipe.

3. Vein Pipe –

These are very thin (2mm ?) in size and will be plugged in to the main line via a connector. One end of the vein will be connected to the main pipe via connector and the other end will be attached to the dripper/emitter which will drip water on the plant. Second pipe in the pic above is that of vein pipe.
Dripper, vein pipe and connector can be attached simply by pressing by hand and its really simple and easy.

4. Dripper/Emitter and the connector.
In the first picture above, to the left of the vein pipe is the connector and to the right is the dripper. Here is a closer broken down look of the dripper

5. Bends, Joints and End connector.
Although the pipe is flexible enough to bend, once you bend it without the help of proper joints/bends the free water flow will get affected and it will be difficult for the water to travel after the first 1-2 joints. So, it’s always better to use the proper joints. Basically there are 2 kinds of joints T and L. The end connector is just like a tap with a valve on it which allows to open/close the water flow. For end points i.e., points where the main pipe will end one can put the end connector with the valve closed.

5. Joining the Main pipe to the vein pipe and dripper.

Make a small hole in the main pipe with the help of a small nail or a small prick (forgot the exact name but you get a pricker too in the market) . Now push the connector into the small hole in the main pipe in the main pipe and you are done.

Something like this.

That is pretty much the material one will require to get going.

Process to setup Drip System

So, let me share the steps I followed in setting it up.

First i laid the main pipe all along the path in which my plants are there including all my tiled veggie patches and pots. I took care to ensure that my tap is at a height above the main line of drip pipe just to ensure free flow of water even at less pressure.

The first step took me roughly 3 hours to set up. But the good thing is once this setup is done the rest can be done at leisure. In fact the only thing pending after this step is to connect the vein pipe and dripper to the main pipe at the right places. This can be done one pot at a time in leisure time. For each of the veggie patch i have kept 3-4 dripper depending on the size of the patch.

Now the bouncer. I started with an impression that that after setting this up i can just leave the tap open and my plants will be all set. The drippers will take care of watering the just necessary quantity of water to my plants. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. When i left the tap open at full flow, within an hour my whole garden and pots got flooded. So, the dripper themselves are not capable of ensuring the right amount of water for the plants. After lot of tweaking and testing i finally realized that if I keep the tap open at just 10% of its flow it works just fine giving just about enough water for the plants to survive.

This is important as i also have to take into account days when it might rain and further watering can lead to over-watering and rot the plants. so, it’s ok if i err a little on the less side. Plants will still be alive.

Here is the system in operation on my baby corn (or is only corn ?) plants
drip irrigation on corn plants

Here on the tomato plants in pots

Its been under testing for over 10 days now and seems to be working just fine.

Finally let me share my experience of shopping for these items in the KR market. The first shop i went to, me and the shopkeeper had a long chat and we discussed a lot of things about drip system . I figure it didn’t take him long to realize am a novice in this and he has got his bakra for the day. So, the shop-keeper was ready to sell me the all the stuff required for Rs. 1800/-. Though he wasn’t quoting a very high a price he was actually mis-calculating my quantity needs. He was trying to sell me the 300 mt (one full unit) of main pipe at 6 rs per meter and the rest of stuff was free with that. Then the second shop i went to, again we had a long discussion and this time the shop-keeper was trying to grossly over-price everything and bill came to 2400/- for just 150 mtr of main pipe and rest of the stuff.

The third shop i went to i knew exactly what i wanted and bought 130 meters of main pipe 20 meters of vein pipe and rest everything (joints,bends etc..) was priced around 1 rs per piece and the total bill came to just Rs. 570/-. So, the point is it pays to do your homework before going to buy anything even if it’s wholesale market. Go ahead and set up a drip for your garden and travel without worries about your plants 🙂


38 Responses to “Drip Irrigation for Kitchen Garden – DIY”

  1. Jayadeep Purushothaman Says:

    Raja – good work! But I have to add that this drip thing is not an organic method. Though we have one installed, it comes in the way of the little space you have and makes you lazy. Like anything natural(plants, child etc.), you need to spend time to grow them in a natural way. Also it removes some physical effort of watering which keeps you close to the plants and adds to some workout as well. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone if you want things organic. But I have to agree that doing it yourself would be fun though.

    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi Jayadeep,

      Thanks for your inputs. But I slightly differ with you on drip being organic or not. In my understanding using products which are synthetic and consumed/absorbed by plants in some manner including pesticides and fertilizers makes the gardening non organic or inorganic. Here the drip is being used only to fulfill the watering needs of plants. It’s only the water which is consumed by plants whether i give it one shot via pipe or slowly via drip doesn’t have a bearing on organic/inorganic method. Of course here i am referring to organic in the limited sense of terrace/kitchen/container gardening. If we go theoretically and in more stricter sense then even the containers are not organic, isn’t it?? they are plastic and synthetic after all. Right ??

      Now coming to your second point of physical effort of watering keeping us connected to the plants. I kind of agree with you on this. But, is watering the only need of plants ? I think no, its probably just one of the needs which has to be fulfilled on a daily basis. In my case, going early morning to office and returning in the evening when it’s almost dark leaves very little time to attend to the plants in daylight. Right now, whatever little free time i get on a daily basis goes in watering. Won’t it be good idea to attend to the plants in other ways while the watering is getting done automatically!


  2. snigdha panda Says:

    Good posting on drip irrigation during vacation.

    Recently we went on vacation for around 10 days. I have some potted plants. I just left them outside on the mercy of rain God and morning dew.
    However, I put two of my very cherrished Tulshi plants (one black veriety and one green veriety) indoor with drip irrigation (one bucket full of water (~ 25 l) put on the stool and the potted plants on the floor and two threads from the bucket to the potted plant)
    After coming back from the vacation thogh I found the pot soil is wet, however, the green veriety tulsi has dried up. (narayan prapti). The black veriety has shedded few leaves but was in good condition. (I think it may be due to unavailability of sunlight).


    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi Snigdha,

      Hmm.. ‘the bucket and thread’ was a very nice idea …I think you are right, lack of sunlight could have caused the leaves to shed.


  3. Deepesh Says:

    Hi there,

    another well written thread. I like the simple and practical advice that you have given in this thread and would benefit a lot of first timers including myself.

    Aside from this, I had a question for you and readers of your blog. I have planted lawn in my small garden and of late its infested by red ants. My lawn is full of tulsi plants growing in bunches, but its not effective against ant I feel. The lawn is well irrigated and has a good drainage/outlet as well. Is there any home/organic remedy to get rid of ants. Any advice would help a lot.

    thanks in advance.


    • rajapanda Says:

      Hi Deepesh,

      Really sorry for the delayed reply. here is link which i found on the net for tackling ants. Try your luck.

      • Deepesh Says:

        Hi Raja,

        thanks for the reply. Appreciate you taking the time to lookup information. Will give the above link a shot and let you know.
        I did find some similar content on the internet, but was hoping someone would share a recipe that “worked”. But then someone has to try it first, so I will.


        • Naveen Says:


          I used to have this problem, but able to control now.
          I added Neem cakes Little amount of Turmeric powder, Cow Dougne and little amount of Gangala (Cow urine) and mixed with water and sprayed this on my lawn for every 2 weeks.
          Please note, there are no chemicals involved. Hence you could use your hand to mix this stuff.

          Hope this works for you too…


  4. sumathy Says:

    Hi Raj,

    As usual good and detailed write up. Thanks. I don’t know when I will start doing this though I wanted something of this sort whenever I go home for vacation. Right now I fill empty pepsi/miranda bottles filled with water with a couple of holes in it or slightly loosen the caps and keep them in the pots. So far it worked and also the rains helped me :-). My pots have increased and am now finding it difficult to continue this method. Will take your advise on this when I start this.
    Thanks again. Keep posting.


  5. Very interesting. This is always a problematic/ Tyra

  6. Jagadish Says:

    Hi Raja,

    Nice and useful post with a lot of details. That is something I have come to expect on you blog 🙂
    Another area I am interested is in a collection system for the drained water coming out of pots. Do you have any thoughts on it?


  7. Hi I just attemptedto put your Rss feed into my google readers and then for some reason it does not subscribe, you may have a slight coding issue, just telling you. Thx

  8. Murali Rao Says:

    Hi Raja,

    Thanks a lot for that very informative post.We were perennially faced with this problem of watering our potted plants whenever going out of station.

    Y’day went a bought all the equipment from KR market and fixed the same too. However, facing a few teething issues –
    1. Water is leaking from the point where I punctured the main pipe to fix the vein pipe though I took care to punch a really small hole. Have applied M-seal on it for now. If you have a better idea, pls share.
    2. More importantly though, I’m not able to get the main pipe’s level and water flow adjusted. Should the main pipe be at a constant horizontal level throughout? Also, when I adjust the main tap to allow abt 10% water flow, water drips out of some of the vein pipes but does not drip out of some others. My hunch is the water pressure (at 10% flow) is not adequate to reach all the vein pipes. My total main pipe length is about 5-6 meters to which 16 vein pipes are attached. Pls note that my main pipe is not at ground level – it is suspended about 2 meters above ground and tends to sag a bit here and there.

    Did you face any such issues? Pls share your views on how to overcome them.

    Thanks in advance. Cheers…………Murali

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  10. G Nair Says:

    Found this supplier ( in Bangalore who sets-up automatic watering system. I got this done and worked well during my 2 week vacation to Sikkim.


  11. Mahdedev k b Says:

    Lots of info indeed. I am beginner and toying with the concept of terrace garden, though in a very small way to begin with. Thanks for wonderful ideas shared in this blog like DIY for drip irrigation, watering the plants during vacation using a bucket and cotton thread.
    Mahadev. k B

  12. kumar Says:

    Hi All,
    This a very good discussion, i have another pice of in info in additon to drip system, you can install littele bit of automation to water your garden. All you need a Timer ( Will cast you Rs 600/- and a Solined Valve – Rs 300). They are availabe in SP road and this will take care of your garden when you are out on Tour.

    • Vijay Says:

      Hi Kumar,

      If you can post a little more elaborate information about the timer n solined valve, it would be very helpful.. which shop in SP road etc. Pls PM your number on & i would love to discuss this with you in more details

  13. Renukanand.P Says:

    Hi Mr.Panda,
    your experience is a very informative and good amount of advice is available to the beginners of kitchen garden.I appreciate your efforts, and i hope your garden is thriving.

  14. Ashish Says:

    Thanks for simple & nice presentation.I am from Jaipur and was really in need of this information.I will be visiting Bangalore in feb.2014 & will try to collect this stuff after doing my homework.Since climate of Jaipur is very harsh , I need to water twice daily in the months of May-June & this DIY will help me greatly.

  15. Raman Says:

    Hi Kumar,
    I am new to this blog. I live in OMBR Layout,banaswadi,bangalore. I want to set up a drip irrigation system since for around 100 pots from 18in to 6in in varied dia of cement pots. Can U please give me more details to my email id. Your help will be highly appreciated. Thanks

  16. Pramodh Rao Says:

    Raj, I saw this and though I have what I think is a working prototype and an alternate method, was interested in the cost adv to the option you mentioned. I tried to go there yesterday and the rates for a meter of the main line was being quoted about Rs. 10. I just wanted to know if you have the name of the shop of the location that I can go to and not get conned. You know what I mean.

    I was able to achieve this simply thru using a regular pipe and some control/small dia tubing that I could pick up off a local aquarium. However, when I costed the permanent solution that I thought of, it was working out to about Rs. 4K.

    Please do respond if possible with the shop details. I have plants in 2 places, my balcony and the terrace and am definitely keen on taking this to the next level where I can add some fertilizer also thru a mode that delivers it to the plants in the same fashion.


  17. vinayjan Says:

    What is the name of the third shop you finally bought your stuff from?

  18. saraswathi v Says:

    i liked readind your blog the samaway i want to know the plumber who can do this job so i want to save the washing machine water going waste and the kitchen sink water going waste it will be my little effort to save the water which is going waste my e mail id is

  19. Debashis Says:

    Hi Raj,i m Dev(Devashis),i want to talk with you,regarding terrace farming.I m working in a NGO,locate at forest park,BBSR ,if u r free then we can discussed about this.My no-7205227347

  20. Anup Says:

    Nice work sir ,very helpful for a beginner

  21. Bharath Says:

    Hey nice work.. I got my first organic seed here..

  22. shruti Says:

    thanks for the post, came across your blog from geek gardener.

    I am planing to start a small kitchen garden,in my balcony, and drip irrigation was in my mind becoz it saves lots of time and water. your post is really helpful in costs and what all one should look for

  23. Dhananjai Says:

    We are senior citizen complex ATHASHRI in white field near DEENS school.we are looking at installing water sprinklers ,drip watering system,whom do we contact for purchase / installation .right cost is important .could we be mailed the details please .

  24. muhajir Says:

    Please let me know where I can get the equipment

  25. […] was kind of making small chambers in that for growing veggies. You can see pictures of that in this DIY drip irrigation post. The thick grass around was helping to make sure top soil erosion won’t happen in rains or […]

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