How to Fertilize With Drip Tapes

Written by jean fritz
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How to Fertilize With Drip Tapes
Drip irrigation eliminates water loss due to evaporation that occurs when using sprinklers. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Drip irrigation is a watering method used extensively in areas that routinely experience water-use restrictions. Drip irrigation conserves water, reduces evaporation during irrigation and more effectively hydrates plants by targeting the root zone rather than dispersing water into the air. Drip systems can easily be modified to deliver fertiliser with irrigation water. The following instructions are designed to be used with hose-end drip systems.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Fertiliser injector system, either faucet-mounted or inline
  • Hose-bibb (faucet) connector
  • Backflow preventer
  • Garden hose
  • Multiline ball-valve connector
  • Water-soluble fertiliser

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Instructions

    Installing the Fertilizer Injector System

  1. 1

    Screw the backflow preventer onto the faucet as you would the end of a hose. Screw the hose-bibb connector unit onto the backflow preventer.

    How to Fertilize With Drip Tapes
    The backflow preventer should easily screw on to the threads on the spigot. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)
  2. 2

    The hose-bibb connector has 2 small couplers that correspond to the water-intake and fertiliser-outflow tubes on the injector-tank lid. Connect the tubes to the appropriate couplers, squeezing the pieces together.

  3. 3

    Connect the garden hose to the hose-bibb connector. Run the hose out to the multiline ball valve, and connect the hose to the valve. The valve should be connected to the drip tapes, which should be positioned near the root zone of the plants to be watered and fertilised.

    Fertilising With Drip Tapes

  1. 1

    Fill the injector tank with fertiliser. Loosen the tubing connector nuts on the lid of the injector tank and gently remove the water-intake and fertiliser-outflow tubes. Do not disconnect the tubing from the connector nuts. Unscrew the injector-tank lid and pour the appropriate measure of fertiliser into the tank. If using water-soluble fertiliser, add a few inches of water to the tank prior to adding fertiliser to allow the fertiliser to dissolve completely.

  2. 2

    Replace the tank lid and reattach the intake and outflow tubes.

  3. 3

    Adjust the flow control. The tank lid contains a flow control, which regulates the proportion of fertiliser to water that is delivered to the plants. Water-soluble fertilisers made for hose-end applications will have a chart that shows the recommended ratios of water to fertiliser for the brand. Ensure the flow control creates the ratio recommended on the fertiliser package, and slowly turn on the water at the faucet.

  4. 4

    Open the valves on the intake and outflow tubes. Allow the tank to fill; this mixes the fertiliser solution and pressurises the tank. Once the tank is pressurised, the fertiliser solution will begin flowing out of the tank and into the garden hose.

  5. 5

    Open the valves slightly on the multiline ball valve until the drip lines begin emitting water. Adjust the pressure so that the fertiliser mixture is emitting evenly along the entire system of drip lines.

  6. 6

    Shut the water off when the water in the outflow tubing begins to run clear. This indicates that the tank has depleted the fertiliser solution and is now filled with clear water.

    Converting the System for Irrigation

  1. 1

    Clear the intake and outflow tubes of water by unscrewing the connecting nuts and disconnecting the nut-and-tube units from the tank lid. Open the lid to the injector tank and empty the tank of water.

  2. 2

    Replace the tank lid, connect the intake and outflow tubes to the lid and turn the valves on both tubes to the "off" position. This will shunt water away from the tank so that normal irrigation can be done without disconnecting the fertiliser injector.

  3. 3

    Flush the filter of the fertiliser injection unit at the end of each season, or more often if hard water is a problem. This will keep the unit free of particulate matter and lime build-up that will prevent water from flowing.

Tips and warnings

  • Use water-soluble fertilisers that are recommended for use in a drip system. Some fertilisers, especially those with a high phosphorus content, may not dissolve completely and can clog tubing and emitters. If the fertiliser injector is located in an area that may freeze, empty it completely of water prior to the onset of cold weather.
  • Hose-end fertiliser injectors are unable to withstand the continuous pressure that exists in an installed irrigation system.
  • Inline fertiliser injectors that are capable of withstanding constant pressure can be attached to irrigation lines, but this should be done by a licensed installer or plumber.
  • Always use a vacuum breaker or backflow preventer with a fertiliser injector system. This prevents contamination of the water supply.

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