by Leigh Mills 

Even though we’ve received some wonderful moisture lately, we might have another dry summer here in the San Luis Valley.  It’s challenging enough to grow plants without having to water them every day, too.  Due to financial constraints and personal enjoyment, I’ve been hand watering our gardens for many years.  When I was working with the Saguache Community Garden, I designed and installed a drip irrigation system for their raised beds.  The first time I turned on the water, set the timer and walked away was life changing.  I knew I had to get the Heyokah garden hooked up.

The initial financial investment for a drip irrigation system can be large.  We definitely spent a few hundred dollars getting all the lines and accessories for our large garden.  It took a bit of time to design the system and a couple of hours picking out the parts at Murdoch’s in Salida.

Installing the system was a large task.  Our garden is varied and each bed has a different watering requirement.  I started with something easy and hooked up the cherry trees first.  I set out the delivery lines and weighed them down with rocks until I could tack them in place with homemade metal “U” pins.  I used parts like “T” couplers and “Y” nozzles with on/off switches.  The Dripworks website helps describe the many different irrigation parts and how they can be used, (  I ended up creating my own design for a lot of the beds.

The cherry trees have a 1” delivery line that is split with a “T” couple.  I decided to just poke holes in the line and see how that worked instead of using expensive, fancy spray ends.  First I removed some of the mulch around the tree.  Then I set the delivery line and poked holes into the tube.  I turned on the water to see the results, and enough water was being allowed to soak in without drowning the tree.  Last, I covered the lines up with the mulch so the water would be delivered next to the soil and protected from the sun’s evaporative power.

The next section I installed went to a raised bed with mature squash and bean plants.  I used a multi-headed adapter and secured four ¼” lines on one post.  I used a variety of delivery tubes.  There was a soaker hose design and I wove that around the bush beans, anchoring the hose with lots of those “U” pins.  I used a solid ¼” line for the squash and installed little spray heads to deliver the water right at the base of the plants.

The finishing touches were putting plain timers at the faucets so all I had to do was turn on the water, set the timer and walk away.  I plan to get the rest of the Heyokah Homestead garden hooked up to the irrigation system this month.  It really helps with the work load, especially when there’s not much rain from Father Sky.

Leigh Mills has lived, gardened, preserved food and saved seeds in the San Luis Valley for over 10 years.  She’s written the “As the Worm Turns” column for three years and has started a gardening blog called The Infinite Bee.  If you enjoy reading her monthly, visit her daily at, where she welcomes your comments, questions, and suggestions about gardening, saving seeds, and practicing life.