Arrow-right Camera

Arts & Entertainment

Gardening: After several tries, Knoell masters watering system

Sun., June 23, 2013, midnight

Spokane County Master Gardener Joni Knoell has set up a drip irrigation system for her garden. (Susan Mulvihill)
Spokane County Master Gardener Joni Knoell has set up a drip irrigation system for her garden. (Susan Mulvihill)

Joni Knoell is a do-it-yourselfer. When she needs something for her garden, she goes through a process of trial and error until it’s just the way she wants it.

A Spokane County Master Gardener since 2010, Knoell lives on 5 acres in the Colbert area and primarily grows flowers, vegetables and blueberries. But setting up a watering system to keep those plants happy and productive was no easy task.

“We have a lot of iron in our water, which causes regular sprinklers to clog up and become unusable,” she said. “Then I tried soaker hoses but because of the percussive nature of our watering system, it would blow holes in the hoses.”

On top of that, she’s dealing with two types of soil in her garden areas: clay loam and sandy loam.

She switched to a drip irrigation system about seven years ago and said she believes she’s finally found a workable solution to these problems.

“I barely knew anything about drip systems so I started with my hanging baskets first,” she said. “I was looking for a way to water them whenever I was out of town and wanted to use a timer system from a faucet.”

Knoell has used drip irrigation kits and supplies from different retailers while figuring out what works best for her garden.

Everything in her garden is now watered on a low-pressure drip system. It was easiest to see how she set up the watering system in her vegetable garden.

The water comes from the well head and goes through a sediment filter to remove the heaviest particles. Then it travels through a mesh filter to remove the smaller sediment. That filter has a drain valve so she can flush it out as needed.

At that point, the water goes through a pressure regulator to the four-zone, battery-operated timer.

“It was important for me to have the different zones for my plants,” she said. “Blueberries need a lot of water, tomatoes not so much. It’s important to know the different water needs for each crop and to know your soil. While the plants are small, I’m watering every other day but will adjust the frequency as the weather gets warmer.”

From the timer, water lines go to the garden beds in various configurations, based on what she is growing. She uses a combination of 1/2-inch lines with built-in pressure-compensating emitters every 12 inches, and lines where she installs pressure-compensating emitters at a spacing to suit her needs.

The benefit of using pressure-compensating emitters is that they each supply the same amount of water in a row without regard to row length or water pressure, according to Dripworks, an online irrigation supply company. Knoell also appreciated that they would rarely become plugged.

“With drip irrigation, I like the ease of management for crop rotation because it can be put into any configuration I want,” she said. “I use special fittings that make it easier to take things apart for winter storage and to reconfigure my garden for the next season.”

Knoell is pleased with her drip irrigation system because it’s reliable and low maintenance. “I did this all by myself and learned by reading publications and through trial and error. Others can do this, too.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at her blog at for more gardening information, tips and events.

Click here to comment on this story »