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When drip tubes won't drip.

Regular maintenance of a porous tubing (ooze tubing) irrigation system is essential to prevent clogging and to keep water flowing through it evenly. Hard water, with its high concentrations of iron, calcium, and magnesium, is the primary cause of clogs. Since deposits build up as tubing dries out between irrigations, aboveground installations--which dry out more quickly and completely than buried ones--are most vulnerable. Two other common causes of clogging are algae growth and soil that enters a broken line and isn't flushed out after repairs. To determine whether your system is clogged, turn on the water and look for uneven patterns of water distribution. If sections of the tubing and the soil beneath it are dry, the tubing needs cleaning.

Three ways to clean a system

Bend the tubing back and forth with the system turned on, working each clogged section until you see water ooze out. Make sure to flush all lines afterward: open the end caps, turn on water, let it run for a minute or two, then close the caps (see photographs above). This may be impractical on a large system. An alternative is to remove the pressure or flow regulator and turn the system on and off two or three times for 30 second each. These bursts of high pressure help dislodge the minerals. (For severely clogged systems, this can also be used as a preliminary step to manipulating the tubing.) Flush the lines afterward. Caution: If your system has compression fittings and your water pressure is higher than 60 pounds per square inch, don't try this method. It will blow the fittings. If you have a fertilizer injector, the easiest way to clean the system is to apply a porous tubing cleansing agent (about $9 a quart at irrigation supply stores) through the injector; follow label instructions. The agent's biodegradable combination of dilute hydrochloric and phosphoric acids dislodges mineral deposits without harming the system or plants. Flush all lines afterward.

Prevention is the best medicine

Your system is less likely to clog if it's well designed: use a filter of 150 mesh or smaller, and clean it regularly. If possible, bury the lines 4 to 6 inches deep or cover with mulch. Flush lines after making any repairs or adding new connections. It's also best to use a flow regulator (use one rated at 0.5 to 1 gpm for every 100 feet of porous tubing) rather than a pressure regulator. If the tubing does clog, a flow regulator isn't affected by pressure buildup due to clogging, as a pressure regulator can be.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1990
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