Drip tape in the hoop house

Hoop houses, or high tunnels, protect plants from inclement weather. But the soil conditions are just like a desert, so plants need to be watered. Drip tape minimizes evaporation, and you can add fertilizer and nutrients through the system when needed.

Joe Hannan is an Extension horticulture field specialist at Iowa State University. He says there are three basic components to a drip tape system: the manifold, which is basically the control center, a water supply line, and the tape and fittings that water the plants.

Hannan says he runs drip tape in zones by plants with similar irrigation needs.

"So I’d put all my high water usage crops together like my tomatoes, my peppers, my cucumbers, on one zone so that’s all going to run together. And then I’d put on my crops like brassicas, like cabbage, onto another zone because that has a similar water use. Maybe if I had some raspberries that would be on one zone," says Hannan.

 When and how much to water depends on the needs of the plant, but also on the flow rate of the drip tape. Hannon says it’s important to make sure you have pressure-compensating emitters so the water pressure is the same at the end of the drip tape as it is in the beginning.

How you lay down the drip tape is up to you.

"Some people will bury it just one-or-two-inches below the soil surface and about two-inches off from the center of the plant. Other people will lay it right on top of the ground. If you bury it, wireworms can get in there and start chewing on it, if it’s on the surface mice can get chewing on it," he says. "It’s easier to see if you have a leak or something when it’s on the surface."

 He recommends installing drip tape underneath any ground cover or plastic mulch.