How Often Should A Drip Irrigation System Run?

Once your drip irrigation system is installed and ready to go, the next step is to ensure that your plants actually receive the correct amount of water. Both overwatering and underwatering can adversely affect their growth. So, how often should you run a drip irrigation system?

How often you should run a drip irrigation system depends on the soil type, the type of emitters used, and the climate. It’s best to first run your system for 45 minutes, monitor your plant’s health, and then adjust accordingly. A properly planned system is more efficient and will last longer.

Drip irrigation is an excellent way to conserve water while keeping your plants hydrated. However, you’ll need to run this system longer than a sprinkler system, as the water in a drip irrigation system is delivered more slowly and efficiently. Let’s take a closer look at the recommended running time of a drip irrigation system and what measures you can take to make sure your system is successful.

What Is Drip Irrigation?

Cucumber field growing with drip irrigation system

Drip irrigation, also referred to as trickle irrigation, is a method of irrigation that provides a controlled delivery of water to the plant roots through a grid of tubing, valves, emitters, and pipes. Using this method, the leaves don’t get wet but the water drips constantly onto the roots of the plants to keep them sufficiently moist.  

How Often Should You Run a Drip Irrigation System?

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to running your drip irrigation system (on Amazon). The best approach is to start with 45 minutes. Observe for a couple of days and then adjust accordingly. 

Factors That Affect the Drip Irrigation Run Time

Let’s look at the various factors that affect how long a drip irrigation system should be run:


There are different types of emitters (on Amazon) available that vary in size and output. The typical range of these emitters varies from 0.5 gallons per hour to 4 gallons per hour. Therefore, running the different emitters for one hour will provide the plants with different amounts of water. 

Another important consideration is the number of emitters on your drip line. There are drip lines that come with inline emitters installed at 6 inches, 12 inches, 18 inches, and even wider. 

If your drip line has emitters spaced at 6 inches, you’ll need to run the system for less time. However, you’ll need to run the system for longer if your drip line comes with emitters spaced at 18 inches.     


The type of soil your garden has also helps to determine how often you should run your irrigation system. Sand needs to be watered more often. Clay needs less water, and you’ll need to use a lower-rate emitter to apply the water. Different plants such as climbers and minis also have different watering needs. 


The kind of weather you enjoy year-round is another variable to take into account. Plants in high humidity, low temperatures, and overcast conditions need less water, while bright sunlight, high temperatures, and low humidity mean you’ll need to run your irrigation system more.   

If you want to measure the amount of water your emitter delivers in an hour, put the emitter head in a bucket and take note of the water that accumulates in an hour. 

If you’re a drip irrigation novice, then it’s best to start with one inch of water per week. Check the soil after a couple of days and adjust accordingly if the soil is moist or dry.

Although you can apply water to your plants any day of the week, the number of days depends on the season. 

During spring and fall, the recommended number of days when you should run your drip irrigation system is two. In summers, you should run it every other day, while once a week or every other week is more than enough in winter.  

Tips for Successful Drip Irrigation

The following tips will help you run a successful drip irrigation system:

  • Make a sketch of the area you’re planning to irrigate. Mark the placement of drip lines and where you’ll install the emitters on the paper first. This will not only let you calculate the amount of material you’ll need to install your drip irrigation system but will also ensure an efficient system.
  • Make sure that you go for a flexible design, as it will allow you to change the number and location of the emitters according to your requirements.
  • Perform periodic checks on your drip lines and emitters to ensure that there isn’t any clogging or leakage.
  • Change your filters and drip lines after every six months for efficient watering. 

What to Avoid When Using Drip Irrigation

Drip Irrigation System

A drip irrigation system isn’t just beneficial for your garden, but it’s also good for the environment and your bank account. However, it’s vital to avoid the following when using a drip irrigation system for its efficient performance: 

  • Don’t run your system excessively, as you could end up overwatering your plants, which could cause them to die. Do proper research to find out the amount of water your plants need and plan your watering schedule accordingly.
  • Avoid placing the emitters too close or too far. Make sure your emitters are evenly spaced and are at least six inches from the plant’s base.
  • Inadequate water pressure can cause your system to fail and stress your plants. Ensure consistent flow from your emitters to prevent clogging.
  • Lastly, don’t rush into anything. Carefully plan your drip irrigation system for a happy and healthy garden.

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