Little Helpers: Kids and Drip Irrigation
“A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” George Santayana
If we’re very lucky, we get to pass our love of gardening on to eager children in our lives. From the life-affirming act of planting a seed and nurturing it along, to learning about pollinators and pests and putting by our harvest, gardening has much to teach both young and old. It takes work, observation and skill to pull it off. Some of the greatest gifts of working with kids in the garden are the bonding experience and the shared feelings of satisfaction in a job well done.
KEEP IT FUN
When installing drip irrigation, we work with our knowledge of soil and plants to create systems that will handle the garden’s irrigation needs while conserving water. If we bring a sense of play into it, with our components that are akin to Erector sets or Tinker Toys, we will easily attract little helpers to the project. With some preparation, we can set everyone up for success. Keeping things fun is crucial, so we have a few ideas we think will help.
NAME THE PARTS
There are plenty of grownups that still call 1/4" tubing “spaghetti tubing”, so there’s no harm in using the fun and memorable names for parts with kids. Hold downs for tubing come in two sizes and are easy to identify. Goof plugs have no holes and are good for fixing mistakes or ending the 1/4 inch lines. They are sold in “trees” that are easy to pick out. Figure 8 Ends for mainline tubing are also easy to identify. One gallon per hour frog or lady bug emitters are a big hit with kids. Color coded emitters are recognizable even for the youngest helpers.
If you’ve got a 5 gallon tool bucket for irrigation parts and tools, how about finding a one gallon tool bucket for your little one? Load it with the parts they are responsible for. Needless to say, those lady bug and frog emitters can be played with during down time!
Find doable tasks suited to the age and abilities of the helper. Perhaps they can be in charge of the hold downs. Their job is to insert one every so many inches, securing the mainline or 1/4 inch drip line. Kids with enough manual dexterity can break off goof plugs and hand them out whenever you need them, while older kids can help pop them into the holes. Use of scissors or other cutting tools needs to be supervised. Limit access to sharp tools unless kids are old enough to exercise caution when using them.
A punch tool like the Pocket Punch is generally safer than key punches for kids, if their hand is big enough to grip it. Punching holes is a more advanced skill and it might be enough for your helper to hand you the tool for the job. An Insertion Tool can be fun if the helper is coordinated enough to load the transfer barb, feed in the 1/4 inch tubing and squeeze the handle. Certainly kids can dip the ends of 1/4 inch tubing in warm water to soften it, so that inserting the emitters is easier. Some helpers might learn the figure 8 end move easily.
And maybe that bored teen in the hammock could program a timer for you? Okay, maybe not. Give the job to a savvy ten to twelve year old that’s good at stuff like that!
In the end, you may be surprised at how much time you save by finding chores that your young assistants can master. We’d love to see photos of you and your helpers on our Facebook page.