DIY Garden Irrigation System: A Detailed Guide for Northwest Ontario

Welcome to our backyard garden oasis, a smartly designed space thriving in the challenging zone 3 conditions of Northwest Ontario. Our garden spans an area of 40 x 50 feet, featuring a mix of planting beds and grow bags, all nourished by a DIY garden irrigation system.


An Overview of Our Garden and Irrigation System

Our garden showcases six spacious garden beds, each measuring 3 feet by 8 feet, providing ample room for a variety of plants to flourish. For more compact plants, we have two smaller beds of 2 feet by 4 feet, and a perfectly square bed of 4 feet by 4 feet.

Adding to the versatility of our backyard garden irrigation system, we house an impressive collection of 102 grow bags. These portable planters, with capacities ranging from 7-gallon to 40-gallon, allow us to maximize every bit of our precious growing season in Northwest Ontario.


Zucchini getting water
diy irrigation garden - bags and trellis

Gardening Shortcut Links

Square Foot Gardening Section
waterline main layout

The Building Blocks of Our DIY Garden Irrigation System

Our backyard garden irrigation system is built on a few key components that ensure its efficiency and effectiveness. Here’s a closer look at these elements:


Garden Beds and Grow Bags

The heart of our Northwest Ontario gardening setup lies in our versatile mix of garden beds and grow bags. The six spacious garden beds, each 3 feet by 8 feet, provide ample room for a variety of plants to flourish. For more compact plants, we have two smaller beds of 2 feet by 4 feet, and a perfectly square bed of 4 feet by 4 feet.

Our garden also houses an impressive collection of 102 grow bags. These portable planters, with capacities ranging from 7-gallon to 40-gallon, offer flexibility and mobility in our gardening strategy, maximizing every bit of our precious growing season.


Irrigation Circuits

The true genius of our DIY garden irrigation system lies in the seven separate irrigation ‘circuits.’ Each equipped with individual shut-offs, they deliver precise control over watering schedules and volumes, ensuring that every plant receives the right amount of hydration.


Recreate This High-Yield, Low-Maintenance Garden Setup

Are you ready to embark on your own journey of creating a high-yield, low-maintenance garden setup? With this guide, you can recreate our backyard garden irrigation system in your own home, tailored to the unique zone 3 conditions of Northwest Ontario. Remember, successful gardening is not just about the destination, it’s about the journey too. Let’s embark on this adventure together!


Components for making a simple backyard irrigation system

Creating an efficient backyard garden irrigation system has never been easier with these essential components, available for quick purchase through the provided links. Let’s dive into the specifics.

The Pictures below link to a specific product on which I have used in my system.




Main Water Lines in Our DIY Garden Irrigation System

The backbone of our backyard garden irrigation system is the main water line. This crucial component is responsible for the distribution of water throughout our garden, ensuring that every plant gets the hydration it needs. Our Main lines are 1/2 inch Polypipe and 1/2 inch irrigation tubing. Polypipe has thicker walls and is a bit harder to use but is more robust.

Our main water line is connected to a singular hose outlet, which serves as the primary water source for our entire garden. This setup allows us to efficiently manage the water flow, directing it precisely where it’s needed.

The main water line is also connected to a fertilizer injector. This device ensures that nutrients are evenly distributed throughout the garden, promoting robust and healthy growth across all plant life.

The main water line further branches out into seven separate irrigation ‘circuits.’ Each of these circuits is equipped with individual shut-offs, providing us with precise control over watering schedules and volumes. This means we can tailor the hydration each plant receives, depending on its specific needs.

In essence, the main water line is the lifeline of our garden. It plays a pivotal role in our DIY garden irrigation system, helping us maintain a high-yield, low-maintenance garden setup, even in the challenging zone 3 conditions of Northwest Ontario.

Either Pipe needs to be secured to reduce tripping hazards. The pipes are then connected with push-on connectors in whatever configuration you desire. Main Water lines are “ended” or terminated by folding over the end of the pipe and wrapping it with electrical tape.


  • Landscape Pegs ($45 per 100): Secure your irrigation pipe firmly to the ground using these pegs, preventing trip hazards and enhancing system stability. You can purchase these here.

  • 1/2 Inch Pipe Straps (screw): Ideal for securing piping to wood, essential for a well-structured irrigation system.

For Water Distribution:

  • Y Brass Connector ($15 each): This key component lets you maintain a straight water line for a hose connection and a separate one for the irrigation system. If you have a larger garden divided into different zones, you can also opt for more ports. Get yours here.

  • Pressure Reducer ($40): Most city/town water systems require a pressure reducer. This model is set for 50psi, perfect for use with our recommended fertilizer injector. Don’t forget, some soaker hoses might need lower pressures, so always check the ratings. Find yours here.

  • 1/2 Inch Polypipe ($30/ 100 feet): This main feeder pipe feeds the 1/4-inch lines and emitters. Home Depot and other building supply stores offer a thicker version of this Polypipe, or you can order a thinner walled irrigation distribution line like Rainbird here.

  • 1/2 Inch Connectors (T, 90, Straight) (around $0.70 each): Affordable and versatile, these connectors allow you to shape your waterlines as needed. Make sure not to over-bend the pipe; use the 90’s instead. Purchase them here.

  • 1/2 Inch Shut Off Valves ($3 each): Handy inline shutoffs are perfect for managing individual feeds/beds, isolating specific beds or watering areas when required. Get yours here.

Optional Enhancements:

  • Vacuum breaker valve Valve ($7): Paired with the fertilizer injector, this component releases pressure, ensuring optimal functionality. Find it here.

  • Fertilizer Injection System ($140): An easy way to provide essential nutrients to your plants directly through the irrigation system. Get yours here.

  • Watering Timer ($40): Choose either a manual timer or a digital one that can adjust water flow based on time, date, and duration. Find your perfect timer here.

Emitter Lines and Emitters in Our DIY Garden Irrigation System

A key component of our backyard garden irrigation system is the emitter lines and emitters. These elements play a crucial role in delivering water directly to where it’s most needed – the root zone of the plants.

Emitter Lines

Emitter lines are smaller, flexible tubes that branch off from the main water line. They snake their way through the garden, reaching each plant or group of plants. The flexibility of these lines allows us to customize the layout of our irrigation system, ensuring that every area of the garden is adequately covered.


Attached to these emitter lines are the emitters themselves. Emitters are small devices that control the rate at which water is released from the system. They drip water slowly and directly onto the soil, ensuring that the water penetrates deeply and reaches the root zone of the plants.

The use of emitters in our DIY garden irrigation system allows us to provide each plant with the precise amount of water it needs. This not only conserves water but also promotes healthier, more robust plant growth by preventing overwatering or underwatering.

In our high-yield, low-maintenance garden setup in Northwest Ontario’s zone 3 conditions, the emitter lines and emitters are indispensable. They ensure that every plant receives the right amount of hydration, contributing to the overall success of our gardening efforts.


  • 1/4 Inch Blank Emitter Line ($34 per 100 feet): This tubing carries water from your main line to emitters. It comes with built-in emitters suitable for a soaker hose. Order yours here.

  • Post Adjustable Emitters – 360 ($0.37 each): Attach these to the end of the 1/4 hose. They come in different ratings (gallons per hour) and spray patterns (drip, 360 spray, 180 spray) and are adjustable. I primarily use the 360 adjustable ones with built-in pegs. Buy yours here. I find these ones need to have the barb where the 1/4 inch line plugs in shaved a bit – then the line goes on very easily.

  • Barbed 1/4 Connectors (T, straight, 90) – T’s are primarily used ($0.25 each or less): These barbed connectors make inserting into the 1/4 line easy and pain-free. Your thumbs will thank you! Get these here.

  • 1/4 Irrigation Tubing Hole Punch ($25): A handy tool for making holes in the 1/2 emitter line for the barbed 1/4 inch connectors to the emitters. I recommend a trigger one like the one available here.

Invest in these components today and watch as your garden blossoms under the consistent and targeted watering of your customized irrigation system.


Some other components you may find useful

Now that we’ve walked you through the essential components for your backyard irrigation system, let’s delve into some additional optional extras that can take your setup to the next level. Whether you’re looking for more automation or improved control over your watering, these items are well worth considering.

  • Programmable Water Timer ($60): For those who enjoy a hands-off approach or who have busy schedules, a programmable water timer can be a true game-changer. With the ability to set custom watering schedules, you can ensure your garden gets the hydration it needs, even when you’re away. Don’t miss this opportunity, and get yours here.


  • Drip Irrigation Kit ($55): For a comprehensive solution, consider investing in a full drip irrigation kit. These kits contain everything you need to set up a complete drip irrigation system, offering targeted hydration to your plants and potentially saving water. Grab your kit here.

  • Moisture Sensor ($30): A soil moisture sensor can help take the guesswork out of watering. These nifty devices measure the moisture levels in your soil and can help you adjust your watering schedules as needed. Find the ideal sensor for your garden here.


As you can see, creating a small-scale DIY backyard garden irrigation system is not only practical but also achievable with the right components. With these items at your fingertips, you can ensure your garden thrives, no matter what Zone 3 weather throws at you.

Remember, a successful gardening journey is about adapting to your unique environment and leveraging tools that make the process more efficient and enjoyable. So why wait? Start building your custom irrigation system today and enjoy the lush, vibrant garden you’ve always dreamed of.

Things I have learned setting up my irrigation system – Tips and Tricks

  • Flat Soaker hoses are only useful if they have less than 50-foot runs total.
    Round/rigid Soaker hoses break down in the sun.
  • Drip emitters are best in most circumstances.
  • 1/2 poly pipe from home depot works just fine as distribution tubing but the walls are thicker.
  • Set up inline shutoff valves on each branch.
  • As you add emitters, you may need to change other ones as it adjusts the water pressure available.
  • Electrical taping the folded-over Polypipe is cheaper than the pipe terminations you buy and just as effective.
  • Barbed connectors are the easiest to install. If you don’t have a barb connector – shave a little off the “ridge”. It saves the thumbs, and the 1/4-inch line goes on quickly by rotating it on.
  • Use two emitters per barbed T when inserting into a Polypipe – save the thumbs.
  • The feeling in your thumbs and fingers will return eventually after installing 1/4 drip emitters.
  • Get a pressure reducer for the main hose line.
  • Install shutoffs on each branch and sub-branch of the irrigation circuit.
  • Layout connectors that you can hook a regular hose/nozzle to throughout the irrigation circuit.
  • If your 1/4 emitter doesn’t go on easy, shave a little off the ridge of the plug in port. It will then easily twist on – saving your thumbs.
Barbed connectors and emitter

Using a paring knife I shaved a bit of the “barb” off the emitter to make inserting the 1/4 inch line much easier.  Wish I had figured this out long ago – otherwise you will lose feeling in your thumbs. 

Barbed connectors and emitter

Quick Connect Hose end into a Y connector.
Y connector goes to a regular garden hose and into the irrigation system.
Pressure regulator into vacuum breaker into fertilizer injector and out to another Y.
Second Y feeds two main lines (1/2 inch Polypipe).

This bed uses a 1/4 emitter line with emitters every 12 inches built-in. They attach to the 1/2-inch feed line, and each bed has a shutoff valve.

Grow bags each have an emitter fed via a 1/4 inch line attached to the 1/2 inch feed line.  Using Barbed T’s puts two emitters on each point on the main line. Each “row” of pots has a shutoff valve. I have a maximum of 30 emitters per run of the main line.

The basic layout of the garden – not to scale.
Shows the main 1/2-inch lines. From these, they attach 1/4 inch to emitters.|
Each Mainline has its own shutoff valve.
Two lines curl back to the main line to accommodate more grow bags. 

Strawberry, Cucumber and Brassica Beds using emitters were leftover from a different configuration, so I re-purposed them.

Planting Guide for Northwest Ontario

Seeds and planting
Links and Resources

Recommended Products
(These are some of what I use)

These nursery bags
These Grow bags

Pages Seeds Page
Get a Head Start on Spring: The Benefits of Starting Your Seeds Indoors
Saving Vegetable Seeds: A Comprehensive Guide to Gardening Success Planting Guide
Pollock Tomatoes (North hardy Tomato variety)
Tomatoes (Useful information on starting tomatoes from seed)

DIY Garden Irrigation System: A Detailed Guide for Northwest Ontario

Blog Posts

When to start planting seeds
Germination testing your seeds
Looking for sources for seeds?
Heirloom seeds
Chitting your way to more potatoes
So it's before the first frost; what can I plant?


Individual seed and plant information is available in the  "Gardening Shortcut Links" above under "North Hardy Plants to grow". I have successfully grown all of these, and most I grow year to year.






For some plantings I use the brown ones – these ones actually. 10 Gallons for potatoes

These are my most commonly used bag – good size, hold up well

Nursery Bags for seed starts

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