Subsurface Dripline for Turf?

Anybody tried installing Rainbird XFS Subsurface Dripline or Netafim for turf/grass? There are articles from vendors saying it can be done and works but looking for actual experience. Spacing is dependent on soil type but it appears 18" is average. Considering it here in San Diego.

– Mark

It is true subsurface drip can be used for turfgrass. In my opinion, the best fit for homeowners is for narrow strip turf areas. It would be a last resort for large or medium sized turf areas because of turf aeration equipment, fertilization and herbicides. Manufacturers will tell you otherwise, but I think maintenance is easier with sprinkler irrigation for turf. I know of commercial subsurface drip installations, but am not aware of widespread use in residential turf.


BAD idea!

Very labor intensive (costly) to install, interferes in the appearance of the lawn for a significant time after installation, difficult to “repair”, susceptible to damage with any digging or aeration equipment, holes in drip line more likely to be clogged with roots.

What is the advantage you seek? Reduction in evaporation of water? For most homes, rotating micro sprayers provide better coverage, less run off than traditional spray heads, less aerosolization during application, longer range of throw (up to 25’), allow more spray heads on a single feeder line, and are very easy to maintain. Narrow strips can be handled with appropriate spray heads tailored to that purpose.

With a smart controller, typically watering times for lawns are only once per week in San Diego, less in the winter. With only once or twice a week watering, there is no problem complying with any water restrictions for watering dates in force, although rotating micro heads with smart controllers are generally exempt from such restrictions anyway.

18" spacing is not likely to be close enough to prevent growth lines from showing in the lawn.


I think you are referring to products like Hunter’s MP Rotator family. They are excellent and come in every pattern from side strips to a radius as high as 35 feet. They come in both male thread for Toro 570Z pop-up sprays or female thread for all other brands like Hunter, Rain Bird and Irritrol. As you move to the higher radius MP Rotators, the 35 degree trajectory of the spray can pose a problem. Toro has their Precision rotating nozzles with a flat trajectory. Come in male and female thread too. I really like the Toro Precision nozzles. They don’t rotate but they use 33 percent less water than standard spray nozzles. They are awesome. Like Mark, I don’t like subsurface drip for turf. Now they do offer a pipe puller that negates trenching, but it still a maintenance nightmare. Remember that drip was developed in Israel to irrigate row crops and fruit and nut production. It is still highly misunderstood by the people who install the stuff for landscape use here.

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We’ve had Netafim subsurface drip for our entire turf area for 14 seasons in Denver and love it. No failure issues, no worries about wind, broken heads, heads pointing the wrong direction, no need to blow out the sprinklers for winter (just drain). The kids enjoy being able to play on the grass at any time and not have to worry about it being wet or soggy.

We use an inline fertilizer tank with soluble fertilizer so no need to spread (and then sweep off of concrete) fertilizer.

When hot/dry/stressed we do get some “striping” of green/stressed grass vs. others with patches of stressed grass.


This is pretty amazing to hear you have had the drip installed for 14 years. I believe the warranty is for 7 years with Netafim and Toro subsuface drip.

And all I’ve done is replace disc filters every few years. At least one other neighbor has had theirs for the same time (maybe one year less) with no issues. (Do have to be careful driving stakes for the volleyball net though. :wink: )

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That is awesome. What kind of soil do you have? Was it installed new with the turf? Since you have an inline fertilizer tank, do you have a reduced pressure principle back flow device on the system too?

I also prefer drip only in beds or small areas. It is a maintenance issue, especially in my area, Frisco, Texas. Most of the drip is installed on new homes. The main issue I have is with the installation practice of the contractors. They grade the dirt, lay the drip line, and then install new sod directly on top of the line. The pipe may be laying on construction debris, rocks, trash, etc. Plus the soil may be inconsistent. This means the drip line may lay on clay, fill, or top soil. So, the percolation rate is also inconsistent. This is a pet peeve of mine.

Have a great day!

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Our soil is mostly clay and sandy clay - although we obviously amended that quite a bit to get the required Kentucky Blue to grow here in Denver. There is a standard backflow with a pressure reducer after that for the drip system.

We actually ended up using two different contractors for different parts of the yard due to some subsequent grading after the initial installation. The first contractor had done a lot of Netafim in the area (large parks/soccer fields) and preferred to amend the soil, then pull the Netafim underground afterwards.Seemed to work well but a little harder to maintain a consistent depth.

The second part of the yard the area was graded, Netafim laid grade, then 4" amended soil on top of that followed by the sod.

I just noticed you wrote that contractors put drip directly on grade, then sod directly on top of that? I’ve never seen that done before - that would put the drip lines too shallow, and no amended soil. The idea is for the drip to be about 4" deep in soil then the roots grow down to the water, encouraging deeper roots. (And allowing for aerating, although we’ve never aerated since the drip takes care of the oxygen and vertical root issues - and just in case any lines are too close to the surface.)


Yes, the growth is so strong, these contractors may install 5-15 jobs a day across the city. Most of these systems can be installed within a few hours. In their minds, there is not enough time or man power to oversee the quality control. The easiest, quickest, and cheapest is the way. So, not only do the systems get short changed, the new homeowners get to live with and finance this system for the duration of their time there.

The new homeowners, more than likely, over pay for the sprinkler system, not getting or knowing what they paid for because this is probably their first experience with them. They only learn about how much sprinkler water they use when they pay the first summer water bill. And they get to pay for the maintenance to keep the system in working order. This in the long run may be one of the most expensive ongoing costs of owning the house!

Rant over.

Have a great Sunday!

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Will also add, rotating micro sprayers allow applications of fertilizer that are scattered on the ground to be “washed in” to the lawn by the spray heads. With subsurface drip, you cannot use surface fertilizers reliably unless you are gong to manually water the lawn with a hose with each application. With subsurface dripline, you would be limited to using a fertilizer injector, which is usually not ideal with a residence landscape as there are a variety of plants with different watering and fertilization needs.

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Not a fan of SDI in turf. Too many things to go wrong.

Just had this install this summer having issues with dry patches but I agree contractors rush this job. Make sure they dig and trench in to the ground check out YouTube for enviroscape la. They showcase how drip for lawns should be done