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Archive for the ‘Drip Irrigation’ Category

It’s On!

Despite my earlier dire warning to the contrary, I’ve started laying in some of my garden. Today saw the planting of 48 yellow onion sets and 28 leaf lettuce seedlings (shown above) that have been out in my cold frame for the past two weeks. If you inspect the picture closely on the right-hand side, you can see one of the drip irrigation lines that water the lettuce bed. Used it in the first this-is-not-a-drill irrigation this afternoon, and it worked liked a charm!

Even my (established) raspberry bush has exploded with greenery. It knows Spring is here! Might we still get some cooler weather? Definitely. But, I’ve only planted cold-tolerant things at the moment and if a freak cold snap comes up, I can always cloche and row cover to get my tender charges through the night. So damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!

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This afternoon, in beautiful 80-degree weather, I installed my gravity-fed drip irrigation system. The “sample system” is shown above. It actually went much more smoothly than I expected. Because gravity-fed systems has such low PSI, there are limits to how far a mainline and dripline can run. In this picture, you can see me four primary bed driplines and a couple of my strawberry bed lines. In total, I have 7 lines, each with drip emitters every 12″. 
Here is where some of the driplines connect to the mainline:

Connecting them was so simple! Using the provided punch, you make a hole in the mainline where you want the dripline to come off, then use a two-way barb to connect the mainline to the dripline. Add a plug at the other end of the dripline, and you’re done. The system works perfectly, and gets equal flow on all seven lines. It’s magic.

Becausee the drip emitters are so small, clogging could be an issue, so there’s a filter between the rain barrel and the lines. Here’s a photo that shows the filter and shutoff valve hooked to the barrel:

So, the plan is to keep the rain barrel on the garden cart, above, and mostly keep it hooked to the downspout. When it’s time to water, I just pull the cart over to the garden, connect up the hose, and turn it on! This system waters about half of my garden. I have leftover mainline and driplines that I will probably set up for the other half, though I’ll probably have to buy a couple more pieces to make the second system operational. But, for a net cost of $35, this will save a lot of time!

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Ah, the two liter soda bottle: is there any problem it can’t solve? This week’s repurposing of our time-honored refreshment container is for drip irrigation. Drip irrigation, to review, is simply the art of delivering water slowly, right where your plants need it, with as little possible wasted to evaporation and none given as free nourishment to weeds.  Note: This kind of “system” is better to install before you transplant those delicate little seedlings or sow those tiny rows of seeds.

Take some 2-liter soda bottles and remove the labels. I guess it isn’t strictly necessary, but it does make them look neater and keeps my blog from encountering any awkward product placement issues. Next, find a small but sturdy pin. I used a thumbtack. Poke a series of holes all around the bottle. I did about 2 dozen. When you fill it with water, it will look like this:

Now, bury in your planting area. Some people cut off the bottom and plant them upside down, but I find too much garden and soil debris falls into the bottle, and things like mosquitoes use the water for breeding…not good. I bury them right side up, leaving only the top neck of the bottle exposed, or at least no more than a few inches. Then I plant within about four inches of the bottle on all sides.

When you are ready to water, simply open up the cap, fill with water, and re-close. The bottle will slowly drain and the water will seep slowly and deeply into the ground, without worry of evaporation loss.

This technique is great with square-foot gardening, or with containers, which tend to dry out quickly. Give it a try!

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Proper watering was my most difficult challenge last year. “Proper” here has two meanings: 1) distributing the correct amount of water to the plants’ roots, and 2) using appropriate and sustainable water management practices. In order to encourage deep rooting and healthy growth, the soil around the roots needs to be irrigated down at least 6″ or more. When watering by hose and sprayer, as I did last season, it takes a long time of standing and aiming the water in one place to achieve more than just a surface watering. Add to that problem is that watering the ground outside the root zone is inefficient and watering the foliage can actually encourage some fungus and disease.

Last year, I also installed a rain barrel to use water more responsibly–yes, we live by a huge sea of fresh water, but the more I can re-use from rain, the more Lake Michigan for everyone–but using the rainwater means filling a two-gallon watering can one trip at a time, and then repeating the inefficiencies mentioned above with even more time involved and through much more manual labor.

So this year, I’m experimenting with installing a gravity-fed Drip Irrigation system. I’ll be installing it in late March and early April, while I’m preparing my beds and before I plant anything. If all goes as planned, I’ll keep my rain barrel on my wheeled garden cart under the downspout where it gets roof runoff. then, when needed, I’ll haul the cart and barrel over to the garden, and with a quick hose connection and a twisted spigot, deliver recycled rainwater directly to the roots of my vegetables and herbs with no wastage and very little effort.

That, at least is the idyllic dream, in which you will allow me my indulgence for the nonce. Stay tuned to this blog for the harsh realities of the challenges which will inevitably arise…

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