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Posts Tagged ‘soaker hose’

Pete and I are pretty new at this garden thing.  That’s not to say we haven’t jumped into the project with manic enthusiasm, but there have been some bleedingly obvious things we’ve missed.

When we first set up the garden, the weather was semi-tropical – hot with lots of rain, and everything grew like crazy.  Granted we had problems with powdery mildew, and the tomatoes were waterlogged, not to mention the whole garden flooding…but on the whole, we had abundant, reassuring growth.

Then, out of the blue, a heatwave hit, and everything in the garden just frizzled.

And…don’t laugh…we really didn’t know what had happened!  We had long discussions about the ph levels of the soil, and whether our plants were suffering from a viral wilt, or nematodes.  Then it dawned on us – we just hadn’t been watering them enough.  We felt like idiots, but understand that we had barely had to water the garden at all up until then, and it had been going gangbusters!

Pete now believes that because our soil was  in pretty poor condition to begin with, everything just died as the soil dried up.  It wasn’t very well conditioned yet or rich in organic material, so it simply wasn’t able to cope with the extreme temperature change.

Water itself wasn’t a problem – we had installed two 2000 litre water tanks earlier in the year, so we had a reasonable supply.  The tricky part was delivering it – a permanent irrigation system in the garden wasn’t possible because the chickens were rotating every few months, and they would dig out anything left in a bed prior to their arrival.

My clever husband and his equally clever brother Uncle Steve solved the problem in a most ingenious way.

Pete designed, and Uncle Steve installed, a modular system consisting of the following:

1. a permanent irrigation loop under the path, circling past all the beds,

2. a snap lock connector attached to the side of each bed, joined into the loop via a T-connector, and

3. a separate unit, consisting of a piece of pipe joined to a circle of soaker hose, hooked up to the snap lock connector at the side of each bed. The soaker hose – also known as a leaky hose – is an irrigation product designed to deliver a very slow constant watering to a given area.

All the beds are hooked up in a connected loop back to the tanks, and all receive a good solid soaking once or twice a week.

When the chooks are rotated onto a given bed, the circle of hose is removed, and the connector for that bed is capped off with a bespoke plug, bypassing it for the period that the chickens are in residence.  Isn’t that clever?

To further improve water retention, we’ve invested in lucerne hay to use as mulch.  It’s expensive and will break down quickly, which means we’ll have to replace it regularly. However, as it breaks down it will improve the quality of the soil, and we think it’s worth doing that in the short term to try and bring our soil quality up to scratch.

After just a couple of good soakings, the garden has bounced back with a vengeance!

The sorrel, which had completely yellowed, is now green and lush again…

A portion of each bed is given over to growing chook food, and the lucerne planted here has taken off…

Our poor eggplants, after doing so well all year, suffered badly from the lack of water.  Yet after just a few deep waterings, they’ve started flowering again!  You can see the curled brown leaves, and the new growth starting to come through…

And this particular plant had tiny fruit which just didn’t develop for weeks – with water, they’re now all growing again…

The basil has recovered well and is now refusing to die!  Despite flowering, several of the plants are still producing large aromatic leaves…

The carrots which we forgot to harvest (I told you we were new at this!) are now a decent size…

I thought all the perennial leeks had died off, so I was chuffed today to find both a large one in amongst the purslane, and a cluster of self-seeded ones growing in the newly irrigated beds…

Finally, another lesson learnt – like most novice gardeners, when we first started, we bought seedlings.  We knew it was always going to be cheaper to grow from seed, but at the beginning, it was hard to believe that the price difference was actually going to be significant.

These strawberries are a great example.  When we first planted them, we bought strawberry seedlings at an exorbitant price – some of the slightly larger ones were $4 each.  To make things worse, none of them have done particularly well in the garden.

We’re trying again, but this time with a box of homegrown seedlings, costing just a few cents each.  Even if they don’t grow well again, at least we’re only out of pocket the price of a packet of seeds!

 

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