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Not So Dryland Garden

June 21, 2015
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June 20, 2015

Phenologically speaking, we are two weeks ahead due to our dry and warm spring.  We’re cutting hay and picking raspberries, those two yearly tasks normally commence on or around the fifth of July depending on the rain.  Compressing tasks means we aren’t quite ready to be thrown into haymaking or berry picking mode just yet.  But here we are.

June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015

Also this means that I had to get cracking on the drip irrigation installation or wait until there was a break in the haymaking.  Sometimes there isn’t a break in haymaking, we’re hauling and mowing at the same time, so I decided to just get the irrigation off the list this weekend while Hangdog was mowing hay.

June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015

I took before and after photos of the garden for documentation, not so much of the drip irrigation itself but to show a good look at the garden that was planted in early May and has not been irrigated.  Normally this time of year we are lucky to have a dry enough stretch to do a lot of planting, let alone have to irrigate.  Farmers I know started irrigating just so they could plant in May.  We are having a dry year.

Cocozelle June 20, 2015

Cocozelle June 20, 2015

Dark Star June 20, 2015

Dark Star June 20, 2015

I can’t say enough good things about Dripworks, even if you don’t plan on using drip irrigation their catalog is full of information and I like looking at all the plumbing fittings.  They are in California though, so there may be an equivalent on the east coast that would make more sense to order from since the price of shipping has to be taken into consideration.  Also many of these supplies can be found at Home Depot or Lowe’s too.

June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015

Since this is temporary I just hooked the mainline to a garden hose.  If we decide to make it permanent we will trench in a line and a more permanent hookup.  The simplicity of drip irrigation is astounding, there are fittings for every application imaginable for the home garden.  I purchased a filter, pressure regulator (I’m using municipal water for this), mainline, drip tape, and fittings to attach the drip to the mainline.  Easy peasy.  The simplest way to see what you need for your garden even if you are buying locally, is to go to the Dripworks website and look at the kits that would fit your application, then just scroll through and see what you think you need.  There were several things in the kit that I couldn’t see a use for, and some that I needed instead.  My garden is laid out in row crop fashion, so that really simplified things.  One mainline, enough drip tape to water each row, and the fittings to match.  My garden is always laid out the same, so I will be able to reuse this for many years if I take care of the supplies.  The most important thing to do is take care of the drip tape.  Here is a great article by a colleague showing how to make a drip winder.

June 20, 2015

June 20, 2015

I decided to build in some flexibility by putting shutoff valves at each line.  I did not install any lines for the potatoes, they are fine without irrigation.  With the shutoffs I will be able to reuse this mainline for this garden even though next year the potatoes will move in the rotation.  The hardest part of drip irrigation installation is the planning ahead.  Also with the shutoff valves I may choose to stop irrigating a certain crop while continuing on another.  Well worth the $2.00 price tag to save on water.

Dark Star June 20, 2015

Dark Star June 20, 2015

While I’m not totally convinced that drip irrigation is what plants really want, since they are designed to take in moisture through their leaves also, I think that like many other things in life there is always a tradeoff.  I want a more automatic garden this summer, and this is the way to achieve that goal in the time being.  If I take care of my supplies this little system should last me years, especially if we go back to dryland gardening.

25 Comments leave one →
  1. Nicky Thomas permalink
    June 21, 2015 7:23 pm

    Hi I find it so interesting to see you using an irrigation system, especially drip tape. Living in CA, I have always been fascinated with the idea that you could grow a vegetable garden without some kind of irrigation system. Drip tape is THE easiest and cheapest system to implement. I buy a 7500 foot roll of drip tape every 2-4 years. ( $120 per roll) My irrigation is fed by an old spring which feeds into a 1000 gallon tank. From there it feeds through pvc pipe into the different sections of my garden. I can set it up each year, with battery operated timers and it will water each section without any extra work on my part. The battery operated timers are not cheap but the time saved is well worth it. No dragging out hundreds of feet of hose.. or putting it away. Looking forward to more posts, Thanks.

  2. June 21, 2015 7:34 pm

    I have been looking at supplies on Amazon, but I will have to check out Dripworks, thanks.

  3. June 21, 2015 9:04 pm

    I like your comment on the leaves taking in water. In our dry years the fields around here can seem to exist on a surprisingly short burst of rainwater once a week. The ground can be hard, so not much taken in by the roots and yet the difference after the rain is amazing. I understand though that some must have deep roots and our water table is usually still quite high after winter replenishment, so that might explain some of it, but I do wonder how much water they get, how much water is lost to evaporation and what is the most effective way. I like the idea of Ollas but in our harsh winters they would need digging up every year, so probably not that practical really 😀

  4. Bee permalink
    June 22, 2015 5:13 am

    Yes drip works really well when you’re row cropping, or for orchards. I’ve struggled with it in intensive gardening, close-planted beds, though. How do you see this changing your weeding practices, Nita?

    • June 22, 2015 5:30 am

      It’ll be more that I won’t have to thin so severely if it gets hot and as the summer wears on. Weeding won’t be much different, and anyone can do that, but imagine asking someone who is “helping” to go thin the plants by half, and leave the best. Why is it a struggle in close planted beds? In the way? I don’t pin my drip down, so I can move it when I need to work on a row.

      • Bee permalink
        June 22, 2015 5:50 am

        I should have said close-planted inter-cropped beds. When you’re planting on offset centers to maximize space and every inch counts, having drip tape or fixed emitters running in a straight line means you have to juggle the plants to accommodate. So then your spacing is off for the plants. In the average garden, that’s no big deal; It’s just the square-foot, intensive multi-cropped ones where it’s a struggle. For those, I find the John Jeavons method of watering daily or twice daily with a hose and a watering fan work the best.

        • June 22, 2015 6:35 am

          I see, that’s how I plant the greenhouse beds and I water them daily, in the other greenhouse, I have long straight rows and mulch, so the drip works great there until I get a leak 😦 Although I tried planting my tomatoes on 2′ centers in there this year, and they are a pain to deal with for clipping. I may go back to the 4′ OC next year. One system does not fit all here that’s for sure.

  5. Tim W permalink
    June 22, 2015 7:20 am

    Matron, a question……which version/s of drip-tape did you use? I have my sauce tomato plantation in rows 30″ of and plants 24″ of but I’m thinking that trying to line up the 24″ tape with the plants is too finicky. I’m thinking the 8 or 12 will be easier and keep the whole row moist. Your insight would be appreciated if you have a moment 🙂

    • June 22, 2015 8:10 am

      Tim, oh yeah that would be tricky. I went with the 15 mil 8″ spacing then I know the whole row is getting irrigated even if something gets plugged, but so far so good in the two years I’ve used it in the greenhouse. I’m hoping that translates to the outdoor garden as well.

  6. June 22, 2015 7:51 am

    MOH, I think irrigation may be where we are all headed, at least till this dry cycle ends. Good to brush up on those skills when it’s not required, just helpful. Oh, and I stumbled on Josh Volk (digitally) recently, I think I would I love to bend an elbow with him….

    • June 22, 2015 8:12 am

      Adalyn, we’ll be complaining about rain one of these days I bet 😉 I think you’d like Josh, market gardener extraordinaire.

  7. June 22, 2015 10:05 am

    I don’t suppose they have a system for drying gardens out do they :/ ours is just absolutely soggy and muddy and a forsaken mess!

    • June 22, 2015 10:10 am

      Liz, someone got the wires crossed! You guys are getting our weather and we’re getting yours. I’d trade if I could 🙂

  8. June 22, 2015 2:58 pm

    I’m wondering about letting my potatoes do without irrigation. Would it reduce the yield? (Although the pocket gophers that have suddenly popped up all around them might take care of that detail, water or no water …)

    • June 22, 2015 3:14 pm

      nm, it might a little, I can’t say because I haven’t grown potatoes with irrigation in 20 years. I remember things like hollow heart from too much water etc, and potatoes that didn’t keep as well.

  9. June 22, 2015 7:27 pm

    summers are dead dry here and very hot. i use drip irrigation and mulch where i can. i was wondering if you could recommend any books or other informational resources on dry farming as i would like to know more and do some experimenting?

  10. Karen permalink
    June 23, 2015 9:51 am

    Noted this morning that the temps in the PNW are going to be abnormally high for a least the coming week. I know this comes at an already difficult time for you. “When it rains, it pours”… but in your case that would be a welcome event. Or not, depending on when you’re making hay. I find myself questioning my sanity in putting in the labor that is required to grow my own and then dealing with the forces that work against me. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thank you for sharing your struggles as well as your successes.

  11. bgf permalink
    June 27, 2015 8:29 am

    Hi Nita! I’m loving the posts on your dryland gardening. I’m learning a lot. I’ve been reading your wonderful blog for years and so I wanted to tell you – we got a milk cow!!! A GUERNSEY!! I’m over the moon for her. It’s a completely different relationship from the beef cows. I also read your comments on instagram, but I don’t have an account so can’t comment there. Can you talk a little more about dry treating for mastitis, please? Do you use a certain product or homeopathy? We won’t be drying off for several months, but I don’t want to mess it up. Thank you for sharing your hard-earned knowledge.

    • June 27, 2015 2:22 pm

      bgf, congrats on your new new cow! You would only dry treat for mastitis IF your cow had mastitis previously. If she hasn’t then no need to do anything but dry her up. If she has had mastitis, it’s helpful to know what type of mastitis and to do a sensitivity test if you’re going to use antibiotics so you know you are getting the correct drug. Mastoblast is a homeopathic treatment that works well too, it just depends on how you feel about drug use or not, so I was pretty vague in my comment. I wouldn’t hesitate to use an antibiotic if it was called for.

      • bgf permalink
        June 28, 2015 5:18 pm

        Thank you for your response! She has been clear of mastitis her whole life (6 years). She was raised from a calf by friends who are moving away so I have lots of info on her development and health. And thanks for the tip on Mastoblast. Hope I never need it. Feeling like such a rookie, but loving it and learning every day!

        • June 29, 2015 9:06 pm

          You might want to read up on milk fever too, at age 6 her potential for developing that are a real possibility. Lots of conflicting info out there, but keep in mind milk fever is basically an imbalance of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The correct minerals depend on lot on feed, etc so it’s not a one size fits all.

  12. hilary permalink
    June 29, 2015 4:55 am

    I have just finished your entire blog. What a lot to learn. My efforts pale in comparison to yours but I am grateful for your inspiration and encouragement. One question. You do not seem to talk much about the sheep. Cows for beef and milk, pigs for pork, chicken for meat and eggs. But what do your sheep do in additoin to mowing your lawns.

    • June 29, 2015 5:24 am

      Hilary, we don’t have the sheep anymore, they just weren’t a good fit. Our main predator here are cougars, and they laugh at electronet…plus the sheep ate feed our cows could eat, and I’m just not a sheep person, cows are my thing, so anything that shorts them has to go. Sheep make sense in reclaiming weedy type pastures since they will eat things that cattle won’t graze, but that’s not the case here.

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