Easy garden irrigation

My husband and I have been gardening for market and personal consumption for six-plus growing seasons. Each year we learn a little more and whether its a lesson on what to do or what NOT to do, we take that knowledge forward into the next year. Especially… when it comes to weeds and watering.

For 2021 it was a necessity that we streamline our somewhat intimate relationship (meaning time consuming) with our 5 gardens. Due to a severe drought and a surgical recovery, we couldn’t afford the time or energy it would take to plant, water and weed.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

IDENTIFY WATER SOURCE

The first step to any watering strategy is to identify exactly how you plan on facilitating irrigation. Some would say, “…eh, you just get the hose and spray,” but it’s not always as simple as that.

First, focus on the quality of water you will be using and how you are getting that water to the garden area. Fortunately for us, we utilize well water run from a nearby spigot to a multi-hose setup. If you use city water, just be aware that chlorine salts will be present. Over days, weeks, months and years of evaporation…this can hurt the overall health of your garden soil. A simple filter screwed onto your garden hose can help minimize this issue.

IDENTIFY FUNCTIONAL WATERING

Exactly what do I mean by “Functional Watering”? I talking specifically about the means in which you will choose to water. Will it be a straight hose? Hand sprayer? A sprinkler? Long spraying wand? A soaker hose? Will you need shut-off valves for multiple hoses run from a splitter so you don’t have to backtrack to the spigot every time you need to move locations? Will a timer making watering less time consuming?

These are all great things to ask yourself when setting up a watering system. For instance, my greenhouse is set up with a misting system run by a battery operated, digital timer. This has been a life saver for me. I rarely need to worry about tracking greenhouse temps as the system both cools and waters my greenhouse exactly when it needs it most.

The whole idea of “set it and forget it” watering is attractive but not functional for our larger gardens. We used a timed sprinkler system to top water in previous years and it seemed great at first. Top irrigation is not the most effective way to keep your plants free from mildew or various forms of disease. Nor does top watering allow for great efficiency in reducing the amount of water being used. Furthermore, as we all know…weeds love water too! If you have Bind Weed or Purslane then you know why we choose to no longer water this way.

So, my husband dug in and did his research on a watering system that would work for us. I also insisted planting most things in deep troughs as it worked very well for us last year.

OUR PLAN IN ACTION

While over the years we have irrigated with sprinklers or hand spraying we have also used soaker hoses and drip lines. Absolutely nothing – has beat the ease of flood irrigation and our new PVC watering system. By combining these two methods and bottom watering, we have cut our watering time by half. Our water consumption has also been reduced along with the bulk of the weeds living off excess irrigation.

Initial setup does take time, but year over year it will pay off as this system is reusable and reconfigurable. For us this meant our time and many lengths of PVC pipe were worth the investment. And yes, I will admit that I was skeptical at first but it really does work…and it works well.

My husband went to work creating various lengths of 1/2-inch PVC pipe, drilled holes along one side of each (roughly 6 inches apart) and coupled them together according to what our water pressure could realistically handle. Some are single row, some are double. No adhesive was used so they can easily be disassembled and stored for use next season.

For now, we have these PVC watering manifolds on the Sweet Corn, Onions (under plastic sheeting), Grapes, Cucumbers, Tomatoes (also under plastic sheeting) and the Okra. It works so well, we have plans to add this system to our Potatoes and various row crops next year. Until then, things like Broccoli, Cauliflower, Potatoes, Melons, Brussel Sprouts, Peppers and Squash have been planted in troughs or bowls.

Using long troughs or smaller bowls allow young, tender plants to escape the wind early in the growing season. The added bonus – the depression in the soil holds water! This type of planting will also reduce wind evaporation but ultimately makes it easy to plop a hose in the high end of the trough, allowing water to flow towards the low end. Bowls, well, they do what bowls do – hold water. Many civilizations have used controlled flood irrigation for centuries…so it makes sense to use it now.

Whatever means of watering you choose, make it work for you and your particular garden setup. I’m thrilled to finally have something that works well for our needs! #Lifeon25Acres


Water Sources: Rain water collection, treated city water, water trucked into the garden site, well water, local creek or river water (check on water usage rights first!).

Minimize Evaporation: Mulch, plastic row cover, utilizing dirt troughs/bowls, wind barriers such as plastic buckets.

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