Last winter I built a greenhouse out back. By the time it was finished it was too late to be starting seeds for the summer garden because it was already getting warm outside.
A few days ago I whitewashed the greenhouse using some hydrated lime mixed with water and applied with a broom. This provides some shade so that it doesn’t get too hot in there. Each rainstorm will wash away a little bit of that whitewash and so as weather cools, the ‘greenhouse effect’ will be stronger.
Inside I prepared some beds and planted kale, spinach, mache, lettuce, arugula, beets, kohlrabi and radishes. I moved in a few kale transplants that we started outside a month ago, too. This way we have a succession planting of kale. As we plan better in future years we will do more of this.
According to some of the Eliot Coleman books we’ve read, we are a little late in doing this planting. Better late than never! I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Posted in Gardening
Tagged beets, Eliot Coleman, fall garden, garden, Greenhouse, hail proof, hydrated lime, kale, polycarbonate, spinach, transplant, whitewash
Here’s more info on the drip irrigation. I’m sharing this because of a comment (this is long overdue – sorry!) from the last drip irrigation post requesting more pictures. That reminded me that I had a terrible time finding information myself on drip irrigation. There is an excellent guide that a neighbor told me about at Toro. It was way too detailed and technical for me, though. I wasn’t going to be investing in tons of equipment, filters, pressure regulators, etc. I just wanted to hook a few tapes to a barrel and call it a day. Well, I just set out one afternoon and hooked it all up to see if it worked. It did!
Here’s some more pictures and detailed descriptions on how I did it:
This is the 2″ threaded PVC nipple installed in the hole near the bottom of the barrel. It is attached with JB Weld. Then a brass shutoff valve in installed before finally connecting the hose.
I use garden hose as my supply lines. Using a drill bit in my cordless drill, I placed holes where I want my drip tapes. The above blue thingy has a barb on one end that connects to the hose and a tape lock nut on the other end to grip the tape. The brand is Netafim and I got them from Farmtek. Each drip take has its own shutoff valve.
Another view. I have noticed better performance where I set the barrel to be higher than the beds. Gotta love gravity! Using a few cement blocks or some scrap 2×4 shims will do the trick.
We are using uniform bed sizes everywhere, measuring 30″ wide and 20′ long. Another benefit to that decision is that the feeder lines and drip tapes can be gathered up and reused next season as long as we make the beds the same size again.
After using it for several months, there are a few things I’d like to point out. First, the epoxy breaks very easily. At one point, I had a shovel or hoe leaning on the barrel and I bumped it. The tool fell right on the pipe that is sticking out of the barrel, broke the seal, and the water began leaking. Another time, I bumped the pipe with my foot and broke the weld. Applying a second, heavier layer of epoxy does help strengthen, but I’d be interested in researching a new idea, such as putting a nut on the inside and outside with rubber washers sandwiched in between. That would be much stronger. That’ll go on the list of projects for the winter.
Another concern has to do with the potatoes. When I hilled them up, I buried the driptapes. Shouldn’t be a problem, I speculated, since this tape is designed to be buried up to eight inches in soil in commercial applications. Those same commercial application, however use an irrigation pump to achieve the optimum amount of water pressure in the lines. Using my gravity based system the pressure is much lower. The lines in the potato beds are buried under several inches of our clayey soil and are pinched. Some of the beds don’t have water going to the ends and the potato plants are drying out. I’m resorting to hand watering for those spots and it’s getting old.
Posted in Gardening
Tagged 55 Gallon Barrel, DIY, drip irrigation, drip tape, filter, garden irrigation, gravity feed, hose, How to, installation, pressure, spigot, water pressure
We love our arid climate, but realize that it can make gardening a challenge. On average, we get less than fifteen inches of rain per year, which is almost 1/3 of what I am used to growing up in Pennsylvania. In an attempt to provide more consistent and conservation-minded water to our garden we’re installing a drip irrigation system utilizing 5/8″ drip tape gravity fed from 55 gallon plastic barrels.
In the above picture, you’ll first see that I have elevated the barrel on a few cinder blocks in order to create slightly more water pressure from gravity. The barrel was originally a white color and I painted it black so that a.) sunlight penetration is reduced which will prevent algae growth and b.) the water will heat up in the barrels. Using warmer water will reduce shock that the plants might have if the water was colder. A threaded PVC nipple was JB Welded to the side of the barrel one inch up from the bottom. It is one inch above the bottom because I don’t want to draw any sedimentation into the lines that may collect at the bottom. Between that and the hose I have a brass shutoff coupling. The supply line running between the beds is the cheapest garden hose I could find. I cut pieces to fit each row of beds.
Each bed has two driplines running down the length of the bed. Beds, by the way are 30″ wide and 20 feet long. Everything is uniform, which will allow interchangeability. We plan on getting several years usage out of the tapes and this way we can easily install them next year, not needing to worry about where each tape goes. Each tape line begins at the supply line, coming through another shutoff valve. That shutoff valve has a barb on one side that you push into the hose (I used a cordless drill to make the appropriate size holes in the supply hose first) and the other side connects via a coupler to the 5/8″ drip tape. The tape and the shutoff valves are from Farmtek. At the other end of the tape, fold it over on itself twice to crimp closed and then fold lengthwise. Then slide a 1″ section of drip tape over the fold to hold it together.
Having every line on a valve gives you maximum control of water. Some beds contain a crop that is harvested early in the season, and once done you could turn that bed off to save water.
To calculate how much water you’ll need, we estimate that each bed will need 1″ of water per week. A bed if fifty square feet. That translates to ( 50 / 12 x 7.48 ) 31.16 gallons per bed per week. Said differently, I’m dividing fifty by twelve to find the cubic feet of water that 1 inch of rain on that bed would represent. One inch of rain would be 1/12th of a cubic foot of rain. One cubic foot of rain water on a 50 sq ft bed is 50 cubic feet and that would be twelve inches of rain. Then convert to gallons by multiplying by 7.48. Most of our lines are set up to water seven beds at once and I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that each bed is getting an even amount of water. So, you could fill your barrel to the 30 gallon mark every day of the week and know that all seven beds are getting 1″ of water over the course of seven days.
Posted in Gardening
Tagged 5/8 tape, 55 Gallon Barrel, conservation, drip irrigation, drip irrigation system, drip tape, Farmtek, fed, garden, gravity, JB Weld, water, watering
In Steve Solomon’s book “Gardening When it Counts” he shows a very simple recipe for compost tea. Take a shovel of compost, throw into a bucket and then fill with water. Stir daily and then apply to the garden after one week.
We’re giving it a go here on our homestead.
Compost tea is a great, natural fertilizer. Ben Franklin once said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That applies in this case because compost tea is a superfood for plants. Healthy plants grow strong and provide more nutritious food for us humans to eat. Healthy plants are also better resistant to drought, insects and other problems.
This reminds me of an interesting story my boss at work told me. The 2011 growing season was a bad one for apricots at the farm where I work. A lot of preventative work had been done using organically certified fertilizers, fungicides and pest controls. About the time the crop should have been ready to harvest (the trees were almost bare) my boss looked across the fence. A neighbor had a few acres of apricots and they had been badly neglected for years. No pruning, fertilization, or even watering was done. Those trees were absolutely loaded with fruit! It was as if mother nature was saying “you can’t outsmart me!” Needless to say, we made drastic changes for the 2012 growing season. We’re not doing anything but applying compost tea (a much more technical recipe and process to brew that what I’ve described above, however) through the foliar sprayer. Guess what? Now our trees are loaded with fruit!
Here’s to a successful 2012 growing season!
Posted in Gardening
Tagged apricots, Ben Franklin quote, compost, compost tea, DIY, fertigation, fertility, fertilizer, fungicide, Gardening When It Counts, How to, natural fertilizer, nature, ounce of prevention, pest control, plants, preventative work, prevention, Steve Solomon
Here’s a picture of our pile. We’re following the layering approach to incorporate all kitchen scraps between layers of straw, soil, garden waste and aged compost or soil.
The white bucket has a tight fitting lid and sits beneath our kitchen sink. Each time I empty it on the pile I add a layer of straw on top in an attempt to trap some of the moisture. The fencing panels are in place to keep out the neighborhood dogs that visit during the night for a snack.
When making your own compost, we find it is best to just get weird. Lots of people throw away things that they consider junk or garbage. But it isn’t. The winter reading Courtney and I have been doing has motivated us to capitalize on a lot of this free soil fertility.
We’re bringing in some manure, and there are still plenty of people that give it away. And they smile as you drive off, probably thinking “that sucker just took a load of crap off my hands”. We smile, thinking the same thing, because that crap is loaded with nutrients that will grow high quality veggies for our family.
Courtney’s latest score is fish. There is a man who posted an ad for free fish on Craigslist. And he’ll even deliver. I can’t wait to see it for myself, but we’ll be burying trenches full of carp. This particular variety of carp is considered an invasive species in our area and is being selectively harvested for that reason.
Yesterday in my rototiller post I mentioned that we are installing a new garden in an area that once was an old horse pasture. It is also next to the area where the leach field is for our newly installed septic system. The system was installed only few weeks before we moved in to the new house. There were a couple of snows during that time period, which meant the large backhoe loader was driving around on moist soil and providing immense compaction.
It is easy to tell where the loader was driving, because the rototiller cannot till those areas. Along the fence is easy tilling, but the path where the loader drove is tough. The tiller just scalps at the surface of the ground and pulls me along. I’m having to resort to using my shovel to dig this ground up by hand.
It looks like a lot of work, and it is, but it really is quite enjoyable. I call it my country-boy’s gym membership.
Another important point to mention has to do with the blade of the shovel. I’ve read many times in gardening books that sharp tools make a big difference. I took my angle grinder to that shovel and put a sharp edge on it and boy did things get easier. I couldn’t believe it. And to think about all those years of my youth, digging with a dull shovel!
I recently purchased a used Troybilt Pony Rototiller that I found on Craigslist. We wanted a tiller because we’re currently planning a garden around 2500 square feet, as well as a greenhouse with earth beds and also a few separate and permanent beds for things like asparagus. The site where these beds will be located is currently a hard packed horse pasture. I’ll need to incorporate as much manure, compost and other material as I can so the garden has a good start.
I’m following in my father’s footsteps again on this one. When I was younger in the 1980s we had a Troybilt Pony. The thing is absolutely unstoppable and is perfect for a garden of this scale. The machine I found was in great condition and was a little older. This is preferred because I’ve read that the newer models in more recent years leave much to be desired in terms of manufacturing quality. Just as in about anything, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. That’s why I’m glad to have found an older model.
Eventually I’d like to build the soil up to the point where lots of tilling isn’t needed, but that’ll take several years. I do have my eye on one of these babies, though, for some time in the future.
While checking out a gardening blog of ours that provides much inspiration, Subsistence Pattern, I saw this quote and had to share it will you all.
“Maybe a person’s time would be as well spent raising food as raising money to buy food. “ — Frank A. Clark