Sunday, July 31, 2011

How To Water Your Garden While Cooking Dinner

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How much time do you spend watering your garden?   A couple of hours per day?  Do you stand above your flower/vegetable beds, bushes and trees holding the nozzle at the end of your garden hose, watering from above?  Do you wish it were easier?  If you read what I have written below I guarantee, you will be able to water and do laundry or cook at the same time.  Who doesn't want to learn to juggle?

If you don't already know, it is best to water plants at ground level.  Watering at ground level puts the water where it is needed, at the roots.  Watering from above may cause all kinds of problems which could ultimately kill your plants.  Here are a few reasons not to water from above:
•Watering from above at the hotter times of day will leave drops of water on the leaves that could act as little magnifying lenses that will intensify the heat of the sun and damage the leaves.
•Watering from above in the evening will leave water on the leaves that could result in mildew, again damaging the leaves.  
•Watering from above wastes water because some of the water is easily changed into water vapor that evaporates into the air
•You probably don't stand in one spot long enough to get the proper amount of water to each plants

There are at least three methods to water at ground level.  The least expensive way to water at ground level is to lay a nozzleless hose on the ground at the base of a plant, bush or tree and leave the water on at a trickle for a long time.  This method limits the spread of the water to a small portion of the root system or flower/vegetable bed.  The ideal way to water at ground level is with a drip irrigation system of hoses and emitters, a filter, back flow valve, timer, moisture sensors and a fertilizer siphon.  That system will get expensive.  I have a less expensive process using a bit more labor (there are trade-offs in everything).  Here is my simple, inexpensive solution.

For this inexpensive system you only need two parts, one of which you most likely already own.  You will need your garden hose and at least a 8-10 ft section of 1/2" round soaker hose.  That is the total simple system.  Here is how it works.

The soaker hose is made of recycled automobile tires (that sounds green, give yourself a hug).  It has a female end that will screw onto your garden hose and a male end that usually comes with a cap to stop the water from just flowing through the hose and out the other end.  That is the system to water your flower and vegetable beds, bushes and trees.  Now that you have your system put together, I will describe how to expend your labor to make it work.

With your hose already attached to the spigot, attach the soaker hose to the garden hose.  Carry the soaker hose to the bed, bush or tree where you want to start your watering.  Lay down the hose around the tree, bush or snake it through the flower or vegetable bed.  Return to the faucet and turn it on to allow the water to flow.  You don't need it on full blast, use the trial and error method to figure out how much pressure to put on the soaker hose.  If you leave in the restricting washer that comes with the soaker hose, even though you turn on the spigot full blast the water will be restricted to a slow flow and low pressure on the soaker hose.  Avoid high pressure on the soaker hose as it will cause a hose wall blow out creating a hole that will defeat the purpose of the soaker hose altogether.  I turn on the spigot until I hear the water flowing then check the far end of the soaker hose to see the rate at which the water is seeping.  I don't want to see the water spraying from the hose like small fountains, just weeping like tears from a saddened child.  Now you can go back to other chores.  Note the time or set a timer for one hour.  When the timer alarm sounds or one hour has elapsed, check to see how far the water has seeped from the hose.  I like to see the ground wet at least 6" each side of the hose.  If you want, dig into the ground with your fingers, it should be wet at least 3" deep.  Now is the time to move the soaker hose to another bed, bush or tree.  Set the timer again and go back to chores, or photographing the birds in your backyard.

You could get even more sophisticated with this system. You can add multiple valves and a timer or get crazy with solenoids, moisture sensors and Arduinos but, I am trying to keep this simple and inexpensive.  I will explain a more sophisticated system in a later post.

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