Saturday, July 23, 2016

Learning lessons, making progress, searching for motivation (long)

Time to catch up with the blog.  This is one of my many interests and with work and home I have felt a bit spread thin both on time and mentally.  If only I could apply the same effort to getting rid of my waist line as I do to keeping things running - I could be back in my college sized clothes.  Getting old sucks!  Pardon the rambling but I've been busy...

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading about gardening during drought conditions.  There are some really interesting ideas and a lot of proven methods for efficient watering trees and gardens.  I decided to move ahead with a proven method for watering trees and made the two mile drive to the local Ace Hardware.

The method I installed was called "Deep Root Watering", but it involved drilling holes into PVC or ABS pipe and putting the end in the ground where it would be fed to the roots directly.  This would also promote root growth to go down instead of spreading out to pickup surface water.

Here is a capped end of one of the 3ft sections of  PVC pipe.  I've drilled a line of 10 holes with the last one being used to drive a nail through the cap and the pipe to hold the cap on if I needed to pull it back up.

Placing the pipes would be pretty messy and destructive with a post hole digger so I wanted a dirt auger to neatly make holes to place the watering pipes.  Dirt augers are a bit more expensive when they are for sold for irrigation but oddly enough, animal trappers use dirt augers to make holes for small game animals and were less expensive.  Thanks again eBay!

As evidenced by all the lovely nut grass and other weeds, I have been surface watering this citrus tree and hope to have fruit from it next year.  Maybe the weeds will start to subside now that they are not getting watered.  I'm also going to see what citrus fertilizers are available to help it out.

I've installed one for the other trees as well but the little grape vine has actually perked up with this watering method and there is new growth coming on just a week after installing the watering pipe.

Not shown is my fig tree start that was only up to half the pipe when I installed it but has actually doubled in height in two weeks.

As for the lessons learned, the unruly jungle above is my row of tomatoes.  I was skeptical about using the simple cages but that has thoroughly been confirmed and I will be using pigwire fence cages next year for the tomatoes.

Also, the black weed cloth didn't do to bad but I believe the dog has helped the weeds with her unauthorized digging for gophers and throwing dirt around which gave the weeds new places to start.  I'm thinking next season will be a combination of weed cloth and straw mulch.  

On the whole, I think my garden will take a different shape next season as well.  In keeping with the drought watering I was reading about ollas and other clay pot watering methods dating back to before Roman times.  This method of watering was 'invented' on every continent and seems to be making a come back for smaller farmers with limited water resources.

I am thinking to maybe even automate the refill  process using a computer based irrigation control system and power from the solar installation on the chicken pen.  My front lawn has been watered using a PC based system with a relay board for years.  Just plug in the sprinkler valves to the relay board and scheduling software to open and close the flow.  Using a remote desktop session I can turn the water on a neighbor's dogs or kids - It's been great!

For the garden, I'm looking into using an Intel Stick computer and a USB relay board to control the sprinkler valves.  It's tiny, uses very little power, has built in wireless networking and no moving parts to wear out.

Back to lessons learned:

  • Corn - WTF was I thinking.  I always miss the correct time to pick the corn and end up with starchy corn.  Drying it out and grinding it for the chickens has been my only use for it.  No more corn.
  • Collards - I am the only one who eats them.  Next year, one or two.  Maybe

  • Strawberries - CONTAINMENT!  I need to cut this back to a 4 x 10 patch and keep the runners from going everywhere.  I was thinking to use cinder blocks to make a edge boundary around the patch that will also double as a hoop house base so I can over winter the plants without frost killing them off.
  • Okra - I'm the only one eating it.  My timing to harvest is really messed up since I miss them when they are at the small edible stage and am only picking large woody okra pods.  No more.
  • Squash - Again, I'm the only one who will eat it so it's kind of a waste to grow.

  • Sunflowers -  I really need to stay ahead of the weeds but these sunflowers are just getting out of hand.  I like that they help with attracting bees but it's a bait and switch for the bees since there is nothing really for the bees.

And so to my last topic, motivation.  I have a refrigerator full of tomatoes and salsa fixing and have not even started chopping and mixing salsa yet.  Plenty of tomatoes on the vine and a whole mess of peppers that need to be picked as well.  I really need to work less and garden more but that just does not seem to pay the bills so I'll need to work that out.  Anyways, it's 115 deg outside today and that's just WAY to hot to want to putter around in the garden.

Thanks for reading.  Comments are appreciated.

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