Spring Update – November

Sorry for being a neglectful blog writer of late.  I apologise, but I have just been so busy, and it has just been so hot and dry in my part of the world.

We have had 3 weeks of above 33°C now, which in Spring is about 10-12º above average for this time of year.  Even though we only live 45 km west of Melbourne as the crow flys, we have temps that are 3-5º high than the city.  When I leave work in the CBD it is cool and 25ish, but I get home and it is still over 30ºC.  It is the hottest November in my memory and if this is Spring, what is Summer going to be like?  I dread to think, and hope that I have enough water in my tank to get through the season.  It has been too hot to plant anything during the day, so I have to get up early on weekends, work in the garden until 10 or 11am depending on how hot it is, then start again for an hour or two in the evening when it gets cooler after 6pm.  If I have learnt anything from the heat stroke I got last weekend, it is not to work in the heat of the day in the full sun on 35ºC days!  Yesterday I made Stilton cheese during the downtime from 11am – 4pm, so my time was not really wasted. 

So, to fix the water issue, I have built part of an irrigation system out of poly pipe, but have lots more work to do on it.  The house had an automatic sprinkler system when we bought the house, and was mainly used for the lawn, however that no longer exists anywhere.  I pulled up the piping (but kept it) when I put the garden beds in a few years ago.  The water restrictions in our area allow us to water garden beds (but not lawns) twice a week between 6-8am, via and odds and evens system.  Our house number is odd (in more ways than one), and we are allowed to water via mains on Wednesdays and Sundays during this two hour period.  I always utilise my water allocation, because I figure that we now save so much water inside the house, why not use the savings for food production. 

So I have begun to put the remnants of the automatic sprinkler system to use.  I converted my walled garden bed on the chook house side to drippers over the last two weeks, and all the plants including 6 varieties of pumpkin, Lazy Housewife beans, Scarlet runner beans, watermelon and rockmelon are doing well.  In fact, much better than I expected.  It must of been a lack of water last year that caused my massive pumpkin failure.  I didn’t realise how thirsty they are with the drip feed to the root zone making them grow very fast.

I was rumaging through my bag of irrigation goodies today, that I have collected over the years, and I still have the old solenoid valves, lots of 25 mm pipe, 12mm pipe of various long lengths, about 10 metres of 4mm and lots of fittings.  Also, I should be able to pull down part of an old 25mm system that runs along the top of the carport structure that used to water the fernery that has never been used since we moved in.  Amy and I removed it and the shade cloth a few months ago.

Therefore, with all these goodies just waiting to be put to use, and with an expected scorcher of a Summer, I absolutely need to get an irrigation system installed on the main veggie beds and the citrus tree pots.  I also need to purchase a small pump to hook up to the rainwater tank and include it into the system for the days that I cannot use mains water.  And I have to get it built quick, as this heat is not letting up, besides the two cooler days of today and tomorrow (25 and 23ºC). 

So over the next week, every night after work, I will get stuck into building the irrigation system that will be adequate for my needs.  Of course it will have to be aestheticly pleasing to the eye, which is pretty hard to do with black pipe, but I will manage it by hiding the main 25mm pipe under the stone, then up the side of the last bed and then along the back of the all the beds.  I have it all worked out in my head, so I better start drawing the plans down on paper first before getting stuck in and making it up as I go along.  The one thing I learnt from last time I fitted the other side, was to measure the length you need first before cutting, because that saves a lot of time and effort of having to join peices of pipe together with joiners if you cut it too short.  Measure twice, cut once.  I think I learnt that in woodwork at High School.

Once that is completed and operational, the garden should bloom and I should cut down my water consumption by at least a third.  Watering each plant by drip irrigation or by weeping hose under mulch are far more efficient ways of watering than just by hose or by watering can.  My garden is much too large and my back too dodgy to keep it watered the old way every day of the week!

I will take photos of the construction and hopefully have an update every second night or so until I finish it.  I don’t know how much the pump will cost, but I will do a bit of research in the next hour of so to have a look what is available.  The pump will need to be on demand when the solenoid switch turns on the water so it will have to have be a pressure pump that keeps the pipe primed and at pressure or otherwise the solenoids will not open.  You would think that whoever makes these things would be a little more water wise and make them to be able to open without much pressure behind them. 

Anyway, it should make for a fun and entertaining week!  Knowing me, I will finish it in two days because once I start something, I just want to keep going until it is complete.  I would rather do one thing well than five things poorly. 

Do any of you have manual or automatic drip systems installed in your veggie patches?  I would love some tips before I get started laying the main pipe tomorrow night!

Gavin

Comments

  1. says

    We also had irrigation throughout the garden on this house when we bought it… the wrong type!! So, we are also looking into converting it into a drip system, and hoping to reuse pipe from the garden and some that was left in the garden shed. I will be keen to see who you go! And yes, I would just get on with it and make do, but my husband (luckily) is much more pedantic than me and will do it all properly!

    Also working on how best to make some shade frames to protect the vege’s too… it is going to be a hot & dry Summer!

    Our water restrictions are every second day 3 hours in the morning, 3 hours in the evening, but still, it cost $, so we must get our rainwater tank installed ASAP… and possibly a greywater system too (on the Gov’t Green Loan Program?), as we’ve missed the ‘rainy season’ (ha!) here so won’t be many chances to fill a tank.

    Good luck!

  2. says

    We’ve only got drip irrigation to our lemon and lime trees, which are in half-barrels. Other than that it’s sprinklers and hand-watering for us, although we’d love to switch to drip whenever we get enough round tuits.

  3. says

    http://www.IrrigationThatMakesSense.org is a non profit group trying to battle our national water issues. They have a irrigation product that conserves up to 80% of water use after two years. Their product is installed sub-surface therefore you never see it watering. It makes the plants stronger, uses less fertilizer along with water and no over spray onto sidewalks and roads. The cost to install their underground irrigation product is comparable to overhead sprinklers but this is the green irrigation choice.

  4. says

    Greetings from dry (15 inches of rain/yr)southern California in the US. Love your blog. We’ve had only one rain this season (which for us runs from October to April, no rain in between). I water by hand with a hose or watering can, very water thrifty. We grow fruits and vegetables on our tiny property and still use only half the water that the average southern Californian uses. It’s been a warmer than usual fall up here too. I fear that hard times lie ahead. I’m thrilled to see how much you’re doing to make your life greener.

  5. says

    @ Dixiebelle, I showed Kim my plan tonight, and I think she was impressed. Especially about the very minor cost of it all (I didn’t tell her about the pump yet). Water security is starting to become a big issue down here in Victoria after 13 years of drought.

    @ JulieG. You must have a fair bit of water over in the west to be able to use sprinklers. Is it from reservoirs or ground water?

    @ Michael. Thanks for the link, but I think the import cost of the system from the US would be prohibitive for me. I will be buying some weeping hose made from recycled car tires that will be laid under mulch. Does that count?

    @ Lou. You get about as much rain as we do! I too fear the future, but as one of the few who are doing something about it, I am more comfortable with my lifestyle and what lays ahead in the future than most are prepared for. Thanks for reading!

    Live green and prosper,

    Gavin

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