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!