Archive for May, 2009
We spent a large amount of time on weekends and evenings last week setting up our drip irrigation system. It’s not only required by our community garden, but it should also help ensure that our plants get enough consistent water to grow and produce a lot of vegetables this summer. Plus we’re lazy and the idea of the garden watering itself is very appealing. Lastly there’s the added benefit of delivering water more efficiently so we use less water.
We weren’t able to find very good information on what to do or how to set up drip irrigation so I thought I’d give a detailed post that might help someone else set theirs up. First, we drew up our garden plot and how we wanted our hoses laid out, so we knew how many of each piece below to buy.
We used the Raindrip system which is sold at Lowes. Here are the items we purchased:
Raindrip Watering Landscape Kit with Anti-Syphon
Professional Hole Punch
3/4″ “Y” Filter and Fertilizer Applicator
50 1GPH PC Drippers
200′ 1/2″ Poly Hose
10 1/2″ Compression Couplings (T connectors)
13 Raindrip 1/2″ Compression Hose End Plug with 3/4″ Cap
Raindrip Digital Water Timer Dig 9001DC Irrigation Timer with LCD Display
Yes you read that last one correctly, we spent about 3 days fighting the Raindrip timer and trying to get it installed without leaking. It’s a piece of junk. If you have purchased a Raindrip timer and it’s still in the packaging, take it back. If you’ve opened it consider it a $32 sunk cost and move on to the Dig timer. It will save you hours. After we fought the Raindrip timer for a couple of days we looked around the community garden. Of the 41 garden plots in our community garden only ONE had the Raindrip timer installed, everyone else is using the Dig timer, this was our first tip off that we needed to give it a try. I was stubborn and thought I could make the Raindrip work, but Steph went out and bought the Dig while I was at work as she was tired of seeing me covered in mud yelling at the garden plot. Smart girl.
Once we had all of the correct parts it was just a matter of hooking the system up. You want to make sure the timer is connected directly to the faucet/hose so you don’t have the other parts under pressure. The Dig timer simply screwed on and didn’t leak the first time. Turn off the water if you had it on to test the timer for leaks before you start adding the other parts in case you accidentally loosen the timer in the setup. We had some incidents where the Raindrip timer the literally exploded off the end of the hose.
The rest of the parts just need to be screwed to the timer in order (Faucet> Timer > Anti-Syphon > Pressure regulator> Water Filter > Hose adapter > Hoses). Make sure everything is hand tightened very snugly and use any washers that are called for so no water leaks out.
Once you have the assembly set up it’s just a matter of laying out the hoses in your beds. We attempted to cut roughly 20′ long pieces to run the entire length of our beds and one hose to run across the width. After the hoses we laid out all of the T connectors and elbow connectors. Once everything was laid out we cut the hose to length and then inserted the ends into the connectors. We hooked up the hoses in each bed to each other using T connectors and then connected the beds to each other after the hoses were in place.
Once all the hoses are connected and in place you can cut the ends to the proper lengths and then put on the end caps. We purchased ends with screw caps so we can easily drain the system. Once all the ends are in place unscrew the caps and turn on the water. You want to flush the system of any dirt before attaching the drippers.
Attaching the drippers is fairly simple. We bought the professional punch tool instead of using the simple hand one provided in the kit. If you flush the system with cold water it will cool the hoses. It’s much easier to punch the holes when the hoses are cool and stiffer. When the hoses are out in the sun they get soft and it’s much more difficult to get a clean hole punched through. Once you have a hole simply insert the drippers until they pop in. Once you have everything in place turn on the system to test for leaks, then just monitor it for a couple of days to make sure the timer is working as you intended and there are no unknown leaks.
The total system with extraneous hoses we didn’t need and the faulty timer was $289 for a 20′x20′ vegtable garden. The way we did this is just one of an infinite number of ways you could lay this out. You can also buy soaker hose and punch holes in it without actually using the drippers. Depending on the variation you use your system could cost more or less.
“This is not a book about saving the world. This is about making a living at profitable agriculture.” (p.298)
If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma there’s a part in the second section where Pollan visits an organic farm and talks to a farmer about his interesting way of using animals, the amount he can produce on such a small acreage, and the sophisticated new methods he’s using as a “grass farmer”. The farmer he visits is Joel Salatin. I was intrigued to learn about this farmer and his system plus I’ve had a romanticized fantasy of buying some acres with a quaint little house to grow our own vegetables and maybe have a few chickens.
All of this lead me to read You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & $ucceed in a Farming Enterprise by Joel Salatin. It’s basically a business book on how to start up a farming enterprise. It’s definitely an interesting read for anyone thinking about making a living full time as a farmer. However, if you want to have a little vegetable garden or a few chickens to feed the family, this book isn’t for you.
The interesting parts of the book consist of his recommendations and dispelling certain myths:
– Don’t buy land – First figure out how you can make money farming on rented land at a small scale and then buy land and/or ramp up. You need to establish the market first and then scale up to support it.
– Always sell at retail – A small farmer can’t make money selling at wholesale you have to sell at retail or have another job.
– Live near a market – You don’t want to be out in boondocks with nothing around, you need land close to a city so you can sell your products direct to customers.
– Spend thought and time marketing, not just growing – This is required to get the premium prices. If you create a story and give customers something different then you can charge retail prices by selling directly to them. You’ll have to market.
He definitely has some strong opinions which sound like rantings with a hint of crazy at various points:
– Homeschooling is the best (only) option for educating your children.
– The agribusiness establishment is driving small farmers out of business and producing bad food, they are in cahoots with the government.
– Because of this, he is anti-government and anything part of or related to the government which includes the USDA, extension services, health care, etc.
I was hoping to learn more about his new/unique methods of producing high quality organic food on small acreage and his symbiotic system of animal grazing. It appears those are covered his books on chickens and beef.
It was an interesting read and I learned a lot about what it takes to start up a farming business, most of which would apply to starting up any business. Can I farm? After reading this book it’s a “no” which was at least worth the cover price.
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