One step closer, intalling drip irrigation

This weekend I finally got the drip irrigation system installed in the back garden.  This was the first time that I had installed such a system, so it was a bit of a learning experience.  Going into it, I had an idea in my head of how it was going to look and function.  As with many things in life, we get into it and something that you don’t expect comes up.  Since the plans were in my head, yes… I know better… the basic layout was simple, there were jut a few things that came up that could have been avoided had I had a plan drawn out ahead of time.

Starting at the hose bib, as with just about all projects you have to start at the beginning (DUH) I rolled out the 1/2″ line to see where I wanted to splice in the first tee.  Piece of cake, no issues, make the first cut.  From the tee, splitting off, I run about four feet of 1/2″ line to feed two 1/4″ lines that will be watering my hops.  Check, piece of cake.

On to the raised beds.  This is the point at which a drawn plan would have come in handy.  You see, my beds are offset a little bit.  They are ab out two feet apart, but one is about three feet closer to the house then the other.  So I guess the length of 1/2″ hose I am going to need and how I want to connect each bed to the main line.  Oh, I forgot to mention that the fittings are friction fittings, you push the tubing into the fitting and it will not allow you to pull the tubing out.  I had connected the left hand bed top the tee and the right hand bed to the elbow.  Which put the left hand feed line about ix inches from the edge of the bed.  Well… it wasn’t pretty, but you can actually get the tubing out of the fittings.  Minor issue, but it was something that was completely avoidable. From here I used some 1/4″ pre “drippered” tubing to do the job inside the beds.  Not sure I will be completely happy with the 12″ spaced dripper tubing, but we shall see how it goes, all of the base work is done, all I would have to do is change a couple of parts to get the desired effect.

So now, I do not have to worry about the plants getting over watered or forgotten when I go on a trip and have the watering taken care of.  I also invested a little bit more money and purchased an inline timer for the system, so that it is even less maintenance.  I think my hops will end up doing much better with a consistent watering schedule.  Time will tell.

Spring turns to Summer and the garden changes

Last week was the summer solstice.  The sun is as high in the sky as it is going to be, and the race back towards winter has begun.  There are changes that are happening in the garden as well.  There is a transfer that happens, very subtly, transferring from the spring varieties to those of summer.  We also start to think about what will be going into the fall garden.

The transfer from spring to summer in the garden is… like the weather that changes during this time period.  Not delicate and small and drab, but much more vigorous and colorful.  Many of the herbs are setting overdrive while others are starting to flower.  Coriander has bolted and is about ready to be harvested, the lettuces have all bolted, collecting seeds instead of leaves has become their focus.  Tomatoes with their shades of red are ripening, carrots are being harvested, shallots and onions are getting ready for harvest, garlic is poking it’s head… errr… their shoots up.  The first generation of green beans is winding down.  And lastly, in my garden at least, the hops are reaching for the sky and getting ready to start budding.

The weather is warm and and evenings are very comfortable.  Pants and coats have given way to shorts and tee-shirts.

This fall will be a fun one, I think.  The hops will need to be harvested, more lettuce will be planted.   I may look into planting my beds with a leguminous cover crop to give the beds a bid of a rest and some much needed food.  There is still plenty of time before that decision must be made.  In the mean time, I think I will head out to the porch and pet the cat for a little while before I head off to yoga class.

Adding a drip system to the garden

Last week I purchased a kit to install a drip system in my garden.  There were multiple reasons I wanted to do this.  One being water conservation, another, save myself some time.  Combined the two equal money savings.  I will be automating the system as well, which will help when I travel out of town, I will not have to worry about making arrangements for someone to stop by and water.

Conservation is a two fold attribute.  One, I live in Southern California… a desert.  Yes, the water saved will not be much, but ever last bit counts.  The other part of conservation, a decrease in the bill.  The less water that I use, the smaller my bill, the more money in my pocket.  I will be able to conserve by putting the water where it is needed, instead of water the entire area, losing some of the water to evaporation.  The automation saves me time, which equates to more money saved.

A third point, and maybe I am just justifying this to myself.  Starting the project gets me outside, and adds knowledge and experience of a new skill that very well could come in handy down the road.  Eventually I would like to do this with a rain catchment system, to further lower the cost of operating.

Spring gardening

This year I did not buy any new seeds, I have a healthy stock of seeds from previous years.  I didn’t see it as a wise move to waste what I already had.  So with the weather starting to warm up, it’s time to get the garden back into working order.  I have plenty of the stuff that we eat the most, so that is what I will be planting heavy this year.

I have two tomato plants that are actually volunteers from my mother’s house.  I am not sure what variety they will be, we shall see.  Personally I think it is part of the fun.  I have the two tomatoes on the northern most side of the raised beds, as they will end up becoming quite the sun shade for anything behind them.

Next to the tomatoes I planted a two dozen green beans.  Half are from seed I saved from last years plants, half is fresh seed from the package.  I am thinking about adding another two dozen or so plants in about 3 or 4 weeks, to try to stagger the harvest and extend the time with fresh beans.  last year I had planted some “Italian Rose” beans, not sure if I will add them this year or not.  This is a shucked bean and would be for long term storage… or at least for seed stock.

The stump of broccoli is still there… working on it’s second summer now.  I let it grow and cut it back… I repeat this whenever it starts to get out of control.  So far it has worked out pretty well.  The only downside to broccoli in Southern California, is that it bolts really quickly with the warmth.  Getting any decent sized heads is near impossible.

The lettuces mixes are at peak performance.  I have several varieties.  Oak leaf, black seeded Susan (I think), arugula, baby spinach, two or three types of red leafed lettuce, and a couple others too.  The cilantro is now starting to bolt.  All of which had been from seed from last years crop.  The arugula was the surprise winner with my sweetie.  I had thought it would be a little to strong a flavor, but was very wrong.  She absolutely loves it in our salads.

The carrots are starting to come up.  Red cored Chantilly, purple dragon, and a basic long variety, can’t remember the name off the top of my head.  The beets are coming along well.  There had been a random sowing of beet seeds under the cilantro.  While the cilantro had been doing it’s thing, the beets were bidding there time.  Hanging out in all of the moisture that the cilantro would catch and hold onto from the morning dew.

This past weekend, I added two… well four… new members to the family.  Two hop varieties.  Since I started brewing beer this past year, I thought it would be fun and a money savings to start growing some of my own hops.  The two varieties I purchased were Centennial and Northern Brewer.  Two of each, I have read that they like to have similar near them to help stimulate the flower cone formation.  And also, if something happens to one of them,  I have a back up.  I hope the “compost” I planted them in isn’t too… un-composted.  I think the package that states “garden soil” should probably be soil… and not partially composted wood chunks.  But I did do something with the hops that I have not really done in all my years of gardening, I used fertilizer.  Yes, it is organic, but I have really focused on trying to get the composter with the correct mix, to give the right nutrients.

I have this gut feeling that this year is going to be extremely productive.  Let’s hope my gut is right!