Conserve Water With Drip Irrigation


If you’re looking for ways to keep your garden watered without wasting too much time and money, you’ve probably gone through a lot of options in your mind. Maybe you’ve considered a sprinkler, a hose, or a good old-fashioned watering can. All of these methods might be convenient, but most of the time you will end up wasting water on plants that don’t need any more. If you live in a drought stricken area like I do, you know that every bit of water counts. I ended up getting a drip irrigation system. I haven’t regretted this decision at all.
When you install a drip irrigation system, you can choose one of two varieties: above ground and below ground. The above ground version drips small amounts of water continuously onto the ground, and allows it to soak in. It is all regulated from a pressure controller, which ensures that the water just comes out at a drip instead of a spray or a stream. These pressure regulators are very inexpensive. The whole drip system can be set up with a pressure regulator and a garden hose with holes poked in it (although it is ideal for you to get a pipe designed for this type of use, I’ve found that the hose method works acceptably).
The underground system is a bit more of a pain to install and maintain. But if you’re really into the aesthetic aspect of your garden and don’t want any visible watering system, then you might consider it worth it. It’s essentially the same as the above ground version, only a small trench is dug for the hose or pipe prior to any planting. This allows the water direct access to the roots for the most watering efficiency. Plus, you can impress your neighbors by having a beautiful garden without ever going outside to water it! They’ll be baffled.
To choose between the two systems, you need to take several things into account. Do you have the same plant layout year round? If it is always changing, you probably won’t want to bury your hose. It can be a pain to dig it up and re-align it with all your new plants every year or so. Even if your plant layout never changes, you need to consider how much you
really mind seeing a hose in your garden. If it really bothers you to the extent that you’re willing to work for a few hours to get rid of it, then by all means bury it. But otherwise I would suggest staying above ground if for nothing else than the convenience of repairing and rearranging.
One of the main advantages of the drip irrigation system is its efficiency. Instead of spraying large amounts of water willy-nilly like a hose does, it makes the most of your precious water by putting it exactly where it is needed. It can also provide your garden with constant watering, instead of just having to go thirsty whenever you’re not around to water it.
So if you’re looking for an easy, cheap, convenient, and efficient alternative watering method, you should go out to the gardening store today and purchase the necessary items to install a drip irrigation system. I think you’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to maintain a garden after you have it.


Easy Square Foot Garden Vegetables


As a rule, we choose to grow bush beans rather than pole beans. I cannot make up my mind whether or not this is from sheer laziness. In a city backyard the tall varieties might perhaps be a problem since it would be difficult to get poles. But these running beans can be trained along old fences and with little urging will run up the stalks of the tallest sunflowers. So that settles the pole question. There is an ornamental side to the bean question. Suppose you plant these tall beans at the extreme rear end of each vegetable row. Make arches with supple tree limbs, binding them over to form the arch. Train the beans over these. When one stands facing the garden, what a beautiful terminus these bean arches make.
Beans like rich, warm, sandy soil. In order to assist the soil be sure to dig deeply, and work it over thoroughly for bean culture. It never does to plant beans before the world has warmed up from its spring chills. There is another advantage in early digging of soil. It brings to the surface eggs and larvae of insects. The birds eager for food will even follow the plough to pick from the soil these choice morsels. A little lime worked in with the soil is helpful in the cultivation of beans.
Bush beans are planted in drills about eighteen inches apart, while the pole-bean rows should be three feet apart. The drills for the bush limas should be further apart than those for the other dwarf beans say three feet. This amount of space gives opportunity for cultivation with the hoe. If the running beans climb too high just pinch off the growing extreme end, and this will hold back the upward growth.
Among bush beans are the dwarf, snap or string beans, the wax beans, the bush limas, one variety of which is known as brittle beans. Among the pole beans are the pole limas, wax and scarlet runner. The scarlet runner is a beauty for decorative effects. The flowers are scarlet and are fine against an old fence. These are quite lovely in the flower garden. Where one wishes a vine, this is good to plant for one gets both a vegetable, bright flowers and a screen from the one plant. When planting beans put the bean in the soil edgewise with the eye down.
Beets like rich, sandy loam, also. Fresh manure worked into the soil is fatal for beets, as it is for many another crop. But we will suppose that nothing is available but fresh manure. Some gardeners say to work this into the soil with great care and thoroughness. But even so, there is danger of a particle of it getting next to a tender beet root. The following can be done; Dig a trench about a foot deep, spread a thin layer of manure in this, cover it with soil, and plant above this. By the time the main root strikes down to the manure layer, there will be little harm done. Beets should not be transplanted. If the rows are one foot apart there is ample space for cultivation. Whenever the weather is really settled, then these seeds may be planted. Young beet tops make fine greens. Greater care should be taken in handling beets than usually is shown. When beets are to be boiled, if the tip of the root and the tops are cut off, the beet bleeds. This means a loss of good material. Pinching off such parts with the fingers and doing this not too closely to the beet itself is the proper method of handling.
There are big coarse members of the beet and cabbage families called the mangel wurzel and ruta baga. About here these are raised to feed to the cattle. They are a great addition to a cow’s dinner. The cabbage family is a large one. There is the cabbage proper, then cauliflower, broccoli or a more hardy cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and kohlrabi, a cabbage-turnip combination.
Cauliflower is a kind of refined, high-toned cabbage relative. It needs a little richer soil than cabbage and cannot stand the frost. A frequent watering with manure water gives it the extra richness and water it really needs. The outer leaves must be bent over, as in the case of the young cabbage, in order to get the white head. The dwarf varieties are rather the best to plant.
Kale is not quite so particular a cousin. It can stand frost. Rich soil is necessary, and early spring planting, because of slow maturing. It may be planted in September for early spring work.
Brussels sprouts are a very popular member of this family. On account of their size many people who do not like to serve poor, common old cabbage will serve these. Brussels sprouts are interesting in their growth. The plant stalk runs skyward. At the top, umbrella like, is a close head of leaves, but this is not what we eat. Shaded by the umbrella and packed all along the stalk are delicious little cabbages or sprouts. Like the rest of the family a rich soil is needed and plenty of water during the growing period. The seed should be planted in May, and the little plants transplanted into rich soil in late July. The rows should be eighteen inches apart, and the plants one foot apart in the rows.
Kohlrabi is a go-between in the families of cabbage and turnip. It is sometimes called the turnip-root cabbage. Just above the ground the stem of this plant swells into a turnip-like vegetable. In the true turnip the swelling is underground, but like the cabbage, kohlrabi forms its edible part above ground. It is easy to grow. Only it should develop rapidly, otherwise the swelling gets woody, and so loses its good quality. Sow out as early as possible; or sow inside in March and transplant to the open. Plant in drills about two feet apart. Set the plants about one foot apart, or thin out to this distance. To plant one hundred feet of drill buy half an ounce of seed. Seed goes a long way, you see. Kohlrabi is served and prepared like turnip. It is a very satisfactory early crop.
Before leaving the cabbage family I should like to say that the cabbage called Savoy is an excellent variety to try. It should always have an early planting under cover, say in February, and then be transplanted into open beds in March or April. If the land is poor where you are to grow cabbage, then by all means choose Savoy.
Carrots are of two general kinds: those with long roots, and those with short roots. If long-rooted varieties are chosen, then the soil must be worked down to a depth of eighteen inches, surely. The shorter ones will do well in eight inches of well-worked sandy soil. Do not put carrot seed into freshly manured land. Another point in carrot culture is one concerning the thinning process. As the little seedlings come up you will doubtless find that they are much, much too close together. Wait a bit, thin a little at a time, so that young, tiny carrots may be used on the home table. These are the points to jot down about the culture of carrots.
The cucumber is the next vegetable in the line. This is a plant from foreign lands. Some think that the cucumber is really a native of India. A light, sandy and rich soil is needed I mean rich in the sense of richness in organic matter. When cucumbers are grown outdoors, as we are likely to grow them, they are planted in hills. Nowadays, they are grown in hothouses; they hang from the roof, and are a wonderful sight. In the greenhouse a hive of bees is kept so that cross-fertilization may go on.
But if you intend to raise cucumbers follow these directions: Sow the seed inside, cover with one inch of rich soil. In a little space of six inches diameter, plant six seeds. Place like a bean seed with the germinating end in the soil. When all danger of frost is over, each set of six little plants, soil and all, should be planted in the open. Later, when danger of insect pests is over, thin out to three plants in a hill. The hills should be about four feet apart on all sides.
Before the time of Christ, lettuce was grown and served. There is a wild lettuce from which the cultivated probably came. There are a number of cultivated vegetables which have wild ancestors, carrots, turnips and lettuce being the most common among them. Lettuce may be tucked into the garden almost anywhere. It is surely one of the most decorative of vegetables. The compact head, the green of the leaves, the beauty of symmetry all these are charming characteristics of lettuces.
As the summer advances and as the early sowings of lettuce get old they tend to go to seed. Don’t let them. Pull them up. None of us are likely to go into the seed-producing side of lettuce. What we are interested in is the raising of tender lettuce all the season. To have such lettuce in mid and late summer is possible only by frequent plantings of seed. If seed is planted every ten days or two weeks all summer, you can have tender lettuce all the season. When lettuce gets old it becomes bitter and tough.
Melons are most interesting to experiment with. We suppose that melons originally came from Asia, and parts of Africa. Melons are a summer fruit. Over in England we find the muskmelons often grown under glass in hothouses. The vines are trained upward rather than allowed to lie prone. As the melons grow large in the hot, dry atmosphere, just the sort which is right for their growth, they become too heavy for the vine to hold up. So they are held by little bags of netting, just like a tennis net in size of mesh. The bags are supported on nails or pegs. It is a very pretty sight I can assure you. Over here usually we raise our melons outdoors. They are planted in hills. Eight seeds are placed two inches apart and an inch deep. The hills should have a four foot sweep on all sides; the watermelon hills ought to have an allowance of eight to ten feet. Make the soil for these hills very rich. As the little plants get sizeable say about four inches in height reduce the number of plants to two in a hill. Always in such work choose the very sturdiest plants to keep. Cut the others down close to or a little below the surface of the ground. Pulling up plants is a shocking way to get rid of them. I say shocking because the pull is likely to disturb the roots of the two remaining plants. When the melon plant has reached a length of a foot, pinch off the end of it. This pinch means this to the plant: just stop growing long, take time now to grow branches. Sand or lime sprinkled about the hills tends to keep bugs away.
The word pumpkin stands for good, old-fashioned pies, for Thanksgiving, for grandmother’s house. It really brings more to mind than the word squash. I suppose the squash is a bit more useful, when we think of the fine Hubbard, and the nice little crooked-necked summer squashes; but after all, I like to have more pumpkins. And as for Jack-o’-lanterns why they positively demand pumpkins. In planting these, the same general directions hold good which were given for melons. And use these same for squash-planting, too. But do not plant the two cousins together, for they have a tendency to run together. Plant the pumpkins in between the hills of corn and let the squashes go in some other part of the garden.


Rain Barrels Help Dry Areas


If you’re a gardener that has an unlimited supply of water, consider yourself lucky. There are many of us who live in drought zones where the garden and lawn watering rules are very constrictive to the healthy growth of gardens and plants. Many people just give up when they find out how few gallons of water they are permitted to use, but some of us have just found ways to cope with less water. There are many ways to optimize ones garden to conserve water while still keeping it lush.
Some of the ways include drip irrigation (the use of a pipe or hose with small holes to gradually seep into the roots of the plant), the placement of plants in groups of equal watering needs (to prevent wasting water on plants that don’t need it), and using compost or mulch to insulate the water and prevent drainage.
But one of the best ways to keep your garden alive during a drought is to take preventative measures. Occasionally a drought will be predicted far in advanced, or those already experiencing a drought will be given a few weeks of heavy rain. When this occurs, you should take the opportunity to set up several rain barrels. Many people think this would be a time
consuming, silly thing to do. But it can save you many gallons of water, and hardly requires any work.
Finding the barrels will probably be the hardest part. You can use your own garbage cans, or head to your home improvement store to get a few 55 gallon plastic drums. These can be expensive and difficult to transport, so keep that in mind before you go to the store. You will probably want to cover the top of the barrel with a screen of some sort to filter out any unwanted leaves or debris that might fall off the roof of your house.
Once you have your barrels ready, you’re faced with the decision of where to place them. Usually during rainfall, there is one corner or segment of the house that rain tends to pour off of. If you are taking the simple approach to barrel placement, just place the barrel under all the places where you see large amounts of drips. However, while this might be the easiest way to place them, you won’t see very high volumes of rain in the barrels.
If you want to take a more complicated approach to placing the barrels, you should consider tweaking your gutter system a bit. If you remove each individual segment and place it at a very slight slant so that all the water is diverted to the nearest corner of the house, you can place a rain barrel at each corner. So essentially your entire house acts as a catcher for the rain, instead of just a few feet worth of shingles. This is how to maximize the amount of water your rain barrel will catch.
After a heavy rainfall, each individual barrel probably won’t see very much rain. If it looks like it won’t be raining more any time soon, it’s a good idea to empty each barrel into one main central barrel. Seal it and save it out of the way, for whenever you may need it. Then the next time it starts to rain, you’ll be able to quickly put all your catching barrelsinto place without having to lug around all the water you’ve accumulated so far.
The use of water barrels might sound like an antiquated idea. However, when you’re in the midst of a drought and you’re able to spare that extra couple of gallons for your garden in addition the city allotment, you’ll be grateful for every bit of time and money you spent on collecting all that rain. All it takes is a few trips out in the backyard every time it starts to sprinkle, and you’ll be a very happy gardener when water isn’t so abundant.


Preparing For Healthy Soil


If you’re getting ready to go on a new garden venture, you need to prepare your soil to ideally house your plants. The best thing you can do in the soil preparation process is to reach the perfect mixture of sand, silt, and clay. Preferably there would be 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 20 percent clay. There are several tests used by experienced gardeners to tell whether the soil has a good composition. First you can compress it in your hand. If it doesn’t hold its shape and crumbles without any outside force, your sand ratio is probably a little high. If you poke the compressed ball with your finger and it doesn’t fall apart easily, your soil contains too much clay.
If you’re still not sure about the content of your soil, you can separate each ingredient by using this simple method. Put a cup or two of dirt into a jar of water. Shake the water up until the soil is suspended, then let it set until you see it separate into 3 separate layers. The top layer is clay, the next is silt, and on the bottom is sand. You should be able to judge the presence of each component within your dirt, and act accordingly.
After you’ve analyzed the content of your soil, if you decide that it is low on a certain ingredient then you should definitely do something to fix it. If dealing with too much silt or sand, it’s best to add some peat moss or compost. If you’ve got too much clay, add a mixture of peat moss and sand. The peat moss, when moistens, helps for the new ingredient to infiltrate the mixture better. If you can’t seem to manage to attain a proper mixture, just head down to your local gardening store. You should be able to find some kind of product to aid you.
The water content of the soil is another important thing to consider when preparing for your garden. If your garden is at the bottom of an incline, it is most likely going to absorb too much water and drown out the plants. If this is the case, you should probably elevate your garden a few inches (4 or 5) over the rest of the ground. This will allow for more drainage and less saturation.
Adding nutrients to your soil is also a vital part of the process, as most urban soils have little to no nutrients already in them naturally. One to two weeks prior to planting, you should add a good amount of fertilizer to your garden. Mix it in really well and let it sit for a while. Once you have done this, your soil will be completely ready for whatever seeds you may plant in it.
Once your seeds are planted, you still want to pay attention to the soil. The first few weeks, the seeds are desperately using up all the nutrients around them to sprout into a real plant. If they run out of food, how are they supposed to grow? About a week after planting, you should add the same amount of fertilizer that you added before. After this you should
continue to use fertilizer, but not as often. If you add a tiny bit every couple of weeks, that should be plenty to keep your garden thriving.
Basically, the entire process of soil care can be compressed into just several steps… ensure the makeup of the soil is satisfactory, make sure you have proper drainage in your garden, add fertilizer before and after planting, then add fertilizer regularly after that. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have a plethora of healthy plants in no time. And if you need any more details on an individual step, just go to your local nursery and enquire there. Most of the employees will be more than happy to give you advice.


Water Conservation Ideas for the Kitchen Sink


It can sometimes be difficult to visualize the importance and direct effect that simple conservation efforts can have when we are bombarded with negative information regularly. Lets take a look at what a few changes in the activities around the kitchen sink can do.
Rather than running the tap when cleaning vegetables, use a bowl of water. Later, reuse it to water outdoor plants. Reusing water from rinsing out the coffeepot for outdoor plants, the compost or lawn is something we do all the time. Rich in nitrogen as well as some trace minerals, coffeepots should be diluted with water before using. Choose a different group of plants every day and you may find you no longer have to water or fertilize them very often at all. Cooking water (pasta, steamed vegetables, boiled potatoes etc.) can be used in the same way just let it cool first. All of these water sources contain extra nutrients that will aid your gardens immensely. Very hot cooking water can be used to kill weeds simply pour it directly on the weed and around its roots.
After meals, scrape your dishes into the compost bucket before rinsing. While rinsing, place other soiled dishes, jars and utensils underneath while you work; it will begin the presoaking process reducing labor and water use. Anything caught in the sink basket can be contributed to the compost, too.
Save about 5 gallons of water per washing by doing dishes in a few inches of hot soapy water. It may seem funny to do this – but by turning the hot water tap on to rinse the dishes into the sink the level will slowly increase and will maintain a hot temperature. This way, another sink full of water solely for rinsing is no longer necessary. We sometimes use rinse water to pre-soak stuck on dishes as well.
In the winter, the water from washing or soaking dishes should be left to cool. This way it releases its valuable heat into the home, rather than the sewer. Dishwashers, that are not built-in, allow reuse of the water for pre-rinsing heavily soiled dishes because they drain into the sink. The water can be trapped in the sink, or a soiled pot, where the heat is slowly released into the home, saving energy costs in the winter. Of course, the opposite applies in the summer, when extra heat is not desirable.
Very hot water is not always necessary for all washing and rinsing needs. Usually, by the time we are finished washing our hands, the water is just beginning to warm up so really, all we have done is heat up our pipes. We can conserve water easily by turning off the tap while lathering hands. The running water is really only necessary for initial wetting, then rinsing so running water in between is really a waste.
Now, if you measured the amount of water saved each day by those simple methods we just described – there would be dozens of gallons of pure, drinkable water left untouched in the reservoir. By reducing hot water consumption, our energy bills are a little bit smaller. All this, just from the kitchen sink!


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