Memorial Day in Wisconsin marks a gardening milestone. It is the first date considered safe for planting cold-sensitive flowers and vegetables. Once it arrives, it’s full speed ahead!
But any experienced gardener will tell you there is an important consideration that hits right after you plant. You’ll need some garden irrigation (or good sneakers and big buckets) to keep your transplant babies watered.
Default Irrigation: Sprinklers
Now the default way to water an urban/suburban garden is the classic lawn sprinkler. It’s inexpensive, simple to understand, covers a large area (great for lawns) and is easy to move.
But there are some downsides to sprinklers. They send the water up into the air where a lot is lost to evaporation. Even in water-plentiful areas like the Great Lakes, this can be expensive. The other big problem is that water from sprinklers splashes through and sits on foliage where it can promote disease. If you are trying to garden organically, you don’t want to do anything to compromise your plant health!
Happily, there are devices that reduce this problem: soaker hoses and drip irrigation. A soaker hose is a porous hose that drips water along its length. These are perfect for getting water directly to the base of a plant and work well along a garden row or laid in a spiral under a tree canopy (tree roots cover that whole area out to the drip line, not just by the trunk).
A third option is drip irrigation. This consists of a long line of non-porous hosing that you puncture (and add an “emitter” to) where you want water to flow out. It works well for widely spaced plantings—and you can even attach lengths of soaker hose to it for areas that would benefit from more coverage.
You can see a video showing some of this here.
Right now, we are working on getting a backyard orchard going and just added nine young trees and additional raspberries. So I was very happy to get a soaker hose kit from Flexon (products available from Lowes, etc). It included 100 feet of soaker hose plus a variety of connectors and end pieces.
This kit can be turned into a basic soaker hose by putting on a screw hose attachment and an end cap–or it can be turned into a custom irrigation system. Since we are covering a lot of square feet (with as much as 12-foot tree spacing), we chose the latter and also used a drip system in the mix.
Using these we were able to do things like connect a length of Flexon soaker hose from long drip line (see below), running it the length of our raspberries, as well as reach trees way out in the “back 40” (okay “back 3 ½”).
When we turned the faucet on it was exciting to see the water coming out just where it was supposed to! All while happily minimizing water loss and providing less water to the weeds.
I know it will be a number of years before we get fruit, but I’m getting psyched for some good eating. The areas we established a number of years back (pears, raspberries and mulberries) are treating us well and I can’t wait for more.
There are just a few more considerations for your garden irrigation system. If your water pressure is high, you will need to use a pressure regulator to restrict the flow. Otherwise the pressure can cause a hose to bulge and break or spring leaks. In our case, the system is on a low pressure well (we need a special shower head just to get a good shower), so we skipped this step for now, though we’ll go back and install it if we have any problems.
Second, the zoning in some areas requires a backflow preventer, to keep dirty water from being sucked back into your plumbing system. Even where not required, it is a good idea—who wants dirty water flowing into their house. In our case, our irrigation system is attached to a timer that includes a backflow preventer, so we are covered.
The final component to consider is a timer. If you are forgetful, overly busy (who isn’t overly busy!) or travel a lot, this can turn your water off and on for you. Just be aware that if both your timer and hose bibb (outside faucet) have backflow preventer, they effectively cancel each other out and you may want to change out your basic hose bibb backflow device for a more specialized piece of equipment.
Are you ready to take your garden irrigation to the next level? Then consider this giveaway for the soaker kit pictured above, a 24.78 value, sponsored by Flexon. It is open to mailing addresses in the US and closes at midnight CDT on June 17. To enter, leave a comment below telling me what your gardening plans are this summer. For a second entry, sign up for Art of Natural Living emails (below my picture) and leave me a second comment, letting me know that you did (or that you already subscribe). The winner will be picked randomly, contacted by email and have 24 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be chosen.
- Simple, Three Ingredient, Rhubarb Sauce
- Salmon with Capers Appetizer or Sandwich Spread