Category Archives: Plants

Water Conservation – Ideas are still percolating in …

June 21, 2018

Yesterday I set out to water the fruit and nut trees for the first time this year. I thought it would be a lot of work because 1) it has been hot and, 2) because May precipitation was a record low .3 inches and June is just average at 1.29 inches so far.

Well, I was wrong. Thanks to a couple of handy tools we were able to purchase (thanks to a City of Seattle grant for our Water Conservation Project) I ended up watering just three of our 13 trees.

Our tubular soil sampler (0.5″ diameter x 7″ length) and soil moisture meter (9″ probe) literally go hand in hand. After calibrating our moisture meter, we drove it into the ground and noted the reading for the percent of water in the soil. Then we inserted the soil sampler, gave it a twist, pulled it up, and inspected the soil plug to see if it confirmed the meter reading. With the use of these tools, we will become more and more confident that we are watering effectively.

Sat, Jul 7, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Jul 15, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Jul 21, 10am, Bee & Pollination lecture
Sat, Aug 4, 10-12, Water Conservation Open House

When it’s hot and it’s not raining, our impulse is to water. However, water is precious. I prefer to try to minimize the time it takes to water. Over watering also causes nutrients to leach out of the root zone of the plant. (Stunted slow growth with yellowing leaves is a sign of over watering.)

We now chart the readings we take, the amount of water we apply and then will follow-up to see if the amount of water we applied was sufficient. We have so much fine-tuning to do but it’s exciting to experiment and learn.

Meanwhile, Sue just finished installation of a third method of gravity fed irrigation in the tomato bed. With this method, she can efficiently target certain plants for more or less water. In addition, more of her time is free to care for plants like this purple flowered native Morning Glory – Ipomea purpurea (not to be confused with bindweed) in the vertical bed.

Ruth

Soil Camp

May 27, 2018

Last week I attended a five-day soil science class with research scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham, just outside of Oroville, CA, where they say Ahmonds when referring to Almonds.

Seven of us hovered over microscopes much of the time, counting nematodes, protozoa, and bacteria. Near the end of each day, it was hard to differentiate the floaters in our eyes from the Oomycetes we were trying to measure.

By Thursday I accomplish something very special – how to correctly place the cover slip on the slide. Seriously, this is an important step. By the time you are done measuring the volume of an organism per gram of soil, by taking five counts from each of five sections of each slide, you hope your standard deviation is at an acceptable level. A way to increase the reliability of your data is to master the art of the cover slip.

On Tuesday, I ask Elaine, who never refuses anyone’s questions, if I can watch her put the cover slip on the slide. Instantly I hear chairs screech as the other students dart over to watch.

Elaine, with the grace that comes from 40 years of doing anything, places the edge of the cover slip on the slide and we watch the drop of water disperse along the edge of the slip. Then she sweeps back and forth, back and forth and drops the slip.

I take a breath and try it again myself. As soon as I start my slide I realize I have missed some step. I drop the cover slip and there is an air bubble and all of the visible organic matter is under 20% of the cover slip!

On Wednesday I tell myself not to be proud and again I ask, “Dr. Elaine, would you mind if I watch you put the cover slip on again.” She graciously gets out of her chair and, once again, the other students position themselves to see the show. She places the edge of the slip to the left of the drop. The drop, hugs the right side of the slip. She leaves the slip in contact with the slide and sweeps to the RIGHT, then left, then right, then drops it. Aha…

By Thursday, I am preparing more uniform samples. (Look soon on our Library page for the soil test results of the thermal compost I made last November. (Thanks immensely to Jennifer Micheli, Elaine’s employee, for enhancing Dr. Ingham’s soil biology test result spreadsheet.)

By Friday, we have completed everything on the agenda (white board photo) and have bathed in the knowledge of Dr. Ingham for a whole week (except for half a day when a film crew from Johns Hopkins was visiting the farm). I am certain it was the most worthwhile and enjoyable investment in education I have made.

Ruth

Let ‘er Drip

April 17, 2018

Last summer, as most of you know, we carried water around in buckets to water the plants. Afecobrochure-map-update-compressed few times each summer, we got help from a dozen 5-8 year olds.

One hot August day, we gave each of the kids a yogurt container, showed them where the drip line was and then asked them to scoop from the bucket and water the parched fruit trees.

One of the younger students filled her yogurt tub, wandered out to the middle of the orchard, and dumped her water on a dandelion.

I made no response, either verbally or physically. It took me a minute to realize that, to her, that plant needed water and watering plants was her mission.

Well, we have come a long way since then and we are close to having our gravity fed drip irrigation system in place, the final component of our water conservation project. We will be using and evaluating three different drip systems. Congratulations to Luke and Dylan for their fine brochure describing the entire water conservation project.

Volunteers have been researching everything from bolt strength to bending bamboo to head meg-w-driver-sm-wp_20180306_002pressure for a given tank height. Perhaps the most physically challenging task to date has been driving 10-foot steel U posts with a 40-pound manual driver.

Sat, May 5, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, May 20, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Jun 2, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Jun 17, 2-4, Work Party

Most everything has been a new learning experience. We had some money in our budget to hire consultants but we were not able to find anyone experienced. Surely, there is another garden nearby where they are growing food with just rainwater and without any electricity?

max-ruth-at-aspar-water-barrel-20180415_161453_hdrVolunteers did a fabulous job of noticing used materials: recycled cistern, recycled water barrels, recycled bamboo, recycled wood for bracing. (Ken found 6×6 lumber and ripped it for us!)

The whole system should be up and watering by the time the dry season is upon us. Our plan is to have an open house in early August.

And, we are excited that the kids are coming back this summer to help water. Will they remember where the drip line is?

Ruth