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Water Conservation in 2018 – Is It Working?

August 2, 2018

Please visit us this Saturday, 10-noon, for a tour of our new watering system. We will have signage throughout the orchard and we will be anxious to get your ideas about how we can manage water even more efficiently.

Our system begins with our three cisterns, which catch 4,000 gallons during winter rains. Our human-powered treadle pump pushes water into barrels that are five feet above the garden beds. We have three different gravity-fed drip irrigation systems that do the work of spreading the water from the elevated barrels to the plants.

We are also using 1/4″ poly line siphoned from 5-gallon buckets for trees, clay ollas matched with perennial and annual vegetables, perforated pipe (bamboo) for our vertical garden and for edible shrubs.

Sat, Aug 4, 10-12, Open House/ Work Party
Sun, Aug 19, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Sep 1, 10-noon, Work Party
Sun Sep 9, 10-11, Intro to Qi Gong
Sun, Sep 16, 2-4, Work Party

Come, review our watering log, our water measuring tools, and find out about mistakes we made, needed improvements, and how we managed to keep clam during the two weeks with temperatures near 90 degrees.

Questions we are expecting on Saturday:

● Is rainwater running off the polycarbonate roof better or worse than tap water?
● Would you stand under the water barrels that weigh 400 pounds?
● Which drip irrigation system can best usher water to specific plants?
● Do the drip systems allow for cleaning and storage in winter?
● How does the rate of water discharge through a drip system affect the percolation depth?
● Can perforated pipes be installed subsequent to planting?
● What are the factors that influence how quickly water will seep from the olla?
● Does cistern water contain bacteria and algae and, if so, will it adversely affect plants?
● What’s the difference between soil moisture based irrigation and crop demand irrigation (evapotranspiration)?
● Are some crops better at using water than others?

More questions? We will soon have a page on our website dedicated to the details of this project. In the meantime, enjoy the marvelous brochure produced by Dylan and Luke (Spellebee Space) on our Library page – Documents of Interest (under photos).

Stay tuned for a celebration if we make it through the summer without turning on City water. Perhaps a water balloon fight!

Ruth

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

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