Tag Archives: Water conservation

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 (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

FECO Water Conservation Grant – Step Three – Ollas and Perforated Pipe

March 19, 2018

Our efforts this year center on water conservation and we are attempting three different methods to deliver water to plants: gravity fed drip irrigation (coming soon), ollas, and deep perforated pipe. All of these methods will save water but they all will also minimize the time and physical effort it takes to water the plants.

Irrigating with ollas offers the following water conservation benefits:180318-sm-sue-olla-_20180318_0622

  • Less evaporation
  • Less runoff
  • Plant roots more directly targeted
  • Less over-watering
  • Promotion of deep roots
  • More consistent soil moisture

Ollas (also referred to as pitcher irrigation) are used in nearly all parts of the world and have been in use for at least two thousand years. (Research by Siyal)

Ollas are often handmade. The clay pots are porous because they are unglazed. The release of water by the pot into the soil is very low tech! When the water content in the soil decreases due to absorption by the roots and/or evaporation into the air, more water passes from the pot into the soil. The dampness of the soil stays more or less constant at all times; a huge benefit for the health of many vegetable plants.

Potters can increase the porosity of the pot by adding other materials to the clay and also by firing the clay at temperatures below 1000 Celsius.

(Note: Using liquid fertilizers in the irrigation water may cause salt build-up and clog the small pores. Hard water can cause the same problem.)

Our pots originated in Mexico and are made with Tecate clay, found in an area 25 miles wide that stretches from the Northern Baja border South 60 miles.

We have finer soil at FECO so water dispersion might tend to be more horizontal than if you had sandy soil. We loosened the soil well when we installed the ollas to eliminate air pockets.

Olla irrigation is reported to be most efficient for crops with fibrous root systems like squash, melons, watermelons, tomatoes, and chilies.

Sun, Apr 15, 2-4, Work Party
Sun, May 20, 2-4, Work Party
Sat, Jun 2, 10-12, Work Party
Sun, Jun 17, 2-4, Work Party

We also buried perforated bamboo pipes around dylan-and-pipe-wp_20180316_002the blueberries and up through the center of our new vertical garden.

We drilled a hole through each node but not through the bottom node. Then we drilled holes along one side of the pipe, for pipes buried next to a blueberry plant. Each bamboo pipe holds about 1/2 gallon of water. We buried the pipe vertical about two feet down and added a mesh screen at the opening to keep out debris.

Our hope is for the blueberry roots to reach down deep toward the water so the plant is more drought-tolerant in the summer. Perforated pipes are especially suitable for shrubs.

Our next challenge is the first part of the gravity fed drip irrigation system – the installation of 40 gallon reservoirs at each food bank garden bed.

Please consider joining us at the April work party or contact us if you can help on another date.

Ruth

garden-w-soil-and-pipe-20180319_190702_hdrother resources:

David Bainbridge, in his book Gardening With Less Water (2015), and
http://www.globalbuckets.org/p/olla-irrigation-clay-pot-system.html