Tag Archives: Water conservation

Get To The Root Of The Matter

February 4, 2019

Last week Sue helped us plan the vegetables for the year. We were thinking of what to plant near the far north olla and we got out our photos of plant root lengths from the summer.

The olla best serves a plant with a deeper root system. (See Water Conservation page on Ollas.) We decided peas would be a good choice.

The plants can teach us so much. We dig up some of the roots to assess for health and to measure length.

Sat, Feb 16, 1-3, Pruning Class
Sun Feb 17, 2-4, Work Party
Sun Mar 17, 2-4, Work Party
Fri Apr 12, 10-12, Fig Pruning

We got a surprise in October when we pulled out the cucumbers and peppers that were planted near an olla. Carefully, we used the hori hori and excavated around the base of the olla to see which plants took advantage of the water. A small fig tree, planted about 10 feet from the olla, had wrapped its roots tightly around the brown water vessel. And Nancy wondered why her little fig didn’t need any water during the dry months!

Now we know that root pruning is another task for the winter to-do list. Check your own garden bed sites to see if any plants may be robbing water from your edibles.

Here is a good chart on root depth per plant (page 1). Following that is an interesting chart on the water needed to provide certain nutrition parameters by crop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week, three of us heard our State Climatologist Nick Bond speak. Nick is still delivering the same message; in general, western Washington is in for dryer summers and wetter winters. In addition to being water efficient, the more water we can collect during the winter the more we will have in the summer.

We are lucky to have our cisterns and, if we had one more, we could make it through the summer. Last year we used our 4,000 gallons from our cisterns plus 1,300 from the City water supply.

We will continue to explore ways to increase water efficiency. Check out the recent addition to the Perforated Pipe Page.

Ruth

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