Friday, December 7, 2012

Apple Box 2 - Irrigation

As we eagerly await tomorrows swap and Apple Box #3, let’s not forget one bright November morn, when all manner of crops and homemade treats had been swapped and free-flowing conversation filled the hall, that veteran Crop 'n' Swapper Alice Warner took her place on the proverbial apple box to share her knowledge and experiences on setting up your own backyard irrigation.

DIY Irrigation by Alice Warner

So what is irrigation? Well it’s like lego for your garden. You can connect it yourself and the possibilities are endless. It all fits together using small connectors of different shapes.

There are two main types of polypipe hose that I use: brown dripline with holes pre-punched into the line, and black polypipe without holes which I attach precision drippers to at intervals as I please. The brown dripline is best for vegie beds where you need water every 30cm, whilst the black line is useful for fruit trees and larger shrubs that are spaced further apart where you don’t want to waste water in between the trees.

The various connectors I use to join it all together can be placed according to the job they need to do.  There are elbow joiners, end pieces, straight connectors and tees. There are locks to hold the connectors in place, as well as plugs to plug up unwanted holes or mistakes and tools to punch holes in new places. You can buy pieces to connect your irrigation to a regular garden hose, and mounts with nails to attach irrigation to the sides of garden beds or other surfaces. The possibilities are endless. There are usually helpful booklets in the hardware store put out by the manufacturer to explain all this.

The main benefits of irrigation that I have noticed include: less time watering and more time in the garden doing other things; reduced evaporation while watering as droplets are not blown away by wind or spread all over the ground to areas where they are not needed; water is directed straight to plant roots; reduced weed growth in between plants as the area is not watered; reduced water run-off and wastage; reduced fungal disease due to lack of overhead watering.

Here are a few tips to help you set up your own irrigation system and learn from my mistakes

1) Place the brown dripline under mulch to protect it from UV rays but above the soil (sections of black polypipe without holes punched in may be buried under soil when transporting water between trees)
2) Draw a diagram before you begin and use a key to label how many of each connector type you will need, thus avoiding many trips back to the hardware store.
3) Buy more locks than you think you will need as every connection needs a lock.
4) Lay your brown dripline before you plant and then place seedlings or seeds right next to a dripper.
5) Use a container with multiple compartments to keep your various connectors organised.
6) You will also need pliers and a small saw to cut the dripline to the lengths you require.
7) Don’t use second-hand polypipe without checking for holes first (although this can be useful for creating a frame when netting fruit trees or garden beds).
8) Once your irrigation is connected, turn it on for at least an hour at a time to get the full benefit, or use a bucket under a dripper to see how long your plants will require.
9) Install your irrigation properly. Don’t just curl it around like a snake. Cut it to size and connect it at right angles using the appropriate connectors, you will thank yourself later.
10)You can connect irrigation in raised garden beds – you just need to go down to the ground, under the soil and up to the next bed.
11) Use short lengths of wire folded into U-shapes and pushed into the ground to secure the dripline and prevent it from curling back into a snake when you first lay it down.

Feel free to chat to me at the next Crop and Swap if you have any more questions or suggestions. Good luck!