Mar 172015
 
Lettuce and drip irrigation

by Avis Licht

row cover and drip irrigation

In warm weather you can cover your beds with row covers, and irrigate with drip irrigation

California is in its fourth year of devastating drought. All of us need to pay attention to our water use. But this does not mean that we have to give up growing some of our own food. Quite to the contrary, we can grow fruit and vegetables with much less water at home than large scale agriculture.

I have just come back from a road trip that took me to the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains and then south to the Kern River and across the San Joaquin Valley, the agricultural center of California. It was an eye opener for many reasons.  Owens Lake held significant water until 1924, when much of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, causing Owens Lake to dry up.[2] Today, some of the flow of the river has been restored, and the lake now contains a little bit of water. Nevertheless, as of 2013, it is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.[3] 

To learn more about this read Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. Each action we take to conserve water, DOES make a difference.

We saw large reservoirs that were at 5 percent of capacity. Nearly empty. We saw farmers using huge machinery to take out fully grown orange trees and throw them on the ground to die because they don’t have enough water for irrigation. It was unbelievably sad to see.

But there are ways for you to grow food, that are water conserving and healthy for the environment and for you.

Here are 5 easy ways to conserve water for your garden and grow delicious food. Good for you and good for the earth.

1.Prepare the ground by loosening the soil and adding humus, in the form of compost and/or manure. The quality and health of the soil is vitally import to the health of your plants. Compacted soil will not absorb or retain water very well. This is a very underrated activity for water conservation. Building raised beds with wood or stone and then filling with organic topsoil is one way to do this. Another way is to dig the soil and add humus.

Small vegetable garden

Raised beds make for a healthy soil

2. Create paths and walkways through your garden. DO NOT WALK ON YOUR BEDS! I mean it. The fastest way to ruin your soil is to walk on it and compress it. You remove the air pockets and prevent air and water percolation. Try it. Step on the ground and water it. It will puddle and then most of the water will evaporate. Trust me on this.

3. Mulch, mulch, mulch.  Oh, and did I say mulch? Yes, this makes a huge difference in the evaporation rate of water through the soil surface. There are many kinds of mulch. Read about them here.

4. Plant some of your smaller herbs and veggies in pots and containers. When a pot is close to the house, it is easy to remember to water and you can use the left over water from the sink, or the shower.  I have had great success with herbs, carrots, lettuce, and peppers in containers. You can use self watering containers that let you go away for weeks at a time without worrying about your plants drying out.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

A good harvest in a small place, with very little water.

5. Drip irrigation is the easiest and uses the least water of any method of irrigation. Done well, it puts the right amount of water directly to the roots of the plants and has the least evaporation rates. Check out the book by Robert Kourik on Drip Irrigation. It’s great. Combine drip with a water controller and weather station and you will be golden for putting the right amount of water on at the right time. Many water districts give rebates on these controllers.

There are other ways to gather, store and conserve water in the garden. These are five easy ways to start. Don’t worry, I’ll talk about more ways to save water in future blogs. Right now, it’s important to get started from the ground up, so to speak.

the water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom.  Great use of space and water.

The water at the top drips down to the plants at the bottom. Great use of space and water.

Edible landscaping

Enter the Edible Landscape using a PATH.

Jun 122013
 

by Avis Licht

Mixed herbs in the landcape

Mixed herbs in the landcape

In the garden my plants are bursting with happiness from the latest rains after some very warm days.  In northern California we rarely get rain in June, and when we do, it’s cause for celebration.  Irrigation from the municipal water that is treated with chemicals, is not the same as rain and the plants truly respond to the difference.  Read about nitrogen and rain in this post.

Father’s Day is coming up soon.  Be sure your favorite Dad has the tools he needs for his garden. Great Garden Tools

A few easy and useful tips for keeping your summer garden growing well:

1.Check your irrigation system for leaks and make sure all the plants are getting watered.  With overhead sprinklers plants can get missed by interfering foliage.  With drips, you need to check that they are working, haven’t popped off and that there are enough for your plants. Drip is good at conserving water, but you still need to check for moisture  around your plants.

I recommend Robert Kourik’s book on drip irrigation. He is the expert and as we say, wrote the book on it.  Read about it here. 

Here is the place to get drip irrigation at excellent prices: Drip Irrigation Products

2. Mulch your plants to keep the soil from compacting, to preserve moisture and reduce weeds.  Read this post about different types of mulch. I talk about how to pick the right mulch for your garden.

3. Keep Your Eyes Open.  By this I mean, walk around the garden regularly and look at the plants, the soil, and the birds and the bees. By noticing changes in your plants early you can rectify things. For example,  if they are being eaten by bugs, snails or birds, if they’re wilting due to lack of water, sun or even too much moisture, or just not thriving, you will be able to keep the garden healthy before it is too  late. Doing this one thing can be the difference be success and not so much success.

4. Enjoy your garden.  Take the time to sit back with a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  I’ve placed chairs in various places around the garden so that there’s always the right place to sit no matter what time of day it is.

A  quiet shady place to read

A quiet shady place to read or perhaps catch a few winks

May 072012
 
Lettuce with drip irrigation


A bed of lettuce

Closely planted lettuce in Spring

by guest blogger extraordinaire: Robert Kourik

Robert Kourik is a guest blogger for this site. He’s definitely got the right credentials. Author of Your Edible Landscape Naturally, and Drip Irrigation for Every Landscape and All Climates, he’s got lots of experience and lots of opinions. In this article he has some radical suggestions for how to use your drip irrigation.  Give it a try and see for yourself if it works in your garden. Let me know what you think. Being conscious of our water use is imperative and drip irrigation is an important tool.

Robert writes:

It’s about time to start up drip irrigation systems. No matter how you use drip irrigation, frequently or every once in a while, it will always be more efficient than any sprinkler you’re currently using.

Consider daily irrigation for the best growth and greatest vegetable yields. Daily irrigation doesn’t use gallons of extra water. Oddly enough, infrequent watering may use more water than frequent, even daily, irrigation. If you have young seedlings, their roots are shallow, near the soil surface. They need access to water easily. Infrequent watering can have the effect of deep soil moisture and shallow dryness.

The other main consideration for frequent watering of small amounts is the texture of your soil. If you have a sandy or light loam soil, water will go through quickly and not be held in the soil. A clay soil will hold moisture much longer and should be watered less frequently. As with all the other tips you’ve read, observation of your own plants in your own garden will be the best way to determine what works best for you.

1/4 inch drip with lettuce

Newly planted baby bibb lettuce with 1/4 in drip

Lettuce grown

Lettuce fills in with 1/4 in drip

Once I planted a drought-resistant landscape with plants such as lavender, santolina, rockroses and rosemary. The day after planting, the timer was set to irrigate for 15 minutes. After the risk of transplant shock was over, the drip irrigation was turned on each day for only eight minutes to replace the moisture lost each day by transpiration. The plants flourished, even though each one-half-gph emitter was distributing only seven tablespoons of water per emitter each day. Contrast this with a nearby garden with a similar soil and plants arbitrarily watered only twice a month for four hours. This amounts to two gallons per emitter for the two-week period, or just more than 18 tablespoons of water per day—more than twice the water used in the flourishing landscape.

Please visit Robert at his website: RobertKourik.com and find out about all his books.

I would add one more thing to help you decide how much and how often to water. Use a moisture meter. It has a probe that you can put into the soil to see what the moisture is at different levels below the surface. A dry surface does NOT mean the soil is dry. You need to check 2 – 6 inches below to see if your soil is wet or dry.

moisture meter

Best tool ever. This will save you time, water and money.

Jan 182012
 


by Avis Licht –

 Water and the World

The earth through a drop of water – Thank you Markus Reugals, photographer

 Here’s an amazing fact:

All the water that is on the earth now has always been here!  No water has ever been gained or lost in the water cycle. Global warming is radically changing the availability of water on earth and it’s distribution: either through storms, hurricanes or droughts.

Glaciers hold water in the form of ice.  On mountains, these glaciers slowly release water in the summer for farmers to use on their crops. As the Earth’s temperature warms up glaciers are not only receding, but disappearing.  This is a huge problem for farmers who will not have water available to them in the summer when they need it.

The driest year in many decades

December 2011

These two photos were taken in the same place exactly one year apart. One year had the most snow in modern history, the following year, had the least snow recorded.

 

One year the snow is heavier than ever

December 2010

 

Being conscious of changes in our climate will encourage us to make good choices in our use of  precious water resources.  Those of us who grow food will have an opportunity to make many  choices in the garden – let us choose wisely.

In the next period of time, I’ll be talking about how to create healthy soil, rain water harvesting, slowing the movement of water and returning it into the water table, best irrigation practices and much more.

There’s so much we can do to take positive action in the garden.

After two months of winter drought - Rain!

After months of drought we look forward to rain - Let it begin!

 

 

 

 

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