Blog Archives

Video Wednesday: Efficient Water Use

As the weather gets hotter, we want to make sure that we are using water as efficiently as possible.

A Couple of Garden Problems

Looking over the garden this morning after the weekend, I spotted a couple of things going on that will result in replacing a couple of plants around the garden.

This is the first problem I noticed. I saw it when the damage was fresh Saturday morning as well. While it is theoretically possible that there was a weak spot on the stem that the wind snapped, I think that the most likely culprit in this case is a cutworm. Cutworms like to wrap around the stems of young seedlings or transplants and chew them off. That is exactly what this looks like. This pepper plant is done for, at this point. We will be replanting this one tomorrow.

This tomato plant is the worst, although I can see 3 or 4 others with similar symptoms. At first glance, most people would say that the plant is wilting and needs a drink of water. Very tempting response! However, there were three things that made me question that immediate reaction. First, while the plant is wilted, there is no sign of leaf scorch or similar damage that there should have been after the warm weekend. Second, I felt the soil a couple of inches down and in felt moist. If the plant can’t get water out of that soil, then it has some type of root damage, but isn’t yet to the point of scorching. Also, the lower leaves were looking rather yellow, which to me says that the plant has either been getting too much water or it is suffering from too few or too many nutrients.

What I am wondering is if in our concern for keeping the soil moist enough for our germinating seeds, we actually OVER-watered the tomatoes last week. As tempting as it is to put more water on a wilty plant, I’m going to try to hold off the watering and see if they will perk up again. If not, we’ve got some plants in reserve to replace the couple sickly looking plants.

It is theoretically possible that these plants were planted in a localized hot spot due to the compost that we used. I haven’t gotten all the results back yet, but I expect some high numbers. Or…maybe the nitrogen has all been leached out…that also causes yellowing. (But not wilting.) Hmm…

Friday PhotoEssay

Welcome to our 2nd Friday PhotoEssay of the season! I don’t have much more to show you beyond what we had earlier in the week, but there are a few things.

It would appear that our drainage system works. On one hand, that’s good. On the other hand, this is the water running out as we were busily trying to get the soil in our raised beds moist enough to plant in on Tuesday. Hmm…

On closer examination, it appears that we may be making compost tea as we try to get the beds thoroughly moist. Not very thrilled with that…both from the nutrient loss standpoint and the sending nutrients into the sewers standpoint. Any ideas? The seeping is too low and slow to really capture that water.

One part of the garden that isn’t fully finished yet is our Wheelchair/Accessible garden. It is still in the planning and design stage. Meanwhile, we have this wheeled container cart holding the spot. Our Horticulture Therapy committee has an eggplant and a pepper in two of the pots right now, and will be adding a tomato shortly.

In the Beautiful Vegetables garden we planted some black sesame. The seeds (not surprisingly!) look like black-colored sesame seeds.

We cut the top 3-4 inches off of the Cardinal Basil plants that we planted on Tuesday. Even though these are a little muddy, they are too good to waste! This is a quick way to get the first basil of the season. Our speaker at Herb Day, Jim Long, also talked about how important it is to constantly be cutting herbs back to keep them flavorful.

Have a great weekend!


Installing the Drip Irrigation

Yesterday (Monday) we got the vast majority of the drip lines installed in the garden. Our supplier was out of one of the adapter pieces we needed to connect the timers in all the beds, so only the 4 largest raised beds are completely hooked up right now. The others have drip lines in place while we wait for the remaining connectors to come in.

We are using Netafim tubing with in-line emitters every 12 inches. The flow rate is 0.6 gallons per hour.

The first thing we hooked up was this gadget. On the right side you can just see part of the red handle that turns the water on to each bed. To that we connected one of these Nelson irrigation timers. It is a very cheap timer (about $10.50 each) that just mechanically clicks down the minutes. It can be set to run up to 2 hours or set to be “ON” manually. The timer was then connected to the brown connector for the drip line. Don’t forget your teflon tape to keep them from leaking!

The next step was to stretch the drip tubing the length of the bed. We decided to put 3 lines in each bed. We have always had 2 in each bed, but we had trouble keeping them evenly watered. We’re hoping that 3 lines will be better at even watering.

We connected all three lines on each end use “L” and “T” connectors. Here you can see one of the “T” connectors that we were putting in. I should note – it is much easier to put these drip lines together on a warm day than on a cold day. The last time we replaced some lines in was on a cool March morning, and they didn’t want to go together for anything! The upper 70s of yesterday afternoon were perfect.

Here you can see the finished drip line in the treated lumber bed. We secured the lines with the metal “staples.” Because of the way the irrigation spigots are in place, how we connected the drip lines was a little different in each bed.

When we got to the plastic lumber bed that has the second tier on it, we got to try something new! I think that ordinarily it wouldn’t be ideal for the lines to go up and down, but it was only about a 6 inch rise and we have plenty of water pressure! We brought the lines up inside the second level beds, using the “L” connectors to keep the lines straight.

Here you can see all the beds with the drip lines in them. We had all the connectors for the 4 largest beds, and we will hand water the rest until the final pieces come in.

Next up: Planting!


A Little Bit of Rain

How much rain did you get last night? Here at the office, the rain gauge measured about 1.5 inches. That’s a good start! However, don’t assume that things are now back to “normal” or that some parts of your yard or garden don’t still need more water.

Areas that have been well-watered and have good loamy soil probably soaked up a lot of the rain – like our raised beds. Other areas that haven’t been watered as well (or at all) or that have heavy clay soil probably didn’t soak up near as much of that rain as you might wish.

Case in point – our other horticulture agent went out with a soil probe this morning to see how far the water soaked into different spots in our Arboretum, which has been largely unwatered and has clay soils. Here are his results:

  • On a slope, the rain soaked in about a half inch. Yikes, not very much! That rain mostly ran off.
  • On a flat surface, the rain soaked in about 3 inches. Okay, that’s better, but still not great. If we get more rain, this will improve.
  • In a spot with a slight depression (where that rain sat after running off the slopes), it soaked in 6 inches. That’s more like it! Still not getting very deep, but it will provide a little relief.

The moral of the story – we need about a week of gentle rainfall so that it can soak in thoroughly, but this is a good start!

I’m done being a downer now – the next post will be more exciting!