In a post, Gardens Organization, I documented what we planted in the school’s spring garden and when we expected to harvest the various vegetables. The problem is that nothing grew. Nothing. We have a watering system that we knew was not as efficient as we wanted. but we didn’t realize how inefficient until we had months without any rain. Seeds don’t grow without water.
Late in the spring when it was obvious that we had a problem, the grade 5 students did a uniformity test as described by IFAS. Both classes calculated the amount of water collected in cups at 5 minute intervals for 20 minutes. The early morning class had a strong wind at the time of the test. The early afternoon class had a light breeze. The morning class found that some of the cups collected no water and others collected only a few mm. The afternoon class found that all the cups collected water but still only a few mm. at best. Our watering system was not efficient enough to provide moisture for the seeds to germinate.
The same system was in place last fall when we grew and harvested many vegetables from the garden, so we didn’t question the efficiency of the watering system. However, during the fall there were frequent and regular rains. We are discussing the possibilities of putting a better system in place for the next school year. One of the limitations is that the school garden is in an open area. I hesitate to install a micro irrigation system because I’m afraid it will disappear over the weekend or some evening, so something more permanently attached but efficient is needed.
When we installed the microirrigation system, we didn’t realize the water pressure was a problem, although the people installing the system said I was lucky to have such good water pressure. We tested the system while they were here and it seemed to function without problems.
I realized that the water pressure was too high for the system when I discovered that several tubes repeatedly came loose from the emitters when the system was turned on early in the morning. I called the contractor to see what I could do to fix the problem. His solution was to install a device to reduce the water pressure at the source of the water. He arrived a few days later to install the device and didn’t charge me anything for the modification. Wonderful! I was afraid that modification would have to be made at each emitter, so this simple, one device reduces the pressure throughout the system, was a happy solution.
Oh, delight. I am no longer dragging a hose around to water my plants. I love technology and I love my new microirrigation system. After living here for almost a year, we decided it was time to do something about the lack of an irrigation system. There were old pipes in the ground with rotary heads, but several of them were broken or missing, and the old control panel didn’t work.
I knew I needed professional help, so I made a call to arrange a consultation. His recommendation was that it would cost less to install a new system than it would to dig up and repair the old system. We had no idea where all the old pipes were or how good they were. To ensure the old pipes were in good condition would involve digging up the entire system and that seemed like a waste of time and money. I could also see that many of the old rotary heads were in locations where I don’t need water, so to reconnect them would be very inefficient.
My Goal: The old rotary head system was set up to water turf grass but maintaining turf grass is not part of my plan. I’m trying to establish a Florida-Friendly landscape that will be drought tolerant and that once established will need little water. I knew I needed at least 3 sections or zones: one for the front yard that will need little water once established, another for the vegetables that will need more water than the front area, and a third that will provide water until the fruit trees are established.
The System: We decided to install a microirrigation system. Plants only absorb water in contact with their roots. A microirrigation system allows controlled distribution of water where the plants are located. The photo above shows the plastic tube that was installed around the edge of the garden. It is easy to attach small emitters to the plastic tube so there is a controlled release of water where needed. The emitters can be adjusted to allow just a few drips of water or a small steady stream. It is easy to modify the system. I have already added a few tubes and emitters for new plants I have put in since the microirrigation system was installed.
The new control panel allows me to set the time and day for each zone. If it has rained and there is no need for the microirrigation system to turn on, a rain gauge turns off the system temporarily.
Can I say it again? I love the new microirrigation system.
The 4H Garden Goodies group at the Hillsborough County Extension Office set up a microirrigation system for their garden, after a brief discussion about the importance of water for plants. With adult guidance, the students cut the lengths of tube for different sections of the garden, connecting them with T and L joints. While students worked, Lynn Barber, Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Agent I for the Hillsborough County Extension Serviceand Maria Carver, Hillsborough County Water-Wise Coordinator, talked to the students about the advantages of controlling the water rate and placement through a microirrigation system rather than a solid set (pipes and spray or rotary heads) or a hand-held hose system. The students understood why they were putting in the microirrigation system and enjoyed spending time working together on a sunny Florida afternoon. It was hard work but the result was an (almost) complete system.
We were in The Villages, FL last weekend. I’m always amazed at the beauty of the plants along roadsides and around commercial areas, but over the last year I’ve noticed a definite change in the types of plants used. Increasingly, public area plants have been converted to those that require less water.
The Home & Garden section of The Villages’ Daily Sun newspaper (4/3/2010) described water-wise practices The Villages management is following. The article defined water-wise plants as “those that can take water one day a week”.
The article suggested that if residents of The Villages watch the changes in the public areas, that it will help residents to select appropriate water-wise plants for their yards. Water-wise plants recommended are Indian hawthorn (see photo), Parson’s juniper, dwarf Walter’s viburnum, and variegated Dianella, also known as blueberry flax lily. Liriope is a good grass to use as a border plant.
The article emphasized that water-wise plants need regular watering until they are established, but most will survive on rainfall alone, except in drought years when additional irrigation by watering systems is needed.
I find it encouraging that such a large management corporation is making an effort to be water-wise, although I’m sure one of the main factors is that it reduces their budget for water just as it reduces the water budget for residents of The Villages.