Spring arrives and it is time to use all the rain drip irrigation water that I stored during the Fall and Winter. It’s also time to expand the garden and build a new orchard and vineyard.
Building More Rain Drip Irrigated Square Foot Gardens
Square foot gardens are easy to build and much easier to maintain than a traditional dirt garden. Really, a couple sacks of peat moss, vermiculite and compost is all it takes! Mix then 1/3 each on a tarp and then roll it into a 8×4 foot box on the ground. I use a weed barrier as the bottom layer to help reduce the amount of weeding needed.
Rain Drip Irrigation in the Origianl Square Foot Garden
My original square foot garden continues to perform well. I do add a bag of compost every year to help replenish the macro and micro nutrients in the soil. My rain drip irrigation system is timed to flow enough water so that each plant is low-moist by the time the next watering cycle occurs. In Texas, I water twice daily for shorter periods rather than once daily.
The Square Foot Gardens
Rain drip irrigated square foot gardens and crowded by design. That crowding can lead to problems when one type of plant shades another type of plant too much. In my case, cucumbers compete too heavily with tomatoes. So, I built two additional SFGs – one for tomatoes and one for cucumbers. We’ll see how that works out.
Drip Irrigation Vegetable Harvests
I am always so excited to pick the first vegetables out of my garden. It’s usually the cherry tomatoes and always worth a little celebration right there in the garden. These didn’t even make it past the garden gate before I ate them!
Rain Drip Irrigation for a Porch Garden
My rain drip collection system resulted in a funny little dog leg by my front porch. A little ingenuity led me to build a small porch garden for plants my wife likes. You can see the rain spout collection filter on the right side of this picture. Garden where you can!
Cherry Trees in Texas?
The nursery in my area found a variety of cherry tree that has low enough chilling hours to qualify for growing in Texas. I love cherries and am very excited about these bare-root cherry trees growing and producing in my rain drip irrigated orchard.
Rain Drip Irrigated Orchard Starts to Grow
Pear trees do very well in Texas and this little guy is growing quickly. This picture was taken in March when it was 24″ tall. As of July, that tree is well over 12 feet tall!
Drip Irrigated Vineyard Starts Growing
These Austin Dewberries are starting to take off nicely from their rain drip irrigation!
Dweberries Don’t Like a Trellis
I have learned that dewberries do not like a trellis for their primacanes – no matter how much rain drip irrigation I provide. I’m going to put these primacanes back on the ground for this season and try to move them to a trellis in Winter so that the floricanes are easier to harvest. It’s also harder for snakes to hide on a trellis!
Orchard Gates and Hinges
Each tree and vine in my rain drip irrigated orchard and vineyard have a fence around them to prevent the deer from eating the leaves. But, to tend the trees and vines, I need to be able to get inside those small fenced enclosures. Also, and possibly more important, I need to be able to get to the tree and vine to appreciate what it is doing and how it grows. So, I build little gates for each enclosure from cattle/hog panels. I devised a little trick using a wire insulator from an electric fence to function as a gate hinge. They aren’t terribly sturdy and do wear out quickly but they definitely meet their goal of providing easy access to my trees and vines so I can more easily adjust my rain drip irrigation flow nozzles.
Summary of Rain Drip Irrigation for Orchard and Garden
Winter fades and the trees and vines in my rain drip irrigated orchard and vineyard and sprouting leaves and growing. Spring arrives and it is time to expand my rain drip irrigated square foot gardens. I am very glad I expanded my rain drip irrigation collection tanks from a couple thousand gallons to over 5000 gallons! I’m going to need more storage for the orchard and vineyard – always something to fuss with in a rain drip irrigated garden and orchard!
The Dog Days of Summer reach their peak in August and chase me into the house to think and reflect on what I’ve done and learned in my gardens with rainwater drip irrigation. I mostly tried to optimize my raised bed garden and experimented with 3 different dirt gardens. My raised bed garden outperformed all of the dirt gardens in almost every aspect – that’s a big lesson!
Lettuce Garden with Raindrip Irrigation
My shaded lettuce garden with garden drip irrigation never really produced any lettuce. The broccoli also performed very poorly and what was there was quickly eaten by bugs. I’m not an “organic” farmer but if I have to chase bugs off with pesticide then it’s not worth it for me. As an experiment, I tossed in some survival kit seeds that I’d saved from heirloom melons and cucumbers the previous. Low and behold they took root and performed better than the broccoli or lettuce!
Melons Thrive, Broccoli Fails
I used a different raindrip irrigation system on the lettuce garden. I used perforated hose with built in emitters rather than the usual black hose with dedicated emitters. For a dirt garden, this was a great approach to easily getting water exactly where I needed it.
Survival Melons with Garden Drip Irrigation
Eventually, the “survival melons” took over as the last of the broccoli withered to the onslaught of pests. The vines on these plants are simply amazing! But, the garden drip irrigation hose is also very wasteful when compared to drip irrigation on my raised bed garden.
Corn Garden with Rainwater Drip Irrigation Struggles in Poor Soil
My dirt corn garden struggled mightily. It was my fault. I knew, when I roto tilled that ground that it was going to be a steep uphill battle to get anything other than Johnson grass to grow. This was a very thirsty garden and I struggled to find the best setup for my rainwater drip irrigation system. A few corn stalks sprouted but it was mostly a battle to keep the Johnson Grass and Coastal Bermuda Grass at bay and the soil moist and loose enough for the plants to grow. I lost that battle and just kept closing down more and more portions of the corn garden as it became evident that my plants were not going to outperform the native grasses already there.
A Few Mature Corn Plants under Raindrip Irrigation
A few plants in the raindrip irrigation dirt corn garden did mature. The successful plants were closest to the Johnson Grass – which should be some sort of indicator of something. Nevertheless, I did spend a lot of time hoeing out Johnson Grass so pick your battles carefully!
Raindrip Irrigated Corn
I did harvest 4-5 ears of corn from the dirt corn garden with garden drip irrigation. They never matured nicely and the kernels were sparse and flat. These plants never got over a few feet high and had a lot of trouble finding a peer to pollinate with. I helped by manually pollinating them but overall, it was not a success.
New Three Sister Garden!
And then I had another wild hair and planted a “Three Sister’s Garden” according to this plan for a Three Sister Garden. Thanks Renee! It was very rough country to start with a lot of native grass and brush to clear to get to bare dirt. I also knew that it would be a long hose needed to provide rainwater drip irrigation to this garden. I marked my mounds and then got very busy with a hoe and weedeater. Thankfully, I did this in June prior to the July/August dog days. I made 36 mounds in total.
Long Lines in a Raindrip Irrigation Garden
I ran a long extension from my raindrip irrigation system to provide water for the Three Sister Garden. Each mound was given a few feet of emitter hose and a dedicated emitter. This combination proved to be very effective and relatively more efficient than just emitter hose by itself. Even with rainwater drip irrigation, you have to be careful about water conservation or you might run out of water!
Mound Configuration of Garden Drip Irrigation System
Each mound in the Three Sister Garden got a small garden drip irrigation emitter hose with 3 1 GPH emitters and the a 1 GPH emitter on the end. I ended up taping off one of the emitters in the hose because it put water into the ditch rather than on the mound which is more efficient. I got much better sprouting in the Three Sister Garden thatn I did in Lettuce or Corn garden. Definitely better soil in this location.
Raindrip Irrigation on Mounds
The corn in the Three Sister Garden never sprouted very well and I went ahead after 3 weeks and planted to beans and melons despite the short corn stalks. These guys were very thirsty for rainwater drip irrigation! We’ll see but my hopes are not high on this dirt garden either….
Summary of Dirt Gardens and Raindrip Irrigation
The Dog Days of Summer are here and lessons have been learned. Dirt gardens are harder and less efficient than raised bed gardens. Soil selection and preparation is critical in a dirt garden – much more so than in a raised bed garden. Garden drip irrigation worked fine but almost ran out of water a couple times. I didn’t realize how much water a dirt garden uses relative to a raised bed garded – a lot more than I expected! I’m going to end my dirt garden adventures and expand my raised bed gardens much more next spring.
I’m planting my raised bed garden in 4 phases this summer to see if I can extend my harvest season. I’ve also expanded the number of gardens that I use with my garden drip irrigation. I expanded my rainwater drip irrigation system and have a lot more water stored to use. In fact, with recent rains, I’m already overfull and overflowing. I’m planning on further expanding my rainwater drip irrigation and collection system to support additional gardens and a fruit tree orchard.
Phase 1 Tomatoes in the Raised Bed Garden
There’s a lot of myth and misunderstanding about when to let tomato plants flower and fruit. This is especially true when using garden drip irrigation. My historic knowledge said they needed to be 24″ tall before allowing flowers to bloom and fruit. I read some recent research that says that 12″ plants are fine to bloom and fruit. My Phase 1 tomatoes in my raised bed garden had been wanting to bloom for quite some time – they were about 18″ tall. I’ve let them bloom and will use the new guideline of 12″ for Phase 2 – 4 tomatoes.
Lettuce Garden before Garden Drip Irrigation
I had a septic tank hole that needed some fill and I used some of the topsoil leftover from the Duck Pond. It worked so nicely that I decided to turn it into a garden and use some rainwater drip irrigation. Unfortunately, it is very shady and most of the vegetables I enjoy are sunny ones. My wife likes lettuce & brocolli so that’s what I planted. I added some survival seek melons as well. This garden started very rough with a lot of debris and trash in the soil. I’ve spent a lot fo time cleaning and hoeing this garden but find it oddly satisfying. I’ll add rainwater drip irrigation as soon as I see the plants establish themselves and it becomes too hot outside to water every day.
Corn Garden Started for Rainwater Drip Irrigation
I noticed a lot of Johnson Grass growing over a septic tank drain field and decided that might be a good spot for corn. I rented a rototiller and proceeded to tear up the ground for a corn garden with drip irrigation. Well, they haven’t improved rototillers in the past 30+ years! I managed to scrape a little soil but it was mostly clay mud that was dug up when they put in the septic lines. I couldn’t even hoe furrows! So, I just plated the corn by sticking seeds in the ground and we’ll see what happens. I suspect I’m going to have a lot more work in the garden before it is ready for rainwater drip irrigation. If it even performs at all by growing corn in a semi-sunn spot I’ll be pleased.
Young Corn and Grass!
The grass in my corn rainwater drip irrigation garden is growing faster than my corn. Also, it’s Bermuda Grass and is going to be tough to get rid of. Watering with garden drip irrigation only aggravates the problem so I’m still on hand watering in this garden for now. And, I’m going to have to figure out how to get rid of the grass if the corn is going to stand a chance.
Phase 2 Tomatoes and Cucumbers in the Raised Bed Garden
Phase 2 cucumbers and tomatoes in the raised bed garden are doing nicely. They were planted 4/15 and Phase 1 was planted 3/15. I have two more phases, 5/15 and 6/15. If this works it should extend my harvest season. The cucumber seeds very much liked the warmer temps and sprouted within a week or so. Phase 1 cucumbers took upwards of 2-3 weeks to sprout. These plants are in a well established garden and get a lot of benefit from garden drip irritation.
Better Tomato Supports for Garden Drip Irrigation
My Phase 1 tomatoes and cucumbers have reached the size that they need additional support. Rainwater drip irrigation is a very powerful tool to use in an established garden. Drip irrigation hoses aren’t easy to adjust and tend to be a little fragile so having a very clear idea of what you want and how you want it makes using garden drip irrigation much easier.
Summary of Rainwater Drip Irrigation Garden Phase 2
Phase 2 planting of tomatoes and cucumbers followed a month after Phase 1 plantings in my raised bed garden. The garden drip irrigation system is working very well this year and I have expansion plans into my lettuce garden and corn garden. But, those two gardens need to emerge and stabilize before it is worth putting in the rainwater drip irrigation system that so benefits the plants and me. Phase 1 and 2 plants are doing fine and I’m preparing to plant Phase 3 this weekend.