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.
It’s that time of the year to fire up my raised bed garden and make sure my rainwater collection system is ready to feed my garden drip irrigation. I’ve expanded my rainwater collection system from 1000 gallons to 4000 gallons. I have a couple of new things to test this year and I’m excited! I’m phasing my plantings into my raised bed garden over four months to see if I can extend and smooth my harvest season. I expect issues to too much or too little garden drip irrigation but will iron those out if the overall strategy works. I’m also planting corn in a larger patch on my septic drain field. The Johnson grass, a close cousin of corn, grows tall there so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m phasing my corn harvests as well. Except with the corn garden, I’m doing the phasing with 3 different maturation periods instead of varying the planting dates. Additionally, since the corn is on the septic drain field, I’m not planning on using any garden drip irrigation from my rainwater collection system – just natural water to start with and then we’ll see how thing progress. It’s going to be a great season of rainwater collection an garden drip irrigation in my raised bed garden!
Removing the Cover from my Raised Bed Garden
I covered my raised bed garden last October at the end of the season. I wanted to see if this was easier than pulling a ton of weeds that accumulate over the winter season. It was definitely easier and I highly recommend it. I also added 4 bags of compost to the raised bed garden soil mixture to enhance the nutrients in the soil.
First Phase Cucumbers
I’m attempting to plant in 4 phases this year. I’m planting only cucumbers and tomatoes – since that’s mostly what I like and that grows well in my square foot garden. I’ll continue using rainwater collection to water each plant. Phase 1 starts on 3/15 and each phase is approximately 30 days after the previous phase so I’ll plant again on 4/15, 5/15 and 6/15. Hopefully, this will spread out my harvest times. Maybe maybe not – depends on if the plants use heat and sunlight to trigger fruiting or if plant age is more deterministic – always something to learn. Even if it only works partially, I’ll be ahead of having everything to harvest at the same time. I’m also using different varieties of cucumbers and tomatoes in each phase.
First Phase Tomatoes
Each phase will have two different varieties of tomatoes and one variety of cucumbers. There were only about 4 cucumber varieties that I like but there are a bunch of tomato varieties that I’d like to try – especially since I have slots for 8 different tomato varieties. You can also easily see where I’ve adjusted my garden drip irrigation lines for each plant.
Tighter Security for my Raised Bed Garden and Rainwater Collection
My electric fence solar powered generator worked great last year. But, my electric fence was pretty terrible. I upgraded from small thin sticks for fence posts to large t posts for fenceposts. I was able to fence higher and tighter and it is working very well. Even keeps the puppy out of the garden! I expanded my rainwater collection from 1000 gallons to 4000 gallons so I should have plenty of water for the raised bed garden as well as the corn garden as needed.
Planting Corn in Hard Ground
I’m planting three varieties of corn on the moist soil over my septic system drain field. I’ve tried planting corn in my raised bed garden but find that I don’t have enough plants for them to successfully pollinate. Before you say “yuck”, stop and consider that the thing that brought the drain field to my attention was the enormous Johnsongrass plants that grow there anyway. Septic drain field water is grey water and should be fine for corn. We’ll see. Additionally, while I have some great top soil, I have very tenacious clay just below the top soil. I rented a roto tiller and tried to make a dent in the grass and top soil but it was very hard. There isn’t much topsoil left on the drain field due to the way it was orginally dug and then refilled – most of the top soil is gone and the clay is on the top. Since the roto tiller didn’t make much of a dent, I just marked out straight lines and then used a large nail to poke shallow holes into the clay to plant each seed. It was LOTS of bending over! I have no idea if it will work but can’t see a reason that it wouldn’t.
Early Harvest Corn
I have three varieties of corn and instead of planting them at different times, I got varieties that have different maturation dates. They are all sweet corn – I mean, why would you plant anything else to eat? My early harvest variety is Burpee’s Early & Often Hybrid at 64 days. I should have full sun for corn but my corn patch/septic drain field has a bit of shade early and late in the day. I’ll take that. I’m not sure if or how much water the corn will need but I’m confident that I have plenty from my rainwater collection system.
Middle Harvest Corn
My second sweet corn variety is Burpee’s Buttercream Hybrid with a 73 day maturity. I like this variety a lot! I’ve read that this variety can require more water. I’ll start without any rain drip irrigation in the corn garden but have sufficient water storage to implement it if needed.
Late and Best Harvest Corn
My last sweet corn variety is Burpee’s Silver Queen Hybrid. This is my favorite sweet corn! It has a 92 day maturity and by July the weather should be hot as hell and the corn sweet as cream. If this corn requires rain drip irrigation, I think I will use something other than my current garden drip irrigation system. I’ll power it from my rainwater collection system but will probably use a broader, less specific method of delivering the water to the plants. I’ll also need to be careful so as not to over water the septic drain field. Surely there’s an appropriate but fine balance there somewhere.
The Corn Garden and Garden Drip Irrigation
My efforts to turn my septic drain field into a corn garden were somewhat successful. I dug through most of the grass down to dirt. But, It wasn’t deep enough to actually till any rows or furrows. It was just too hard with clay that had been pulled to the top when they put the drain field in. So, I marked out 14 rows approximately 40 feet long. You can see the little orange flags that mark each row. It should work but you never know. I need to put an electric fence on this garden as well but I’m not going to invest that much until I see if I need it. I’ve put a game camera on the garden to get pictures of any critters or dogs that may be in the garden. I’ll adjust based on what I learn from the pics.
Summary of 2014 Season for Rainwater Collection Drip Irrigation Garden
Spring starts a new season of raised bed gardening with rainwater collection and garden drip irrigation. I’ve made some improvements from learnings last year and I have a couple new experiments. It’s going to be a great season!
Another season of the raised bed garden has come and gone. I learned a lot of lessons this year and benefitted from lessons learned in previous years. The raised bed garden was a success and we got enough rain for the rainwater collection system to be more than adequate to run my garden drip irrigation system.
Rain Water Collection Pond
I had our farm tractor at the house to cut some dead trees and decided to take the opportunity to build a rain water collection catch pond. It’s harde than it looks to use a front end loader to dig a hole. It took me about 20 hours of digging but I ended up with a “pond” that will hold up to three feet of water. I finally got through the top soil down to a clay base and I think it’s going to hold water.
Bad Corn in the Raised Bed Garden
Im not sure that corn is a good plant for a raised bed garden. While they start fine, they seldom finish well. I’m guessing that there aren’t enough plants for even pollination. Next year, I’m taking the corn plants out of the raised bed garden and farming them over the septic tank drain field. At least the Johnson grass does well there so I might as well give it a try with it’s cousin the corn plant!
My squash plants don’t look like they enjoy the garden drip irrigation system or the raised bed garden. They are just too big to fit well in the garden and flopped over the side. They flowered but never made any squash. This is another plant that won’t make it on the list for next year either.
More Bad Corn
My survival kit corn didn’t do well at all. It was probably due to the fat that I planted too few of them. Corn isn’t going back in the raised bed garden anyway but I still have a number of dried survival kit corn to try again next year over the septic tank.
My early season cucumbers did very well in the garden. My late season cucumbers didn’t do well at all. They consumed a lot of the water from my rain water collection system and never produced much of anything. Another reason the garden didn’t do well may be that I didn’t add any new materials this year. Next year, I’m going to add another measure of compost. I think the peat moss and vermiculite are fine and the compost contains the organics anyway.
Winterizing the Raised Bed Garden and Drip Irrigation System
Winter weeds were terrible in the garden last year. This year, I spent an extra $7 to purchase and install a plastic tarp. The goal is to prevent any weed growth over the winter – we’ll see if that works!
Leaky Rainwater Collection System
The water line from my rainwater collection system that powers my garden drip irrigation system had a leak early in the season. It took quite a while for the ground to dry out enough for me to find the leak. It was a small and subtle leak and was occurring in a pvc pipe joint where they made a very slight curve. I found this rubber connection joint at Home Depot and it worked just fine. I ran my garden drip irrigation system all Summer with a water hose instead of the underground pipe. It worked fine for me but annoyed my wife.
Summary of Raised Bed Garden, Rainwater Collection and Garden Drip Irrigation Lessons
I’m always a little sad when the growing season ends. I’m also excited about what I’ve learned and can implement next year. The rainwater collection pond will help a lot – especially as I plan a larger garden outside of the raised bed garden. The garden drip irrigation system worked very well and I’m please – especially now that I have the leak fixed. I’m going to expand the rainwater collection system this winter from 1000 gallons to 4000 gallons. As always, next year will be even better!