Drip Irrigation Can be Tough During a Texas Summer
The Texas Summer heat is brutal and most of the plants are suffering. To add insult to injury, my irrigation system for flower boxes and container gardens failed at the drip irrigation check valves and faucet connection as well. Drastic action was needed to stop the drip irrigation system leak. Furthermore, I finally figured out that my fertilizer system wasn’t working properly either! Needless to say, with this comedy of errors, some of my plants just did not make it through June.
The soil temperature in the containers remains in the upper 90’s or lower 100’s every day during the day. Night time temperatures in the soil can drop as low as the mid 80’s (yes, I set the alarm to get up and check them) but this is not enough to withstand the punishment of the daily heat.
In contrast, the soil temperature on the ground, even in a sunny spot, remains in the mid 80’s during the day and mid 70’s at night. My plant shades are not working as well as I expected. While the temperatures are lower than last year without the plant shades, they are not shielding the heat enough. My plan is to try some insulation boards cut to fit inside of the plant shades and see if that has an impact.
Drip Irrigation Liquid Fertilizer and Stopping Drip Irrigation System Leaks
I noticed over two successive weeks that my automatic fertilizer system that uses drip irrigation liquid fertilizer on my inexpensive drip irrigation system did not need to be refilled. That means that it is not siphoning off fertilizer and feeding it into the irrigation system for flower boxes and container gardens. To confirm the problem, I emptied the fertilizer container and filled it just half full. When the drip irrigation system for container gardens is working properly, the only visible change is the change of the color of the water in the fertilizer container from brown (when it has fertilizer) to clear when it does not have any fertilizer. It should remain full of water all the time.
This is my second year using inexpensive AND expensive hose bib adapters to provide multiple outlets at the single hose bib on my deck. I have three devices that I need to connect
- water hose to fill the wading pool for the dogs
- water hose to the automatic waterer for the dogs
- drip irrigation attach to faucet which starts with the drip irrigation system timer and drip irrigation system check valves
I’ve tried inexpensive plastic Ys and expensive bronze Ys. They all eventually begin leaking and then break off completely. With the scarcity and high cost of water, it is very important to stop drip irrigation system leaks. There doesn’t appear to be much pressure applied by the hoses or drip irrigation system to the Y adapter but there must be just enough to put an unnecessary strain on it.
New Drip Irrigation Attach to Faucet
So, I had a plumber come out and create a specialized hose bib system for me to eliminate this problem. This allows me a direct drip irrigation attach to the faucet. It cost about $170, which is about 30 times the average cost of the Y adapters but, more importantly, eliminates the surprise of the plants not having water for a couple of days and the cost of the wasted water that just spills on the ground.
The new hose bib arrangement presented a problem. The orientation of the hose bibs did not make it easy to put the drip irrigation system timer and drip irrigation system check valves back the way it was in the past. So, I used a short hose to connect the drip irrigation system timer to the hose bib and just let the timer unit rest of the deck. This, and the separate hose bibs for each device actually proved to be very beneficial! When I used a single hose bib with Y adapters, the flow/pressure control was very tricky and had to managed across the hose bib itself AND the flow regulator valve on the Y adapter. I found that the system seemed to work best at a lower pressure for the drip irrigation system. Sure, I had some leaks from the drip irrigation system check valves, but who doesn’t? When I changed the setup to the new configuration, I tested it by applying full pressure from the hose bib to the drip irrigation system. Two things happened that pleased me.
- The system leaks disappeared
- The fertilizer system started flowing
I’m not sure if stopping the drip irrigation system leaks and the fertilizer system flowing are due to the new, higher pressure or from the new orientation of the timer unit on the deck which relieves some of the pressure it was causing on the hose bib and Y adapter. Nevertheless, several problems were solved!
Gravity Drip Irrigation Kits?
On a side note, I would love to have a gravity drip irrigation kit to try. My next project will be capturing rain water and creating a dedicated deck container garden drip irrigation system using a gravity drip irrigation kit. If you know of a good gravity drip irrigation kit, please let me know.
I’ve refilled the fertilizer system with drip irrigation liquid fertilizer for testing this week – I have high hopes for a return to successfully fertilizing my deck container garden.
My cucumbers suffered mightily. They developed some sort of nasty looking fungus on the young cucumbers and then failed to produce any cucumbers at all. I suspect the very high heat in the container contributed to this problem.
So, never one to beat a dead horse, I pulled up the cucumbers and let the weeds grow. I suspect that, if I want to grow cucumbers, I need to start them much earlier or later and not try to grow cucumbers in the middle of the summer in a deck container garden.
The tomatoes are another story. While they aren’t producing tons of fruit, they seem to be doing OK and producing enough for a small salad every day across 3 plants. The cherry tomato plant is struggling the most out of all of the tomato plants. Some of this may have to do with the very sporadic watering they received during June when I had drip irrigation system problems.
The patio tomato plant is the winner by far. No matter the heat or water it just continues producing very nice and tasty 2-3″ tomatoes. Probably the biggest weakness for this plant is it’s apparent inability to fully support it’s fruits. Even though the stalks are very thick and short, it has problems with stems bending and breaking approximately half of the time.
The patio tomatoes are absolutely the most delicious of the three. They are sweet with thin skins and a tangy after taste.
The Yellow Pear tomatoes continue to produce but struggle. These tomatoes are also very delicious and very very sweet. They start out with approximately 10-12 little tomatoes in each bunch but only 3-6 will survive to ripening.
The chile pepper plants are abundant and love the deck garden setup. That said, I’ve determined that I have little or no interest in the peppers in my daily diet. So, I’m letting them ripen fully and then dry and die just to see what happens.
The strawberries are gone. My daughter was sad but asked me to continue watering it and let the weeds grow as some sort of cemetery for the departed strawberry plant.
Summary of an Inexpensive Drip Irrigation System
June was a tough month in the deck container garden. Drastic action was needed to stop the drip irrigation system leak at the drip irrigation check valves. Two of the six plants did not make it. Two of the six plants are thriving and two of the six plants are surviving. The heat is expected to continue through at least August. My next experiment is to try some insulation board on the inside of each plant shade to see if that can reduce the brutal heat. The dramatic, if expensive, improvement to the hose bib where the drip irrigation attaches to the faucet and inexpensive drip irrigation system should stop drip irrigation system leak at the drip irrigation check valves and ease the suffering of the plants and resume regular fertilizing.