New and Expanded 2014 Season for Rainwater Collection Drip Irrigation Garden

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

Brown Dirt and Grey Wood Drip Irrigation Garden
Drip Irrigation 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

White Paper Package of Raised Bed Garden Cucumbers Seeds
Raised Bed Garden 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.
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First Phase Tomatoes

Green Plants in Brown Dirt in Garden Drip Irrigation Phase 1
Garden Drip Irrigation Phase 1
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

Orange Electric Fence on Raised Bed Garden
Electric Fence on Raised Bed Garden
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

Yellow Corn Planting with Grey Spike using Rainwater Collection
Corn Planting with Rainwater Collection
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

Early Yellow and Green Corn for Garden Drip Irrigation
Early Corn for Garden Drip Irrigation
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

Yellow and Green Middle Corn in Raised Bed Garden on Brown Grass
Middle Corn in Raised Bed Garden
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

Yellow and Green Late Corn Using Drip Irrigation
Late Corn Using Drip Irrigation
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

Green Grass and Brown Dirt in a Rainwater Collection Corn Garden
Rainwater Collection Corn Garden
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!