On the far left side of the garden plan is a graphic representation of the uneven application of water put down by this sprinkler system. The 4-foot-wide raised bed gets lots of water, uniformly distributed. Farther away, the amount applied decreases rapidly. About half as much irrigation lands only 6 feet from the edge of the raised bed as on the bed itself. Beyond that the amount tapers off to insignificance. During summer’s heat the farthest 6 feet is barely moistened on top, but no water effectively penetrates the dry surface. Crops are positioned according to their need for or ability to benefit from supplementation. For convenient description I’ve numbered those rows.
The Raised Bed
Crops demanding the most water are grown on the raised bed. These include a succession of lettuce plantings designed to fill the summer salad bowl, summer spinach, spring kohlrabi, my celery patch, scallions, Chinese cabbages, radishes, and various nursery beds that start overwintered crops for transplanting later. Perhaps the bed seems too large just for salad greens. But one entire meal every day consists largely of fresh, raw, high-protein green leaves; during summer, looseleaf or semiheading lettuce is our salad item of choice. And our individual salad bowls are larger than most families of six might consider adequate to serve all of them together.
If water were severely rationed I could irrigate the raised bed with hose and nozzle and dry garden the rest, but as it is, rows 1, 2, 7, and 8 do get significant but lesser amounts from the sprinklers. Most of the rows hold a single plant family needing similar fertilization and handling or, for convenience, that are sown at the same time.
The row’s center is about 3 feet from the edge of the raised bed. In March I sow my very first salad greens down half this row—mostly assorted leaf lettuce plus some spinach—and six closely spaced early Seneca Hybrid zucchini plants. The greens are all cut by mid-June; by mid-July my better-quality Yellow Crookneck squash come on, so I pull the zucchini. Then I till that entire row, refertilize, and sow half to rutabagas. The nursery bed of leek seedlings has gotten large enough to transplant at this time, too. These go into a trench dug into the other half of the row. The leeks and rutabagas could be reasonably productive located farther from the sprinklers, but no vegetables benefit more from abundant water or are more important to a self-sufficient kitchen. Rutabagas break the winter monotony of potatoes; leeks vitally improve winter salads, and leeky soups are a household staple from November through March.
Row 2: Semi-Drought Tolerant Brassicas
Row 2 gets about half the irrigation of row 1 and about one-third as much as the raised bed, and so is wider, to give the roots more room. One-third of the row grows savoy cabbage, the rest, Brussels sprouts. These brassicas are spaced 4 feet apart and by summer’s end the lusty sprouts form a solid hedge 4 feet tall.