Gardening Without Irrigation: or without much, anyway eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 88 pages of information about Gardening Without Irrigation.

I was a suburban backyard gardener for five years before deciding to homestead.  I’ve frequently recalled this experience while learning to dry garden.  What follows in this chapter are some strategies to guide the urban in becoming more water-wise.

Water Conservation Is the Most Important First Step

After it rains or after sprinkler irrigation, water evaporates from the surface until a desiccated earth mulch develops.  Frequent light watering increases this type of loss.  Where lettuce, radishes, and other shallow-rooting vegetables are growing, perhaps it is best to accept this loss or spread a thin mulch to reduce it.  But most vegetables can feed deeper, so if wetting the surface can be avoided, a lot of water can be saved.  Even sprinkling longer and less frequently helps accomplish that.  Half the reason that drip systems are more efficient is that the surface isn’t dampened and virtually all water goes deep into the earth.  The other half is that they avoiding evaporation that occurs while water sprays through the air between the nozzle and the soil.  Sprinkling at night or early in the morning, when there is little or no wind, prevents almost all of this type of loss.

To use drip irrigation it is not necessary to invest in pipes, emitters, filters, pressure regulators, and so forth.  I’ve already explained how recycled plastic buckets or other large containers can be improvised into very effective drip emitters.  Besides, drip tube systems are not trouble free:  having the beds covered with fragile pipes makes hoeing dicey, while every emitter must be periodically checked against blockage.

When using any type of drip system it is especially important to relate the amount of water applied to the depth of the soil to the crops, root development.  There’s no sense adding more water than the earth can hold.  Calculating the optimum amount of water to apply from a drip system requires applying substantial, practical intelligence to evaluating the following factors:  soil water-holding capacity and accessible depth; how deep the root systems have developed; how broadly the water spreads out below each emitter (dispersion); rate of loss due to transpiration.  All but one of these factors—­dispersion—­are adequately discussed elsewhere in Gardening Without Irrigation.

A drip emitter on sandy soil moistens the earth nearly straight down with little lateral dispersion; 1 foot below the surface the wet area might only be 1 foot in diameter.  Conversely, when you drip moisture into a clay soil, though the surface may seem dry, 18 inches away from the emitter and just 3 inches down the earth may become saturated with water, while a few inches deeper, significant dispersion may reach out nearly 24 inches.  On sandy soil, emitters on 12-inch centers are hardly close enough together, while on clay, 30-or even 36-inch centers are sufficient.

Project Gutenberg
Gardening Without Irrigation: or without much, anyway from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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