Potato planters prep and irrigation

Yesterday we started the potato planters. I added some scoria and dirt to the planter frames, Jenn planted the seed potatoes, and I added new irrigation for them.

Here is a base of scoria (for drainage) and a wheelbarrow load of very damp dirt (3-way mix):

Scoria and dirt

Previously we had a soaker hose for the potato planters, but that didn’t do a very good job of delivering water to the plants (and not all around them). So I added better irrigation, starting with a convoluted pipe off the tap of the nearby bed:

Irrigation piping

The underground pipe to that tap actually goes right by the potato planters, complete with an expansion point, so one day I might add a separate tap for the potato planters, instead of splitting off this bed. But I decided to take this approach for now.

Since I mentioned that, a minor digression: here’s an old picture from 2014 showing that portion of the veggie garden pipes; the potato planters are just beyond my toolbox:

Veggie garden pipes

Another old picture, showing the aforementioned pipe expansion points:

Pipe expansion point

One day I should do a post with plumbing projects like this one from before I started this blog.

Anyway, back to present day.

The irrigation pipe goes behind the potato planters, with emitter leads for each planter, so they can be moved as more dirt is added:

Potato planters with irrigation

I used a new kind of emitter that has a wider coverage than the sprinkler kind I’ve previously used, so one emitter gives even coverage of the whole thing:

Potato planter with irrigation

Hey why not… here’s a GIF edition of that picture, showing it working:

GIF of irrigation emitter

Here’s a wider view of the planters and piping:

Potato planters with irrigation

As the potatoes grow upwards, we’ll add more dirt and retaining boards, resulting in several layers of spuds.

Planting veggie garden and adding irrigation

Yesterday we did our traditional Mother’s Day activity of preparing and planting the veggie garden. I also added some improved irrigation.

Over the winter, the chickens get to enjoy going in the veggie garden, providing a helpful service of clearing out the plants and keeping it weed-free. So the first thing was to close the gate and hole in the fence from the chicken runs, so they no longer have access, which always confuses and frustrates them for a little while.

That done, Jenn brought the veggie plants out of the greenhouse, while I used a mattock to break up the compacted soil:

Breaking up compacted soil

I also added some fresh soil. Here’s a prepared bed:

Prepared bed

While Jenn planted the veggies, I added improved irrigation on a couple of the beds:

Irrigation

We had previously used soaker hoses, which don’t really provide the water in the best spots, and tend to fail regularly. This irrigation tubing and emitters should work better:

Irrigation

Here’s a view of the whole garden from the west gate:

Whole garden

We rotate the crops each year. This time, the southwest (SW) bed contains roma and cherry tomatoes:

Tomatoes

The NW bed is still using a soaker hose for now, though I’ve bought some irrigation emitters for it and other beds yet to be converted. It contains a single pumpkin plant (since one is enough to take over half the garden), plus lettuce, kale, and a couple of corn sprouted from seeds:

Pumpkin, lettuce, etc

The NE bed contains corn (a different variety) and onion:

Corn, onion

SE: tomatillos, jalapeños, and zucchini; the second bed with the new irrigation:

Irrigation

One of the reasons for the berry cage is to keep the chickens out, along with wild birds, so the plants don’t get eaten each winter. The SW bed contains everbearing strawberries:

Strawberries

The NW berry cage bed has Hood strawberries:

Strawberries

The SE bed has gooseberries, red currants, and huckleberries:

Gooseberries, red currants, huckleberries

The NE bed has blueberries:

Blueberries

And the north bed has hops:

Hops

This morning I briefly flew my drone for an aerial view of the veggie garden and berry cage:

Aerial view of veggie garden

A closer view of veggie garden side:

Aerial view of veggie garden

And part of the berry cage side:

Aerial view of veggie garden

An angled view of both (and part of the chicken runs):

Aerial view of veggie garden

Finishing installing greenhouse irrigation

Yesterday I finished installing the greenhouse irrigation tubing and mister emitters (continuing from the previous post).

I started with the right-hand shelves. Here’s some assembled tubing for the middle one; a tap connector, elbows, and tubing:

Assembled tubing

The four-way splitter (the bottom one is spare) and connected irrigation tubing, enabling the irrigation for each shelf to be controlled separately:

Splitter and tubing

The mister emitters on the lower shelves; the emitters can be positioned as needed, but are just all over the place for now:

Mister emitters

Watering:

Watering

Another shot of the completed irrigation of the right-hand shelves:

Right shelves

On to the shelves at the back. The assembled tubing:

Assembled tubing

Timer, splitter, tubing:

Timer, splitter, tubing

Emitters:

Emitters

We have four soil moisture sensors, that connect to our weather station (which supports up to eight):

Moisture sensor

The completed irrigation, like a bunch of tentacles:

Irrigation done

A wide-angle view of inside the greenhouse:

Wide angle

A view of the outside, showing the shelving:

Outside back view

The front view:

Outside front view

This concludes the greenhouse plumbing and irrigation project! 

Starting installing greenhouse irrigation

On Saturday I started adding the irrigation emitters to the greenhouse. I only did one shelf, but subsequent ones should be a bit faster. I’ll wait for a cool and/or rainy day before doing more, since it’s unpleasant to spend much time in the greenhouse when it’s sunny.

Here are a couple of boxes of irrigation parts on the potting bench, and end pieces on the sink:

Irrigation parts

An assembled irrigation pipe, with a tap connector, a couple of right-angle elbows, pipe, and flexible misters:

Irrigation pipe with misters

The mister tubes can be twisted and angled as needed, holding their position, and the mister heads can be adjusted to change the width of the spray.

Here’s the pipe installed. The irrigation tap, water timer, and 4-way splitter that you’ve seen before, with the above irrigation pipe and misters attached to the underside of the top shelf:

Tap, timer, splitter, Irrigation pipe, misters

Here’s the other end of the irrigation pipe:

Irrigation pipe with misters

The whole shelf; the plan is that the top shelf won’t have irrigation, but the lower three shelves on the back and side will:

Whole shelf

The misters in action as a test run (the positions and spray width needs to be tweaked):

Irrigation misters

As mentioned, I’ll add irrigation for more shelves later.

Greenhouse plumbing

Over the weekend I did some garden plumbing, installing piping and taps for the greenhouse.

The first step was to dig to find the existing pipe that I knew went in front of the greenhouse. Here it is, a foot or so underground:

Hole to expose pipe

I then hand-dug a trench from that pipe into the greenhouse, below the sink:

Trench

Another angle of the trench, the greenhouse, and the tools; mattock to get through the layer of gravel and break up the dirt, shovel for large areas, and cleanout shovel for narrow bits:

Trench and tools

Then I cut the pipe:

Cut pipe

I installed new piping, with a couple of dead-end caped bits as points for possible future expansion (something I like to do to make things easier for future me, though I don’t have any use-case in mind for these):

Installed pipe

A closer view of the new pipe connected to the old one, plus a non-glued cap on the old pipe. That pipe extends about 50 feet beyond this point, but there are no more taps, so there’s no need to connect it (it’s a legacy from before we bought the place). If I want to use it in the future, I can re-dig it and connect to that expansion point:

Pipe connection and cap

Another view of the greenhouse end of the pipe:

Pipe

The pipe enters the greenhouse under the wall, with a valve near the ground (which will only be closed for repairs):

Valve inside greenhouse

The sink has a hose for the drain, so I added a second pipe to receive that drain hose:

Drain pipe

Here’s the drain pipe (the pink pool is to provide water for bees to drink). I curved the pipe so it’d end in the gravel area, not in the grass:

Drain pipe

Buried pipes, with the end of the drain protruding:

Buried pipes

In order to mount brackets for the pipes inside the greenhouse, I needed to add some blocks. So I stained them:

Staining blocks

One of the blocks attached below the sink:

Attached block

Assembling pipe bits for below the sink:

Pipe bits

Pipe bits

Here’s that installed:

Pipe bits installed

One of those forks leads to a tap for a hose:

Tap

Here’s the hose on the reel; this can be used for ad hoc watering anywhere in the greenhouse:

Hose

The drain pipe attached to the water pipe:

Drain

The other fork of the pipe goes first to a sink tap:

Sink tap

Then continues along under the sink:

Pipe under sink

And up to a third tap for irrigation:

Irrigation tap

Attached to that tap is an Orbit B-hyve smart irrigation timer and a four-way splitter:

Irrigation timer and splitter

One of those splitter taps goes to a second splitter on the other side:

Second splitter

Here you can see both sides, and the hose connecting them:

Irrigation

The irrigation emitters will be attached to those splitters, three for each, for the three lower shelves on the back and side.

Here you can see all three of the taps: hose below the sink, sink tap, and irrigation tap:

All three taps

Next weekend (work permitting): the last step of this project, the irrigation tubing and emitters.

Mister and tap repairs

Now that Spring has sprung, it’s time to repair some of the broken garden plumbing that inevitably occurs.

I may discover more once I turn on the garden water (after the overnight temperatures stop being below freezing), but for now I was aware of two breakages.

The first one was a burst pipe for the deck mister system, that we can turn on in the heat of summer to cool us down with a gentle mist.

I had accidentally left a valve closed, preventing water from draining from the pipe, so unsurprisingly it froze and burst:

Burst pipe

The reason the valve was closed was this system also had a problem where the tap wasn’t fully closing, perhaps due to some debris in the pipe, resulting it in dripping:

Tap

So I removed the broken pipe. Here you can see the old pipe in the foreground, a new length of pipe on the left, and a cart with my plumbing toolbox:

Removed pipe and cart with tools

The repaired pipe:

Repaired pipe

I replaced the dodgy tap with a ball valve, which while not quite as easy to turn as a tap, will be more reliable:

Repaired pipe and valve

The second breakage was a tap in a lavender bed, snapped off at the base (probably kicked by a deer or landscaper):

Broken tap

The repaired tap:

Repaired tap

Re-buried:

Re-buried

While I was doing plumbing repairs, I took the opportunity to extend the pipe for a tap by the small pond, that was too short:

Too short tap

I cut the pipe and inserted a short length to raise up the tap:

Raised tap

Re-buried:

Re-buried tap

(Though I was just thinking that maybe I should have also taken that opportunity to add a second tap there, so I don’t need the splitter. One fork of that goes to the small pond auto-filler valve, the other is a hose to refill the feral cat water. Oh well, the splitter is fine.)

It’ll be interesting to see if anything else is broken, when I turn on the water.

I’ll also be doing some plumbing to add taps in the greenhouse, but I don’t have enough pipe for that yet. Ordered for delivery from Home Depot, along with materials for a couple of other projects.

Bee water pool

Like any creatures, bees get thirsty. So they have to get water from somewhere, for themselves and their hive. They also use water to control the humidity of the hive, as part of the process of making honey.

We have a big pond they can drink from, but it’s easy for bees to drown if they’re not careful. We also have a stream, and in summer a swimming pool, but those aren’t ideal water sources either (Jenn has rescued several bees from the pool when swimming).

So we also have a small kiddie pool that has rocks in it to act as safe landing zones for the bees. It is by the closest tap to the hives, near the greenhouse. Bees will fly for miles to find water, but if they have a ready source close to the hive, they don’t need to go to less ideal places.

The pool was immediately below the tap, but that made it hard to turn it on to top up the pool, when lots of bees are buzzing around. So I recently added a splitter and a couple of short hoses; one going into the pool, which can now be a bit further away, and another for use when working in the greenhouse (until I get around to adding taps in there):

Hoses and bee water pool

I also added a couple of bits of wood as additional landing pads for the bees:

Bee water pool

As a temporary thing, I set up the mobile cam above the pool, so I could watch the bees using it, just for fun. In the above picture, you can see the beehives and greenhouse in the background, to give a better idea of the location.

One interesting observation was that birds and cats also take advantage of the water source. Here’s a crow drinking from the bee pool:

Bird drinking from bee water pool

A cat drinking:

Cat drinking from bee water pool

Bees drinking from the pool; notice some on the wood, some around the edge, and a bunch on the rocks:

Bees drinking from bee water pool

If I zoom in on the pile of rocks, you can more clearly see lots of bees:

Zoom on bees

A crow drinking again; it doesn’t care about the bees:

Bird drinking from bee water pool

Another cat:

Cat drinking from bee water pool

The crow decided to walk across the platforms, somewhat unsuccessfully:

Bird walking in bee water pool

Chicken coop tap repair

Sometimes the pipes for the garden taps will freeze or get cracked over winter, despite turning off the water supply and draining them. I often don’t discover that until I turn the water on again in the spring.

So, when I turn on the water, I examine each tap (we have lots) to see if there’s any leakage. This year, the only damage was from the two-headed taps next to the new chicken coop, which had cracks in the top of the vertical pipe, and above the T-junction:

Burst pipe

So yesterday I removed the damaged portion:

Cut pipe

Then replaced it with new pipe bits (reusing the taps):

Repaired pipe

Here’s a view a bit further back, showing the pipe cutter, silicone tape, primer, and cement (and my plumbing toolbox):

Plumbing tools

Irrigation & bark

Yesterday I added irrigation for some of the new trees in the field. I didn’t have enough parts to do all of them, so will have to go to Home Depot sometime to complete that, but at least a bunch of them are now getting watered:

The corkscrew willow tree is putting on some leaves:

As is the tulip tree:

Irrigation for the leyland cypress additions:

And extended the irrigation to two of the new apple trees, but the new third row doesn’t have irrigation yet, since I didn’t have enough pipe:

Here’s one of the apple tree additions:

Blossoms on one of the new apple trees:

I also shoveled a bunch of bark onto the triangle area between the veggie garden, old chicken coop, and back lawn. This area used to be part of the lawn, so has just had dead grass for a couple of years, so good to finally get it barked:

Another angle:

Turning on garden water

During the winter months, I turn off the water supply to the gardens, to prevent the pipes from freezing and bursting. Once the overnight temperatures are safely above freezing, I turn them on again, which I did yesterday.

This year, I didn’t have any burst pipes… but I did have one broken tap to repair, that was probably kicked by a landscaper or deer:

An easy repair:

I could then turn on the water. For the east side, I have a valve box that I installed last year, that lets me individually control the water to the chicken coops, veggie garden & shop, and pond/gazebo areas (plus an underground tap that I used over winter to refill the chicken water):

For the west side, there’s another valve box. The boxes tend to fill with dirt, which is fine as it protects them from freezing, but has to be dug out a bit:

I then added water timers to the various garden beds. Large areas typically have automatic timers like this:

Here’s the repaired tap again, with a manual timer attached. We use these manual timers for lower-priority irrigation areas:

I then started filling the fountain. Here’s the frog that lives in the center of the fountain:

The fountain nearly full. We plan to remove the flower girl statue part of the fountain at some point:

I also scooped leaves out of the small pond at the end of the stream. That took a while; it was pretty much chock full of them. Here, you can see the pump:

Then I turned on the pump, and the stream started circulating. So nice to have that running water again, and I’m sure the cats will enjoy it too:

Finally, I mowed all of the lawns and the field:

Mowing selfie:

A busy day of garden maintenance!