Water, Water, Everywhere

Australia is really crap at moderation. One minute it’s drought, blazing hot and fire prone, the next it’s pissing down with rain for 5 days straight and everywhere is flooded. Makes it hard to work out what’s best for my wee veggie patch. One thing I did work out quite quickly, is that mosquitoes bite really hard at dusk. Since this is when I tend to do my watering, this quickly became a chore neither myself nor Mr C were in a massive rush to volunteer for.

So I looked into getting an irrigation system installed. This is something that you can do yourself, but being as we were novices, and also we wanted the water to be pumped from our bore rather than use town/drinking water, we went to a local specialist (Total Eden) and asked them to put in the irrigation system for us. It’s fantastic! We can set it to run whenever we like, for however long we wish, and it switches on and off automatically, even when we’re away! (I’m easily pleased!) It’s also valved so that we can turn off water to one part of the garden but continue watering the rest, depending on growing seasons and need. Plus, if it hoikes down with rain for a while, I just push a button to tell it to not water until I push the button again. Easy peasey. You can even get sensors to work out when it’s raining so it suspends irrigating automatically. Or sensors next to the pampered plants to work the whole thing out automatically. The cost of those extras made me whistle through my teeth though and I went for the basic set up!

This consists of some big (25mm) black plastic pipes running from the bore pump tap, all the way round the garden to the fruit trees and the veggie beds, and then on to the bamboo beds. These can be buried so they don’t detract from the look of the garden. Wherever we needed water to go on the actual plants, there are smaller brown plastic pipes pushed into the black pipe. This smaller pipe has teeny holes in it at regular spacing (I think it’s about 30 cm intervals) and it’s all set up to drip 1.6 litres an hour, and obviously the brown pipes lie right next to the plants, on the surface. I’ve covered most of them with mulch to stop the water evaporating off again, although I run the irrigation at night for the same reason. Total Eden suggested watering for a short period, waiting for half an hour, and running it again for a short period. This allows the water to penetrate the soil slowly, rather than just running off. So they get 2 lots of 20 minutes, every other day. Unless it rains! There are 2 valves in the big black pipe so I can chose to:

  • switch off the raised beds but water everything else, or
  • switch off the bamboo beds and water everything else.

We know that we can add extra brown dripper pipe anywhere around the garden in future as we slowly dig out the weeds and plant more stuff, so it’s pretty flexible. And apart from a) a few teething troubles with the pump coming on at random times to prime itself (no water wasted, but the noise was annoying) which they sorted out for us at a discount, bless ‘em, and b) the pump thingy being very sensitive to lightening storms, tripping off and needing to be switched off and on again, it’s been a god send!

irrigation pipes

I love that I don’t have to feel guilty about using treated drinking water on my plants, and that we’re using the most efficient way to water them even with the water we do use. To me, it’s a huge difference between that, and my neighbour, who sprinklers his lawns with abandon during the hottest part of the day – it always makes me grind my teeth when I see it!

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