Thursday, May 8, 2014

Irrigation System - Soaker Hoses

Winter garden 11-16-2013
Don't let this project intimidate you. It is not difficult, I assure you. I installed mine in one day. Installing an automated irrigation system of soaker hoses is definitely worth the time and effort.

Soaker hoses are probably the most efficient way to water. For one thing, the watering is done on schedule, when you are blissfully unaware that it is even happening. No standing there in the heat, or in your work clothes getting muddy, or in your pajamas making a scene in front of the neighbors. No need to wake up early to water before tackling the 208 other things you need to do in the morning.

Using soaker hoses, there is less water lost due to evaporation and run-off. The water goes where you need it, not sprinkling the cement. You can easily control how deeply the plants are watered too.

Hint: Young plants need more frequent watering because their roots are shallow and the surface soil dries first. As the roots grow deeper, you water longer (to make the water go deeper) but less often.

Let's get started.

My timer is battery operated. The obvious beauty of that is I didn't need an electrician to run power lines out to the garden. Fabulous.
You have to love the fancy way I hung my timer; bailing wire and an old post.
The water comes into the timer from the hose connected at the top. That hose leads to our faucet which is closer to the garage. I keep that faucet turned on all the time so there is pressure in the hose, ready for the timer to start the flow.

My timer has 3 stations (3 places to connect hoses at the bottom). Since I have 4 raised beds and needed 4 hoses, I used a "Y" adapter to attach 2 hoses to the 3rd station on the right. Thank goodness a picture is worth a thousand words.

In order to water only the beds, and not the pathways, I used regular garden hose from the timer to each bed.

I cut the garden hose the right length and attached a hose end. Here is a tutorial for changing a hose end. Then I attached the soaker hose and arranged it in the bed.

Now that you understand the concept, you need a plan so you can make a list before going to the hardware store.

First decide where to place the timer so that it will be easiest to run the hoses. Try to arrange the hoses so they will not be tripping hazards.

Measure how many feet of garden hose you will need.

Figure out how many hose ends you will need and whether you need male or female ends.

Decide how many soaker hoses you need. I think soaker hoses come in 25 ft and 50 ft lengths. I find that 50 ft is perfect for one of my 4 ft x 12 ft beds. Another way to look at it is that the hose should be spaced in rows about 10 inches apart for deep rooted plants (large plants like tomatoes) or closer for smaller things like lettuce.

Don't forget to buy some wire stakes which are made to hold the soaker hose in place once you arrange it.

Hint: Uncoil the soaker hose and lay it straight out in the sun to soften it before arranging it in the bed. It will behave better.

You do not need to run the hoses in straight lines. Some plants (melons, cucumbers, squash) are planted in mounds so I like to make a loop and set it on the mound then plant the seeds in a circle.
Melon mound 05-08-14
Tomatoes, cucumber mound 03-09-14

It is best to arrange the hoses before you plant seeds or plants. Turn your water system on for a few minutes and you will see there are areas where the surface soil does not get moist. As the water seeps into the soil, it spreads out so deep down the ground is uniformly wet. It is important to keep this in mind as you start planting. Plant seeds and transplants near the hose so they get wet but not so close that the seedlings will bump into the hose. 
Carrot seedlings 05-08-14

Once the hoses are in, the fun begins...planting!

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