February 20, 2014 by magpiemenina
Well, it’s February and the good intentions of the New Year are just a glimpse in the rearview mirror of life… Just kidding (sort of).
I’m already looking forward to spring. The seeds ordered arrived a few days ago. The garden plan is ready to go. With the thaw this week, I got out there and got to work. I was ready to start turning over the beds until I realized that it is only February, and there’s much more snow and ice to come.
However, I thought you might be looking towards spring too, and making your plans. Perhaps you’re going to try some raised garden beds this year, or have in the past. We built ten of them last year, and they did quite well. An older neighbor who has lived in the area his entire life was astounded by the success of our plants.
We did encounter one problem, though. Raised beds dry out quickly. We had situated our garden at the back of the lot, which made hauling enough water to tend to the beds quite the task. Eventually we put our heads together and came up with a fairly cheap self-watering system.
If you are interested, here are the directions. (Please be aware that this is not feasible in all places, and please use water responsibly.)
You will need:
Water hoses – Depending on how far your garden is from your house, you will need at least one or probably several hoses linked together and attached to an outdoor spigot. I recommend shelling out the extra money for contractor-grade or at least heavy-duty hoses. The sun will beat down on them. The grass will grow over them. The last thing you want is a hose that cracks. Before you know it, your water bill will be enormous.
Watering timer – These are about $25. Last year, I saw some at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Target. The timer controls the length of time that the water runs, and, at least with the fancier ones (still $25), let you set the time at which you want the watering to start. They are usually battery operated. This one has a dual hose system but will give you an idea of what I’m talking about if you are unsure. We actually got the same one with a single hose system, but I see that it has been discontinued. I will present directions as if you were getting a single hose timer with a simple one-in-one-out system.
Hose splitter – How many rows of raised beds do you have? We had four, so we got a hose splitter (also apparently called a hose connector) that allowed for the attachment of four hoses plus the input hose. Get a metal one, and get one that has little shut-off valves so you can better control the water to your garden.
Soaker hoses – We were thrilled to find these last year. I was going to buy hoses and poke holes in them. The soaker hoses are flat hoses that have holes that dribble water out. You’ll need one for each output branch from the hose splitter.
With your water off, attach the first plain hose. Continue attaching hoses until you’ve reached the desired spot. This will probably be halfway down one side of your garden. Attach the timer. Attach the hose splitter. Attach a soaker hose to each of the splitter ends. Stretch a soaker hose across each row of raised beds. To keep them in place, I put two nails on either end of each raised bed and tied the soaker hoses in between. The soaker hoses should come with caps on one end. Set the timer according to the directions and turn on the water source.
We also added a splitter before the timer so we could have a second hose with a traditional nozzle for any spot watering.
We set ours for about half an hour at about 7 am and 8 pm. This avoids running the water at the hottest point of the day, which could cause the plants to be burned and would definitely waste water, which would evaporate.
It’s a pretty easy project and probably costs between $100 and $150. Your water bill will go up, though.