Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Irrigation rather than Irritation

We're doing a mid to late August blog blitz in an effort to show everyone that we DO want to share with you all things GFF.  And, maybe other things not so GFF?

Our Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day on August 17 reminded us that many things that are normal sights for us on our farm can be breakthroughs for others  It's also good reminder to us that there is a long list of things that, at one point in time, were a big deal to us and are now just a part of every day work on the farm.

Just to make myself perfectly clear, these are things we are grateful for and we do our best not to take them for granted.  But, it never hurts to see things through someone else's lens.  so, today we focus on irrigation that does not irritate.  I believe this dispenser made its first appearance in the blog during our Oh Well Saga part III

the drip tape dispenser dispenses drip tape well
Last year, I gave Tyler a description of something I wanted to create for use of unrolling drip tape.  After some discussion and some plan modifications between the two of us, Tyler went to work and produced what you see above.  The bottom wood frame is sized a bit smaller than the base of the green garden cart.  Two vertical 2x4 boards have a hole drilled far enough up to allow a full roll of drip tape to spin freely on some galvanized piping we had laying around the farm.  Two diagonal pieces help hold these verticals steady.  It was actually a nice twist that the pipe had a t-connection and a little pipe extending on each side to give us a handle of sorts (see the right side of the pipe in the picture).

the holes in the side of the garden cart are sufficiently wide to thread drip tape through.  This allows a single person to lay drip tape if it is not too windy.  Threading it through these holds keeps the end by the roll somewhat contained.  We regularly keep two rolls on the drip tape layer since it stores just as well this way as any other.  And, the cart provides a nice place for us to put a box of fittings, a scissors and other commonly used tools for irrigation with the drip tape.

I suppose if a person wanted to, they could adapt this for rolling up used drip tape, but in our experience the used drip tape has usually degraded too much to make reuse a feasible choice.  Regardless, this is a simple solution that has made laying out drip tape so much easier.

Things we usually have in the cart:
  • repair fittings
  • shutoff valves to connect drip tape to the header line
  • end caps
  • scissors
  • old hoe
  • duct tape
  • shovel
  • tubing cutter
  • valve installation tool
 And, we should probably have a clean, dry rag in the cart too.  I'm sure there are other things, but these are what come to mind.  Of the things on this list, the hoe, shovel and duct tape might need some explanation.  The shovel is used to pile dirt onto the drip tape every so often to keep it in place.  The hoe is used to help us pull the drip tape.  We use duct tape OR we tie the end of the drip tape to the handle end of the hoe.  We can the walk the row while standing upright by holding the hoe by the 'business end' and pointing the handle end down.  The duct tape is also a reasonable 'quick fix' for leaks, but the dry rag does help prepare the surface.

It seems to work to run irrigation over paper mulch for us
 Some other observations and pieces of information that may or may not be helpful to others are included here, but we're not going to go into too much detail.  First, we have found that the irrigation works fine if it is run OVER paper mulch.  Part of the trick is to fill the drip tape right after laying it.  This helps hold it in place.  And, since we usually transplant into paper mulch, the plants hold it in place as well.  We have, at times used a pile of dirt or a ground staple if it doesn't want to stay in place.

Each plot on the farm has its own header line
 We've created multiple header lines for our different plots.  A short hose connects to the 'main' water line and to the header.  The trick is finding the nifty pipe thread to hose thread converters.  You might also note a part in the picture above that prevents water pressure from getting too high.  We're finding that we don't always need these, but they are a good safety precaution to prevent blowouts on the drip tape.

What?  Us make mistakes?
 Another reality is that we are bound to hit header lines, drip tape and the main line with a tool or tractor now and again.  Repair is a normal process for drip irrigation.  This is the most likely time that irrigation becomes irritation.  No, wait.  The MOST likely time is when you know you need to run drip tape but you have to weed first.... and the soil is as hard as a rock.

Plants are less irritated if they are irrigated.

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