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Hydration for thirsty plants

September 12, 2012

Soon after early man began to plant seeds on a regular basis to harvest the crop the need to add water when needed became evident. Systems were developed to bring in water from nearby sources by diversion dams and canals. In fact, ten ancient irrigation sites are now on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Aqueduct near Ventebren, France

While here in West Virginia we didn’t have the deep drought conditions found a bit further west, we definitely suffered from lower than typical rainfall this summer. As I travel around the area to various farms I can see clearly that those which are using some form of irrigation are coping with the problem better. Even they have lower than typical crop yields though.

So, how can you prepare for the possibility that the climate change means drier and hotter summers?

WHAT IS A SPRINKLER SYSTEM?
Much like the ones you typically see on a football field or neighbor’s lawn, sprinkers allow you to water a very large area at once. These systems give you more control over your crops because you can decide where to water and when to do it. Sprinklers can be used by themselves or in a circuit, depending on the size of the area you are looking to water.

Sprinklers used to cool runners before a recent cross country race or simply because the person who had the control of them was a jokester

WHERE CAN YOU USE A SPRINKLER SYSTEM?
Sprinklers can be installed inside a greenhouse or high tunnel, but are also great for irrigating fields, gardens and yards. Sprinkler systems can be customized to water only a few crops with one sprinkler head, or to water entire fields with a series of sprinklers.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING A SPRINKLER SYSTEM?
Sprinkler systems are the simplest type of irrigation system you can use for your crops. They come in a variety of sizes at an affordable price, making them ideal for hobby growers who aren’t looking to design an entire drip system, but rather just want to avoid holding the hose a few times a day.

Conventional irrigation long has meant sprinklers. Where land is level various systems have been developed that have proven effective. Flying over the US has often provided a glimpse of the circular systems.

The problem with sprinkler systems is that much of the water is lost to evaporation in the air.

WHAT IS A DRIP SYSTEM?
Irrigation can be supplied through tubing with emission holes built in every 12 inches. The tubing is placed along a row of crops and can be controlled to water on a set schedule.  Like it says in the name, these systems let out drops of water directly to plants’ roots instead of a steady stream like a hose or sprinkler.

WHEN SHOULD I USE A DRIP TAPE SYSTEM?
If you are planning on letting your plants grow in one place all the way from germination to harvest, drip tape systems are an efficient system. Drip tape systems can be used when growing row crops.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF USING A DRIP TAPE SYSTEM?
Drip tape systems are an eco-friendly irrigation option because of the water they conserve. Drip systems only provide plants with as much water as is needed, while other types of irrigation may miss plants roots, wasting water. You can expect uniform, high-quality crops because each and every plant is receiving the same amount of water with drip irrigation.

WATER SOURCES 

My son’s grandfather loved to plant. His 6 acres in Nashville had several gardens, probably covering about a quarter of all the land. We ate beans and tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers starting in late May or early June to about the end of July….and then the gardens withered. Daddy never watered. He felt the Lord should supply. He also, when pushed, said it was too expensive to water.

I countered with a suggestion to cut back the gardens to one 20×20 plot and perhaps that would be financially feasible but he never went for that concept. I believe he was a planter, not a farmer.

Anyway, he was right, using municipal water just can’t work because of the cost. Identifying an alternative source is important. Paul and Leanne Fuhrman of Furhman Orchards (supplier to the Wild Ramp Market in Huntington) have several farm ponds on their land and are planning to build several more. Paul reported to locate a spring, dig the pond and line it with the right kind of clay costs him about $25,000. His current ponds are low, but with their help and his irrigation system, he has been able to produce about 70% of his typical yield this year.

Source: Nest Home Revolution

Use of springs and wells are perhaps the most common source for localized irrigation systems in this area. For smaller gardens, rain water catchment systems could also provide a considerable source when expected rainfall is sparse.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 12, 2012 1:29 pm

    Thanks… always informative and interesting.

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