Back in November, I wrote about my efforts to improve the productivity of my veggie gardens by raising the beds and drastically improving the soil. However, in North Texas, all the good soil in the world does you no good if you can’t get consistent moisture on the garden. With that in mind, I engineered a watering system project that was completed a couple of weeks ago.
This is where I started. I bought 1 inch PVC pipe and garden hose connectors from Lowes (Home Depot didn’t have the actual hose connectors). An article in the Dallas Morning News that I was loosely basing my design on used clamps instead of actual hose connectors but I actually prefer my way because it’s not as likely to leak given my terrible engineering skills.
These are the basic materials. I had the PVC primer and adhesive from last summer when I poked a hole through an existing sprinkler pipe with a pitchfork. As mentioned above, the connectors fit into the T-Bar connectors on the pipe and then screw on to the end of the soaker hoses. I didn’t end up gluing the hose connectors into the T-Bar connectors because in the winter, I won’t have as big of a garden as summertime and I’d like to be able to cap the pipe in places I don’t need a hose.
I fastened the PVC to the 2x12s using some basic connectors I found in the PVC aisle at Home Depot. They screwed into the 2x12s and kept the PVC very secure. I didn’t secure the pipe until I was done cutting and piecing together all the PVC.
Halfway done. At this point, I had 20 feet of PVC glued together with 12 T-Bar connectors where I could connect hoses. Initially, I was only going to do this system for the big bed but my OCD kicked in and I realized that it would be stupid to have built two beds and only apply the system to one of them. So I had to figure out how to get the PVC to the other bed which was not in any way parallel to the big bed. Scooter always seems to keep a careful eye on my gardening projects. Mostly he just keeps an eye on whether or not I’m coming to give him a bath or not.
You can pretty much get yourself out of any painted corner with PVC because there are so many connectors. I had bought entirely too much PVC anyway and so I added a couple of elbow joints, ran PVC halfway down and then across to the other garden. I ran 4 connectors off of that pipe into garden 1 which you can see below.
Here’s the timer that drives the entire system. It can be scheduled to run from once a week up to 4 times a day on a schedule. During the spring, it will probably run a couple times a day for 15-20 minutes. In the summer, it will go for up to 4 times a day for the same amount. Again, because the idea is to have consistent moisture, I want it to run several times a day for short periods of time. If you’ve ever grown tomatoes and had them crack badly, that comes from a dry spell followed by lots of water followed by dry again. For perfect tomatoes, water has to be consistent.
And the final result. As you can see, in my initial design, I have 10 foot hoses connected at both ends to the PVC mainline using male and female connectors. However, upon further reflection and some planting, I realized that it’s better to just connect the male ends of the soaker hoses, use all 12 connection points for 12 hoses and run a hose all the way around a row. This provides moisture to both sides of the row which is the point.
One of the pluses to this set up is that i can connect fertilizer or vinegar (good for slightly acidifying the soil which tomatoes prefer) to the start of the PVC and fertilize the entire garden through the system.
So far, I’ve planted onions, red and green cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, snow peas and sugar snap peas. I haven’t turned the system on full time yet because I still need to get trellises installed for the peas. I have tested it and it works great.
Future improvements are extending the far end of it around the corner and then back down the far side of the garden so that I can run a couple of hoses down there around the blackberry bush and along anything I plant in the 4 feet of old garden space I have down there.
Overall, it was a pretty straightforward project. Total cost was around $150 though that could have been cheaper if I would have planned a little better and not overbought the PVC. If it produces tomatoes throughout the summer, it will be $150 well spent.