Moving Water

hauling Water: I remember living in a house that didn't have "running water"; it didn't have water at all except that carried there in a bucket. We used an outhouse for our toilet. I hauled water up a hill from the creek in a bucket and poured that water into a tank on the back porch. For hot water, we heated water on the stove until we got a stove that had a tank built right onto one side of it where the water heated more or less automatically, as long as you had a fire in the stove. We took baths in a round tub in the middle of the kitchen floor. Depending on how scarce water was, we might all use the same water or each have our own. The Fuller Brush salesman offered a bucket that had an attached hose with a body brush on the end of it. That allowed us to take showers in the washtub!

Years later, as a young woman, I lived for a while in Wyoming in a tiny community where every person trucked in their water in big tanks from 30 miles away or so—every drop of it. Then I moved to a tent on the bank of the Wind River outside Thermopolis, Wyoming. There I had a whole river full of running water right outside my front door, but none in a faucet. (If it had stayed summer forever, I might never have left.)

Nowadays, people who have to haul their water usually do so in 15gal. food-quality plastic barrels. plumbing: If you have "plumbing," you have an automatic system for bringing water to your house in a pipe and making it come out a faucet. Plumbing is a recent invention. The introduction of plumbing—along with electricity, all the electric appliances, and the telephone—easily convinced old-time homemakers that modern times were an absolute blessing.

drainage: You can have too much water as easily as too little. Waterlogged soil suffocates plant roots, increases the chance of disease, and drains heat from the soil. If your land has poor drainage, you can dig a ditch, lay drain tiles just below the surface, or use "leaky" pipe made from recycled tires. That will channel water away from your garden. Another way to cope is to build raised beds, which make your garden soil drain better and help keep plant roots above the water table.

irrigation Systems: Old-time watering means a watering can for small jobs as well as some irrigation system: water running downhill, directed into ditches that either temporarily flood or run near your plants. I remember help ing my dad irrigate that way—hard work in the hot sun. But most watering systems nowadays are more easily managed.

Here we have heavy spring rains from February to June. Then it suddenly turns hot, and there may not be another significant rainfall until the fall rains come. All the early crops like carrots, green onions, and peas do fine, but any crop that matures later than June has to be watered. Irrigation Supplies. Any good gardening-supply store or catalog has a whole section of equipment to help you water your garden. You can get a system that will water house plants while you're away, traditional watering cans like the one Peter Rabbit encountered, all sorts of watering hoses (including soaker types), and a variety of sprinkler systems. (Mellinger's has an excellent offering.) You can use seasonal above-ground watering systems or permanent, automatic, below-ground systems. For vegetable gardening, above-ground watering is most suitable. A canvas soaker hose works well. You can buy inexpensive, nonelectric timers that shut the water off automatically, or electric timers that turn water on or off at preset times. Modern technology makes possible automatic watering, with the time of day, where, and how much to water all managed by computer. For a long-term orchard, below-ground watering may be preferable. Drip is more water frugal than sprinkler. Drip-works is a specialist: 180 Sanhedrin Circle, Willits, CA 95490-8753; 800-522-3747; fax 707-459-9645; drip-[email protected]; www.dripworksusa.com. They offer mail-order systems and design service. Free catalog. Bucket. Another way to water is to carry the water in buckets and dump it on the plant. Don't laugh. I know a lady who has a magnificent orchard and garden, and that's how she has always done it. A watering can is more sightly but operates on the same principle. Inverted Bottle. To water a tree or some such while you're gone for several days, get a jar, bottle, or jug that has a small neck opening, and fill it with water. Stick it into the ground upside down next to the plant. The water will gradually soak into the ground.

Drip Hose. This irrigation system is the best if you live in a water-shortage area. It uses a special hose that has small holes that let water drip out. It's good for desert areas. Small plastic tube "emitters" about Vs inch in diameter are in

serted into a larger tube and spaced so the bed of plants is watered evenly. Water is applied slowly to the plants to completely saturate the root zone. Watering by this sort of trickle is most effective for the plants, and you lose less by evaporation than with spray systems. A porous hose or pipe with holes in it that lets out a slow steady flow of water is a "trickle" system.

Soaker Hose. We've never been blessed with enough water pressure to make a trickle system work, however, so we use a soaker hose. It's a long hose with tiny holes along one side and the end capped so water is forced to spray up and out through the holes. It sprays up 3 to 5 feet through the holes (depending on your water pressure) and has a gentle soaking action that is good for young, tender plants and older ones too. We hook up two of them, one behind the other, to cover more territory. The whole thing is on the end of about 200 feet of hose, so I can take the water wherever I want it in our big garden. If you try to make the water run uphill, you lose water pressure correspondingly. Rainbird Sprinkler. If you have good water pressure, you can use a rainbird sprinkler—that's a contraption that fits on the end of the hose and jerks back and forth, spraying water over quite a large circle as it goes. It is adjustable to water in a full circle, half circle or quarter circle. You can set it up wherever you want it. Just pound the sharp pointed metal stake side into the ground wherever you want it to sprinkle. Ditch Irrigation. You can bring a heavy flow of water into your garden through ditches. You then flood the garden with it, if you have lots, or else run it down little ditches alongside each row of plants. Old-time ditch irrigation for field crops waters a portion at a time using a system of ditches and dams. The ditches are just plain old "V"s gouged in the dirt by a ditcher machine, and they carry the water where you want it to go. At the place where you want the water to stop and pour out of the ditch, you plug the ditch with a dam of mud scooped up in your shovel from the ground beside. You have to spend all day out there either leaning on the shovel or digging with it to keep the water moving and achieve the fine distinction between leaving the ground too dry and washing out the crop.

My father used to irrigate this way. I recommend an irrigating costume of shorts, hip waders, and straw hat. The exact placement of the ditches is a fine art. The water has to flow downhill, of course, but you want it to flow slowly, so it won't wash out your dams, which means contouring the ditches appropriately to the slope of your land. Then they should be a reasonable distance from each other, say 15 to 20 feet for a hayfield. Every field is different, and the first summer's experience will correct all your original estimates.

You need a top ditch to feed from your water source down to the field. This ditch has to divert the water from somewhere higher than the field so that gravity makes it flow down to the field. That ditch feeds into one along the top side of your field from which all the contour ditches branch off. You dam the top ditch wherever you want the water to flow into a contour ditch, and cut out the side of the top ditch to let the water flow out of it. Start with the lower end and work your way back because you are weakening your ditch sides doing this. The top ditch is several feet deep. The contour ditches are less deep—6-12 inches —to facilitate overflow.

But where will your irrigation water come from? Your well? Spring? The community irrigation ditch? You have to apply and pay annually for your water use. You are allowed only as many cubic feet of water as you pay for, calculated by the inches of water and the time it flows. You want to pump water from your nearby river or lake? That is also not necessarily okay. River and lake water is often polluted. And you have to get permission from your state government before using it.

I've never known farmers to fight more bitterly about anything than they do about water. I've personally known cases of near murder happen along ditch lines, when a man down the line wasn't getting the water he was paying for and walked up the line to discover somebody else was diverting it onto his own ground.

Pipes. Another way to carry water on a large scale—for hay or truck gardening—is with a system of irrigation pipes. But these are expensive. They can be either permanently installed or movable. You can buy movable irrigation pipe that isn't unreasonably heavy or pipe that comes with built-in wheels. You buy heavy-duty sprinklers to go with it and a big pump to draw your water. This assumes you have a river, big pond, or artesian well in your field to draw from. Secrets of Plant Watering

1. Plants can absorb food from the soil only if it is in solution. So in effect, plants must have damp feet in order to eat.

2. A desert is usually rich farmland that happens to be lacking water. If you add water by irrigation, those arid lands will bloom. Only land whose topsoil has eroded or that has poisonous minerals in the topsoil is true desert. Water supply and temperature are the 2 great determinants of what plants can be grown where.

3. The best time to water is in the morning. Plants do most of their growing during the day and need the water for photosynthesis. Watering in the morning also allows plants to dry out by evening, which reduces the chance of mildew and rot.

4. Mulching helps to keep soil moist as well as to suppress weeds. (But wait until the ground gets thoroughly warm before putting on mulch.)

5. Plant species differ a lot in water requirements. Vegetables need a lot of water. Most vegetables are about 85 to 90 percent water. Flowers, trees, and bushes can all survive longer without water than vegetables.

6. Erosion happens when wind or water moves soil. If you garden or farm on sloping land, you risk erosion. Grass planted in strips across slopes, summer mulches, and winter cover crops help prevent erosion. Strategically placed diversion ditches also help.

7. Watering must be faithful. If stunted by water shortage, many vegetables never grow normally again.

8. Watering needs to be generous. Almost all vegetables produce much more with abundant water than with a skimpy supply. For a minimum, your garden needs about an inch of water a week, from either the sky or your irrigation system.

9. Surface runoff, puddling, and evaporation are all wastes of water.

10. For newly planted seeds, water often enough to keep the soil continually moist—morning and evening, sprinkling every day until they are up. You want them to come up as fast as possible. The moist ground also helps discourage wild birds and the family poultry from digging up the seeds and eating them.

11. Once your plants are well started, give them a good soaking rather than morning and evening sprinkles. Light sprinkles encourage shallow root systems because unless the soil gets wet to the level of the deeper roots, the shallow roots develop at the expense of the deeper ones. But those shallow roots can't do as good a job of finding soil nutrients. Because the surface of the soil dries out faster than the deeper soil, shallow watering also creates a vicious cycle in which more frequent watering is needed to keep the plants from wilting. Deep soakings, on the other hand, encourage deep root systems, and deep roots don't have to be watered as often.

12. For that "deep" watering, you want to water until the soil is wet to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. How long that takes depends on how fast your irrigation system delivers water and how fast your soil type absorbs it. When the soil gets dry, water again, to a depth of about 4 inches.

Continue reading here: Soil Texture Layers Depth

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  • Sarama
    Do you remember carrying a pail of water from an old fashioned water pump?
    1 year ago