We have also learnt many a hard lesson over at Homeland the past few years. Anything that is not irrigated dies over the harsh dry summer. We may have the best intentions to water it manually, regularly, but if it’s not on the irrigation system, somehow something slips between the cracks or “things” get in the way and eventually it just dies…
As I’ve been clearing, composting and mulching at Dreamland, I’ve been laying irrigation pipes as I’ve been going along. But a few unconnected pipes is hardly an irrigation system! I still needed the tailpiece of the puzzle completed – getting water to each and every little plant, otherwise what is the point? Likewise I needed everything connected up to a controller and to two water sources, namely Gaë’s water tanks as well as the mains water supply from Homeland. It will simply take too long to manually connect pipes to the various sections and run the irrigation manually, besides, then I would need flow taps and hose connectors on each sector’s pipes and with 10 sectors already planned, that is a lot of connectors.
I initially thought I could bring all the pipes to the little shed near our gate and install the controller there, but on closer analysis it meant I would need 10 x 25m more pipe. That’s quite a lot of pipe and money! Secondly, I then realised there is no power at the little shed anyway. So we came to the conclusion that the controller needs to sit nearer to the proposed chicken coup and it had to be solar powered. We are running the whole of Homeland on 4 sectors, and each sector is over-loaded, meaning that very little water gets to each plant or tree. So at Dreamland I wanted to do it properly, with enough sectors to have a decent water flow, especially as I was using quite big drip irrigation “circles” around the trees to water both the trees and the companion plants.
After searching far and wide, I found a Hunter XC Hybrid 12-zone DC battery / solar controller supplied by Sunshower Online in Cheltenham. They sold it in a package together with all the valves, manifolds and wires, which is really convenient as you don’t have to order the components separately and invariably get something wrong. Great was the excitement when the package from Sunshower arrived!
The area where the controller was going to be located may be partially shaded, but it definitely isn’t an easy area to work at, with the slope, grass and weeds and a pesky colony of ants. No, fortunately not bull ants! So I assembled the whole shebang in the shed. Interesting that they supply a 13-coloured wire to tradies, mostly male, of which 8% are supposedly colour blind! And I’m one of those… Fortunately on a previous visit, Neville (Patricia’s dad) bestowed me with a multimeter which now came in very handy. What the guys at Sunshower also don’t tell you, if you lay the valves side-by-side in series (how else would you?) it is touch and go to get the wires all together in the same distribution box. Fortunately with some creative drilling and liberal application of silicone I got it all connected. Multimeter and all I still got two sectors mixed up, but both are fortunately collections of fruit trees, so the logical order doesn’t matter too much.
Pop-ups or mist sprayers?
In my initial design I had two sectors for the individual pieces of lawn, with 4 pop-ups on each sector, mindful that I need enough pressure to power the popups. I have since come to the conclusion that I just hate popups! I tried two different types of popups and even reduced the number of popups to three on the one sector, but they just don’t spray sufficiently on the municipal pressure. I know I need a higher pressure pump, but the fact of the matter is, the municipal water is my backup (and testing) source. It will be a while still before I can liberally use the on-site pump and all the water in the Dreamland tanks. At the moment Gaë uses some of it for his hydroponics setup, and I don’t want to interfere with that.
However, I couldn’t find anything suitable between little misting sprayers and the popups. So in the end I settled for a row of 180-degree misting sprayers all around each lawn area. So far so good, as long as the wind doesn’t blow too hard. Fortunately most warm mornings start off pretty windless. So I have a box of various basically unused popups if anyone is interested!
So, downstream from the solar controller, we have an intricate system of irrigation pipes, running to various parts of the forest garden, even to the access way, more than 50m away. So in most places there is a complex little irrigation pipe system running under the mulch.
At some of the beds, which I had mulched before irrigating, the pipes run above the mulch – a bit unsightly at this stage, but I am sure over time the plants will cover it all up. Well, we sincerely hope they do!
Well, at least now it is working and we can water however many sectors we need to in automatic succession, without having to stand there for hours with the hosepipe. There are still a number of plants that need drip-feeders, especially two Angelicas, some currents and some of the native screen plants at the back – but it is miles better already!
Luckily we had over 30mm rain over the span of 3 days, a few days ago. The tanks are almost full again and everything is lush and green and growing! So now we can liberally use the irrigation system using a combination of Homeland and Dreamland’s tank water.
- Never underestimate the lengths of irrigation pipe needed. I think I rushed about 4 times to the hardware to get more pipe.
- Never underestimate the number of drip feeders and other fittings required.
- Lay as much irrigation as you can before mulching and planting, in that order.