What a wild planting year we have had:
- It was cooler than normal spring.
- Wind gusts that decide to get nasty and take off half our greenhouse roof.
- Now the intense (constantly increasing due to climate change – yes, I do believe in it.) heat is on again.
The year we bought our farm (August 2000) was the first year in 100 years that Colorado had a serious drought. This drought went on for another two years. It was a good thing, back then, that we knew something of water conservation. Luckily, several elderly farmers in the area shared lots of their conservation ideas.
Since we love to try new things, we decided to give some of their methods a go.
- We were just using a sprinkler type system that worked fine in the city of Denver, but out here on the plains with drought conditions was not a great idea. We then purchased a huge drip irrigation system. This was the, most costly, investment in our new watering methods. It was also the most time-consuming.
- Main connector.
- Mainline with all its t-joint connector lines.
- Row lines connect, again with t-joints, to the secondary lines.
- Row lines tapped with a special hole-making tool to install the drip line(s).
That first year took forever to get it all installed, but it worked well. The next hard part of it was uninstalling to put it away for winter. Since it was all above ground, it all had to be taken apart, drained and sheltered for the winter. The next spring, we brought it all out again.
- We tried digging trenches like the big farms around us do. They then place short tubes into irrigation ditches. The tubes carry water from the ditch up into the fields. This idea didn’t last long with us. It just felt like too much water was being wasted.
- Next, we tried a bunch of different mulching methods.
- The first was the cheapest, but the biggest disaster. We have a local hydroponic tomato plant that uses coconut husks for mulch. When they do a “change-out” of plants and start newbies, they throw out all their old tubes of mulch. This was then free for the taking – so we did. After putting it around almost everything, we noticed some things were dying. We lost our first huge strawberry bed to this mulch. Gave away everything we could gather and never used it again.
- The next was “free” hay. Those that do not know, there is a difference between hay and straw mulch. Thick packing of hay can really help to block out the sun and kill weeds, just make sure you do not have weed seeds in the hay. That was our mistake. It took us future years of spot burning to get rid of all the Goathead (The cute little green pods become dry hard “spikey” beasts!)
(This is a younger full-size plant – the cute yellow flowers will become the green pods which, in turn, become the ugly beasties!)
sandbur weed grass . (Up close and nasty – the fuzzy end is not soft but spikey painful sticks to EVERYTHING – ugh!)
- After years of burning the sandburs and trying to coax our chickens, ducks, and geese to eat the little yellow flowers (best way to stop the Goathead from spreading). Our local energy company sent some tree cutters around to trim up the lines. They happened to stop by one day when I was in the garden and actually ask if it was ok to come onto our property (they have a “right-of-way” on file ) which I thought was very nice. I asked them what they were doing. Then I asked what they were doing with the wood chips. We now have a great agreement. They dump several piles of wood chips on our property for free. We get some awesome compost within just a few years. The piles cook down into the most beautiful dark dirt. We have learned how to use the older stuff as both new, good soil and great mulch. The one thing we did learn about wood chip mulch is that you cannot place it close to the base of a plant, bush, or tree.
- omewhere along the way, we started buying clean (no weeds) straw and found that using our Sucker/Blower (what we call our leaf blower) to chop it up into smaller pieces and mix it in with our wood chip mulch. We now have some stellar compost piles.
My whole share for today is to try to extend to you the opportunity to find new ways to use and save water. We all need to do our fair share to help. Conservation methods – even trial and error will help. Mulching, planting more items that will keep our earth cool, build shade covering where you can, building or creating spaces that provide use and beauty without wasting or using too much water. These are the methods we adhere to now and hope that you will too.
PS: Here are some other helpful places to learn about using water wisely: