Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mistakes I've Made - Part 2 of 2

Howdy fellow green thumbs,

Welcome to the second installment of  Mistakes I've Made.  Their purpose is just some quick points I wanted to share sooner rather than later just in case you are thinking of starting your vegetables seed sowing soon or planning your garden at this time.  Hopefully, they will help you avoid a few hiccups along the way.  Otherwise,  if you already have a garden coming along you might be facing some of the same problems. I will be blogging about these same topics and others in more details later.
Let's talk about watering management and potting soils.  As I mentioned in the previous post I am presently watering my plants by hand - great exercise but eventually can be very time consuming.  There is a better way but it can be costly to put one into operation - or is it? 

What's your dirt?  There are several types of imported and locally made potting soils available in town - some good some not so good. What have I learned?

 So grab a cup of coffee and let's begin.

 Precipitation Management 

The last two years I have been watering my plants by hand with a watering can.  The bigger the better  (less trips between the water tap and plants) but of course it gets heavier also.  So it depends on your muscle mass on the size water can to get.  Mine holds 8 liters and lifting it up to water some of my hanging plants is a form of Body Pump and definitively building some muscle on the arms.  Last year was not such a problem (less plants) but this year when all 38 plants were healthy and needed watering it took at least an hour to water them properly.  When you are in a rush to get out the door that can be a long time!  Some mornings have to start much earlier than normal or you could be holding a watering can in one hand and a flashlight in the other.  In this climate it is a daily chore make no doubt about it - ok maybe ever couple of days at this time of year but no longer. It also depends on the size of your plants - the bigger they are the more water they need and transpire - the smaller the pot the more frequent you need to water as the plants gets bigger.  I planted some cherry tomatoes in small pots (1 gal size) to see how well it will work. Now that the plants have grown and started making fruit they suck all the moisture out of the pot in a day.  So, if you have a lack of space and the time to keep your eye on it on a daily basis then it is fine but believe me you will need to keep an eye on it.

So what are your options if  you do not want to water by hand?  For this part of the world I believe drip irrigation is the only option.  I have decided that I should install a drip irrigation system to help with the watering of my vegetables and hopefully at the same time my wife's flowering plants. I had done a quick, cheapo & nasty job of one late this summer for her after she ran off the gardener for killing most of her plants upon our return from a summer holiday.  But, what I installed is nothing to brag about and is not properly designed for long term use - it is just something I stuck together quickly to water her flower bed and some shrubs before the summer heat could kill the rest of her plants.  It is basically drip irrigation tubing laid out along the plants with 8 liter/hr (8 liters per hour) drippers (drippers come in different volumes of water emitted but I believe 8l/hr is the largest) attached every so often (2 foot apart) and a quick coupled fitting on the end where I can attach the water hose.  There are so many things wrong with this design that it is embarrassing to admit I did it but it puts out the water where I want it. Basically what is wrong - there is no pressure regulator, no filter and no timer.  The pressure is from the city supply (differs during the time of day), the 8l/hr drippers I am hoping will let small particles through and the no timer has proved to be the biggest mistake! I tend to forget I have put it on and sometimes forget about it!!! So, if I can susgest anything at all - use a timer for your irrigation system.  They can cost a fortune (all singing & dancing types) or cheaper types that are just a basic 1 hr. manual timer that can be adjust from mintes to one hour and then shuts off the flow of the water. I need to get one of these very soon for the old system as well for the new system I am planning.   Below is a video to help the readers who do not know or understand how a drip irrigation system works.  Please note there are several companies making drip systems and they all work using the same basic hydrostatic principles but use different methods to apply the water.  Why not a sprinkler system - anything that sprays water is only (IMHO) wasting water as it is usually covers areas that do not need water and evaporation is high.

Soil Management

What's your dirt in your pots?  Is it white sand, brown sand, potting soil or a mixture of sand and potting soil?  The best advise I can give at this point is to use commerical potting soil so to hopefully cut down the risk of soil borne dieases getting to your plants.  There are many commerical brand potting soils avaialbe in town - which is the best and which is not good - sorry no comments on the no good brand/s - I do not want to end up like the Kuwait based blogger vs Benihana Kuwait.  All I will say is that some of the locally made potting soils have too much coconut husk and/or wood shavings and thus the water goes through the soil like green grass through a goose. The European brands (more expensive) are basically all the same peat based compound and are good quality.  In the picture below is the labeling of the content of some new soil a local gardening outfit is marketing. I have not used yet, so I can not comment on it but what I want to illustrate is that whatever you buy make sure it has something like this on the bag telling you what you are getting - this is important.  

I hope this was of help. I got to go out and water my vegetable again. Remeber any questions or comments are welcome in the box below.

Hope to see you at the next blog!


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