Final Bed Prep 2018

Now that the snow is gone we can progress again on the crops. This weekend we are laying irrigation. We  haven’t purchased a hoe attachment for the Grillo yet so we purchased a rolling hoe tool to make the job easier and faster. Once the ditch was dug last year’s subsurface irrigation taped was re-laid in the bed. We invested money into good commercial grade irrigation tape so we could use it year over year. We used the Grillo’s power harrow to smooth the beds back out.

Just to confirm the tapes were still good we tested the irrigation by starting it up and making sure the water fully came through at the bottom of the row. Once we knew it was flowing, we folded and put ends on the base of the tapes. Then we turned the system on once again, leaving it run for 20 minutes, looking for moisture meeting the surface. Circular patterns appear on the top. If the pattern is interrupted there is a leak or blockage and the tape is removed to the garbage.

Over the last year we have created leaks in tapes, once by stabbing a last minute tomato stake in the ground when the plant started falling over and a few times digging carrots out of the carrot beds. We have yet to have a blockage.

Now that the irrigation is in and tested we can move to laying down fabric. Once again we will be reusing what we purchased last year, saving money. The only beds that we don’t lay down fabric is lettuce and root vegetables. The vegetation should be so thick it should prevent weeds from taking over.

We are really close to planting, but there is one more thing to put in. This will be the first time trying low tunnels in the spring to protect our plants. We installed hoops on the rows with the most concern, such as lettuce, and laid Agribon, a light protective fabric, over the hoops. The hoops were made from 1/2 EMT metal conduit pushed through a special bending frame to make hoops for this purpose. The fabric is tight up with Velcro straps until it’s needed. When it gets too cold or a storm is blowing through you just pull the Velcro ties off and pull the fabric down the sides of the rows. The ties make it a quick process for a last minute storm which are very common here.

Now we are ready to start planting!

Watch as we lay the irrigation and test it on the 5280 Artisan Farm YouTube Channel:

 

 

Installing Drip Tape

The farm plot expansion  brought on many new projects, one of which was extending irrigation to the new locations. Since we were already making changes, we decided this was a good time to invest in a higher end subsurface irrigation system. With the dry heat it saves a lot of water and brings it right down to the roots of the plants. But first we had to get the water out there and it wasn’t going to be easy.

Going to the distribution box we found two leaking valves and a cracked manifold. Every project results in unexpected costs and of course, delays. A store trip dragged the timing to the next day and it took multiple tries to get everything set to full pressure with no leaks.

With the new valves in place, we dug a trench with the tractor and laid heavy 3/4 inch poly pipe to the new expansion and brought it to the surface with a simple 3/4 head. From there we added a filter/regulator combo and then ran softer distribution pipe down the ends of the rows and connected in the drip tape to it for each row. Some rows had multiple drip tapes inside a single row, such as the 4 internal rows of carrots inside a single raised bed. We laid 2 drip tapes on that one. Two rows of carrots in the middle, then the drip tapes on either side, with one more row of carrots on the outside.

We had difficulty getting consistent depth for all rows, mostly due to soil inconsistency. Laying the system down manually by digging a trench, covering it up and smoothing out the row again took a lot of time. If sales go well this year we will need to consider getting a walk behind tractor with attachments for laying tape and smoothing the rows. It will almost be a test to see which rows do better based on depth.

After pressurizing the system we let it run for 45 minutes and watched for evidence the drip tape was working. We could see circles forming proving that our project was a success!