Unfortunately the above statement, if said to a female researcher in a lift in the House of Commons, and in the current climate, could have ruined my Parliamentary career; but as gardeners you know I am talking irrigation – what else! Anyway we are well into Autumn and you should be both capturing water and adjusting your irrigation systems. So following our big “compost special” of a few weeks ago; we now have the excitement of an irrigation special issue – what fun!
13th November: Things I have been doing lately
💧 Capturing rain water. Here in Spain water is a precious commodity for us gardeners. So when it rains we need to capture as much rain water as possible. In the past, at the first sign of rain, I have been known to run around the garden frantically opening the compost bin lids and filling trugs with water. But those days are gone, I now have NASA level “state of the art” water capture facilities, I am even thinking of selling water back to the government.
If you’re not capturing rain water at the moment, then the basics are simple. Get guttering fitted to the roof of your house and then capture water in rain butts as it comes off the roof. This need not be expensive, you can even use a dustbin bought from the China shop and then drill a hole and attach a tap. Remember all that water is free and you will need it during the summer so the expense of the guttering etc will eventually pay for itself.
The first photo below shows one of my two large “Ali Baba” type water butts that are attached to the house roof guttering down pipe. Each water butt holds 500 litres of water and I drain them off into boxes as I need the water, this allows me to use them as dipping troughs for watering cans.
The second photo below shows my large 1,000 litre water tank. These are very commonly used in agriculture in Spain to hold all sorts of fertilisers and chemicals. They can be bought for about €50. Though if you do buy them and they have been pre-used, make sure you flush them out thoroughly with water. In my case, the water tank is below the level of a large tiled pool area. When it rains the tiled area around the pool provides a huge quantity of water which is then channeled by a large pipe into the water tank. Note the dust bins beside the water tank. I siphon off the overflow water from the tank into a series of linked dustbins which I then use as dipping troughs for watering cans. I can often be found out there during thunderstorms cackling like Professor Frankenstein shouting “it’s alive” as I adjust the various valves to move water around.
⏲ Adjust your irrigation. It is now time to adjust your irrigation systems for winter. We have been having nice weather lately, and the strong winds in the last few days mean that plants will dry out quickly, but even so, you need to adjust things now or you are in danger of rotting plants. When the weather is cold enough to stop growth, overwatering will mean that plants will sit in water as they do not need to draw it up. This means their roots will rot and turn to mush; by the time you notice this it will be too late. For lawns I would recommend 10 minutes every 3 days. For orchards I would recommend 15 minutes every 5/7 days. And, for plant beds 5 minutes every 3 days. If it rains heavily turn off your irrigation system for about 3 days.
In total I have 11 metred watering timing points around my garden. All of them need to be adjusted and reconfigured for the changing season. Most importantly they need to have their batteries changed on an annual cycle (sometimes less than annually). You must make sure that you diarise this; if you fail to change the batteries, one of two things will happen depending on the type of timer. Some types will just open up and water night and day for ever; and if you are away this can be expensive. Others will just stop watering and the first you will notice is when all your plants start dying.
The photo below shows one of my many complicated irrigation points. It is a real Heath Robinson contraption but such fun to mess around with. It drives my wife Cruella mad I spent a whole day this week just adjusting all the timers for Winter. She locked me out, but I have built a tunnel back into the house under the compost bins, she only discovered I was back in from the smell!