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Gone potty: irrigating with terracotta pots and hand watering



My many experiments in irrigating my garden  are proving fruitful. 

When I say 'irrigating' I mean keeping the water up to vegetables so that they don't die.

I'm not asking much.

Pursuant of that I've engineered a lot of  creative use of mulch.  So now -- even though we have seen so little rain for the past two dry months -- I'm still harvesting vegetables.

This year I have been fortunate in that my supply of grass clippings has been good and the garden never ran out of a top blanket of the stuff.
The grass later breaks down and creates and enriches my soil...
Combine that with my heavy papering and burying of branches earlier in the year --mulching with anything I could get -- and I've been able to hold onto more H2O than in  past dry spells.

Nonetheless, the garden is still thirsty. 

I have a Leeaky hose system embedded as my primary irrigation network but after using it occasionally for the past two years  I'm finding that the method doesn't suit my sandy soil nor my erratic lifestyle.  I may be able to wet soil when the system is turned on and  'leaking' into the beds -- but when it's not -- and  my system isn't in routine use --  the beds dry out and the plants wilt.

So I've tended to rely on hand watering especially as by visiting each plant with a douse from the hose I get to assess its state of health.  

I like hand watering. It's my  commune-with-nature moment almost on a daily basis. 

Clay Pottery

For some of  those places I didn't have the Leeaky system installed I embedded terracotta pots ( I used wine coolers I bought cheap at Op shops). 

Then a few months back, as an experiment,  I moved my coolers/pots to four of  my primary beds, placed them closer together and made sure I kept them topped up with water. 

I also stopped using  the Leeaky system to irrigate these beds.I only hand watered them as required and topped up the pots.

The results were impressive. Plant growth   was better in these pot watered beds than in others.

If you do your homework, the stats for  Unglazed Pot Irrigation are impressive. Constant seepage with water savings of 50-70% is a feasible option.

So with that experience behind me, I've decided to convert my garden to clay pot irrigation.

Going Potty

From  one of the major hardware chains I purchased 19 cm terracotta pots for $2 each. I plugged the drainage holes by gluing tile offcuts   to the pot base. At the local tip I  got  white tiles to sit across the pot rim. (My wife does mosaics and there are always plenty of tiles to hand so we're a tile-acquisitive household).

The whiteness of the tile gloss reflects heat away from the pot surface and the slight over -hang shades the pot and soil underneath. Tiles are also heavier than plates and bigger tiles are more difficult for crows and other inquisitive or cumbersome critters to shift to the side or flip.

There are any number of online DIY methods to create these 'Ollas' but I've opted with  the simple + easy + cheap. 

Each pot holds 2.5 litres of water which is a generous aquatic reserve every few centimetres. While there is literature on how best to distance the pots from one another -- I've opted to position and bury by experimentation and impulse. The pots are so cheap to buy and adapt to irrigation purposes that I should be able to saturate my beds as I see fit. They're also  like caravans: you can move 'em about the countryside to different parks.

Remember I like hand watering so I don't mind the business of  having to top up 30, 40 or whatever number of  pots as a gardening task. And by hand watering I'm also very conscious of how much water I'm using to keep the garden productive.










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