The Yellow Farmhouse Garden

June 2, 2016

Use drip irrigation to maximize yields

Filed under: Water,Weather — bob @ 8:43 am

Weather conditions in the Pacific ocean always have an effect on our weather here in the Great Lakes area. Because of changing conditions in the Pacific, the  National Weather Service is predicting a warmer than normal summer with normal or slightly below normal rainfall.

That means as gardeners, we may have to irrigate our gardeners this year if we want to maximize our vegetable yields.

There are many ways to water a garden. Some are very inefficient uses of a gardener’s time and effort such as carrying watering cans. Other methods are inefficient by wasting water such as spraying water into the air with a sprinkling system. The most efficient way to irrigate is to use a trickle or drip irrigation system.

The simplest way to describe a drip system is to imagine a flat, thin-walled hose with tiny slits cut into it at regular intervals. Those tiny slits allow water to slowly drip out of the irrigation line rather than spray out into the air.

Unlike other types of irrigation that wet the entire soil surface and rest of the garden from top to bottom, drip irrigation places water only where it is needed, at the root zone of the garden plant.

As water drips out from the irrigation line, it travels straight down onto the soil for a short distance. It then begins to spread out providing moisture to the area of the soil profile where the plant roots are.

Install irrigation lines before or shortly after planting before the garden plants get too big and in the way.

Install irrigation lines before or shortly after planting before the garden plants get too big and in the way.

Looking at an area irrigated by a drip system, the soil may appear to be dry with just spots of moisture at the perforations. Underneath however, down in the root zone, moisture spreads out horizontally becoming available to the entire root zone. Soil texture affects the shape of the moist area somewhat. In sandy soil, water will travel further down into the soil before beginning to spread out compared to loamy or clay soils.

A dry soil surface also means fewer weeds since weed seeds need water in order to germinate.

Drip irrigation keeps the plant leaves dry giving plants some protection against diseases since many plant diseases can spread when leaves are wet. That’s why so many Golden Delicious apples come from the state of Washington. Out there very little rain falls and the air is dry — too dry to support plant disease. A drip irrigation system provides all the water the trees need. That is the perfect combination of growing conditions to minimize plant disease and maximize apples production. Here in Michigan our farmers grow wonderful apples but it is more difficult for them to do.

A battery-powered automatic timer coupled with  a valve system makes watering your garden a virtually hands-off process once it is installed. It also takes the worry out of leaving your garden to fend for itself while you are away on vacation during the hottest part of the growing season.

With care during installation, removal and storage, irrigation lines can be used over and over again year after year.

A warmer than normal growing season coupled with an efficient irrigation system will produce a bumper crop of garden vegetables this year.


July 6, 2012

Using a Surfactant to Save Water in the Garden

Filed under: Water,Weather — bob @ 2:00 pm

Because of the heat wave and lack of rain, I’ve had to water the garden just to keep the plants alive.

To conserve water, I’ve been syringing the plants one at a time with a watering wand.  Syringing uses much less water than spraying the entire area with an oscillating or impulse garden sprinkler.  It also helps keep the weeds down in between the plants since the soil there is so dry.

Using a water wand to syringe garden plants.

The soil in my garden is so dry it has become hydrophobic. The water,  instead of soaking into the ground, beads up on the surface  like water on a newly-waxed car hood.  So when I try to syringe a plant, instead of going down into the soil where the plant can use it, the water just runs off into the garden path. This is a common problem in many soils when they get too dry.

When my soil gets in this condition, I use a surfactant to help the water move into the soil. I keep a box of biodegradable dishwasher detergent in the garden shed just for this purpose.  About a tablespoon or so of the detergent to a couple gallons of water does the trick in my soil.

I use about this much detergent in my watering can.

I use my watering can to apply the solution right under the plants. You can see the change it makes in the soil as the water sinks right in instead of running off. This saves even more water when I syringe the plants.

It takes some time, but a watering can lets me put the solution right where I want it to go.

The surfactant won’t last all season but so far, I have had to make only one application. A couple of good rains will solve this problem.


Here’s a link to a good publication on hydrophobic soils:

January 21, 2009

Is Your Jade Plant Thirsty?

This time of the year it’s very easy to over-water house plants.

There is a lot less light in the winter,so most  plants including Jade Plants, will not be as actively photosynthesizing and won’t need as much water.

Over-watering has symptoms similar to under-watering.
When you give a plant too much water, it can cause the roots to become water logged and eventually die back. When the plant loses its roots, it can’t take up enough water, hence, the apparent symptom of not enough water. The well-meaning person taking care of the plant gives it even more water making the problem worse.

A Jade Plant  is able to store water in its fleshy leaves and stems. When it dries out to the point of needing water, the leaves become soft and flexible.

If you think your Jade plant needs water, gently squeeze a leaf or two.

Jade Plant

If it feel soft, it needs water. If it’s still firm, which in the horticulture trade is called turgid, no water is needed. The plant shown above needs no water, the leaf feels pretty firm.


Dry Jade Plant

This next plant’s leaves are soft and flexible, that means this plant needs water.

This squeeze-the-leaf  method works only on Jade Plants and other plants with similar fleshy leaves such as sedums and aloe.

Enjoy your indoor gardening!


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