Water Optimization

Jazzed to finally see blue sky and sunshine, K and I headed out to the yard to get it prepped before we head off on a trip to Belize for 2 weeks.

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Ellie lazing on this sunny spring day

Our plan was to get all of the barrels and beds ready for when we get home so that we can get planting. We are of course going to be away right at the time that we would usually be moving plants from our indoor greenhouse to their permanent homes out in the yard. Due to our trip, we didn’t even start plants this year. We are instead going to purchase them from a local nursery.

Feeling a little like Goldilocks, we realized we have areas of the yard that have too much water, not enough water and just the right amount. Those with just the right amount are not tinkered with…obviously. But the area that has too much and too little needed some fine tuning.

We started with our oak barrels. K had drilled holes into most of them, but had missed a couple, which were now cesspools of smelly sludge like soil. We decided to empty them out and let the sludge dry out (probably some good nutrients in there), so that we could get some holes drilled. We are also going to limit the drippers to reduce the amount of water going to those barrels as the are more shaded and do not get sucked dry from our sun and semi-arid dessert conditions.

It was a messy job, and the sludge was very stinky, but there were only 3 barrels to do, so we made quick work of it. Once we had emptied them, we flipped them over and drilled a good amount of holes to assist with drainage. We do have rocks in the bottom of the barrels to help create a bit of a drainage reservoir, but regardless, we still had our stinky soil. With the holes and the rocks, we are hoping for nice damp soil, that doesn’t get sludgy. The only one of us that found the sludge interesting was Ellie. I sometimes wonder if stinky things smell like beautiful florals to dogs. Or maybe she is just interested in the smell in general, who knows. Our goal was to keep her out of it so we didn’t have a stinky dog.

Once that was taken care of, it was time to address the area that wasn’t getting enough, or any, water. Our privacy cedars behind are shop are extremely important to us as we like the screen that it provides from our neighbours. We are friendly people, but when we want to enjoy our yard, we want it to be private and not like a fishbowl. Unfortunately, due to the steep slope and a perimeter making/checking dog, some of the gravel from behind the shop had been pushed down over the years and had buried the sprinkler heads.

We do have a plan for behind the shop as well. We have started our first row of large rocks, and by end of summer, will have blanketed the slope in the larger rocks, hopefully deterring Ellie from walking back there. If not, at least she won’t be able to push the gravel down anymore. We will also be building a larger retaining wall in front of them to provide a level bed for them. The old retaining wall was a dinky little thing that is now almost completely buried.

10 of the cedars are in rough shape, but hopefully not completely dying with no hope of survival. They still have a good amount of green to them, but the red is catching up. Our new plan was to run some sprinkler hose about 6-8″ off the ground, through the branches. From there, we bought some spring shaped drippers that allowed us to hang the water source directly over the roots and aim the spray where we wanted it to go.

After a calf-burning, cedar hugging, good time, we managed to get all of the bushes that are showing issues, a strong water source. We also had to clear some of the dead cedar needles. Instead of completely clearing them out, we made pockets on the uphill side and are hoping that they will act a little like a damp blanket over the roots, absorbing the water that would likely run down the hill without it. We chose this method as we do believe a little more soil could come down, or Ellie could push the larger rocks onto the sprayers, so we wanted to have a little wiggle room. Also, instead of general area sprayers, every bush is going to have their own sprayer that is directed right at their root system for more pin-pointed watering. We tested to ensure that we were not creating a waterfall where the tomato towers were going, while still also ensuring they are getting a thorough soak. We don’t want to be wasting water. It worked beautifully.

Once we are back from Belize, we will purchase another 10 – 15 of these hanging sprayers to setup the bushes that are right now very healthy. That way, we will have nothing but strong and bushy cedar trees.

It felt good getting out into the yard before we are gone for a few weeks. We will be doing a little bit of rock wall work over the next couple days before we take off. We want to be prepared as best we can for when we get back.

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