"Self-sufficiency does not mean 'going back' to the acceptance of a lower standard of living. On the contrary, it is the striving for a higher standard of living, for food that is organically grown and good, for the good life in pleasant surroundings... and for the satisfaction that comes from doing difficult and intricate jobs well and successfully." John Seymour ~ Self Sufficiency 2003

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Sub-irrigated farm fare...?

When we last went to the farm I took along some extra polystyrene boxes, which RSon had got for me to use as sub-irrigated planters.

Why, I hear you ask.  I mean, on a farm surely one grows vegetables in the ground, not in raised sub-irrigated planters?

Well, I'm not really cuckoo - there is reason for my madness.

Firstly, we have timed irrigation for our trees only - which is basically a thinner black pipe connected to the timer unit with solenoids.  This black pipe runs next to each tree and waters the trees via a pin-prick hole.  We were, very thankfully, advised to use this method as there are mongeese abounding the area which gnaw thinner flexible pipe in half - so we can't use that.

But, in future, to specifically water vegetables, I would prefer some sort of spraying sprinkler heads (e.g Rainbird type), I think.  And I can't attach sprinkler heads to the pipe attached to the existing two solenoids, as the water would seriously gush out of those sprinklers, to the detriment of the trees.  What is needed is another solenoid or two - and which are devoted solely to watering my vegetable patch :)  I'm working on it.

But, in addition, I also need to work a serious amount of compost into our rock hard clay soil.  And until I can order and organize that, the only way I reckon I will be able to grow vegetables / salads at the start of this season is via a sub-irrigated container.  So that is exactly what I've done...

But, before I could do that I had to construct a protected vegetable patch - well, I wont be there to shoo away anything that feels like a quick (or probably long) healthy munch.  Hares, locusts, slugs and mongeese spring to mind.

RMan was busy installing some recycled balustrades on the front porch, so I had to use my noggin and whatever muscles were left in my arms to sort it out...
I laid down a layer of weedguard as the base layer to prevent a forest of weeds facing me next time we're there, and halved some shade cloth (well, I don't need it 3 mtrs wide - 1 1/2 mtrs will do very nicely, thank you) and sewed it together on the opposite side - to make it longer not wider.  This I attached to some wooden posts.  This easily covered the sides and top.  It's not the ideal height to access the veggies, but I guess I can handle bending double for a few months - rather that than no salads / veggies.

The irrigation pipe was already there, so I inserted the watering funnel into a bottle half (oxygen / water reservoir) and placed that in the corner of the box, poked holes in all the other bottle halves and, after leveling the boxes, I filled them with a potting soil / compost mixture.  After planting up the boxes with some seedlings and scattering some seeds I then pricked a hole in the pipe hovering over the watering funnel.  I secured the irrigation pipe with an external stake, and with a rock on top of the funnel.

All that was needed was to switch the irrigation to manual and let the water flow.  It worked a treat.  In no time at all the overflow pipe was spewing out the excess (we subsequently worked out how long the timer should be on for, in order to preserve the water and not waste it / allow it to overflow as much as it did.)

Whilst I was bending over the veggie patch (from the outside) I dropped my cell phone right into the middle of a large enough puddle which had formed on the ground from the overflow pipe.

Thus - all my photo's are blurry.  I quickly snapped pics of what I had done, before stripping the phone and, after giving it a quick wipe down, shoved it into a packet with some dessicants which I always save.  They arrive in vitamin / tablet containers - and instead of throwing these chemicals into the bin / landfill, I keep them in a plastic bag for just such an incident.
Recycled dessicants obtained from vitamin / tablet bottles
The next morning - the phone switched on, and worked perfectly.  No water damage at all :)
Whilst I was at it, I filled a couple of deep 20 lt (4 1/2 gallon) buckets with compost and after planting a pumpkin and squash plant in each I covered them with light coloured rocks - hopefully they will reflect the light and not allow the containers / soil to get too hot in summer - time will tell.  Finally, I shoved a sweet potato root or two, into a soil filled plastic bag (from the potting soil) and poked some holes in the base.  All three of these containers were also linked to the timed irrigation.

Will they produce?  Time will tell.  But there is no harm in trying, is there?

You can tell I got huge encouragement from the broad beans, can't you :) And, you can also tell that I'm getting terribly frustrated at not being able to devote all my time to farm food production...


African Bliss said...

I share your frustration. I was just telling Rae that I would love it if I could spend all my time in the garden. Instead we have to keep our soap business running, but watching food grow and then eating eat gives me a huge kick.

Dani said...

African Bliss - We share the same pain LOL

Mr. H. said...

Sounds like a good set up to me, bet your veggies will do great in the planters and buckets. My Mom grew squash in buckets this year and they did pretty well.

Dani said...

Mr H- Cool - if it's worked for your Mom hopefully it'll work for us as well - thanks :)

Jane said...

It would be difficult to garden when your not there full time. Any interested parties look at your house? Crossing my fingers.

I put my cell phone in a bucket of soaking beans a few months ago by accident. A friend said put it in a bag with rice and that did work. I don't get many of those packs in things, but if I see any I will need to grab them up for such an occasion.

Dani said...

Jane - "It would be difficult to garden when your not there full time." It's driving me NUTS!

Nope - only had one viewing in 4 1/2 months!!!! They say that the property market in South Africa is the worst it's been for 30 years!

Rice - now there's a good idea too :)