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Changing your mindset around watering

 
Posts: 278
Location: South Central Kansas
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Soil moisture and hydrological  cycle

Here is some information on soil moisture and the water cycle.

http://www.whycos.org/hwrp/guide/chapters/english/original/WMO168_Ed2008_Vol_I_Ch4_Up2008_en.pdf

"From  the  hydrological  standpoint,  therefore,  plants  are  like  pumps  that remove water from the ground and raise it to the atmosphere."

 
Posts: 46
Location: NorCal
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hugelkultur dog chicken
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Thank you so much for sharing, It's a comfort to see such amazing changes if people are willing to open there mind and put there back into restoring nature.  I water too much.  Living in Northern California water is an issue!  I have made raised bed and plant less and pack more into the space I do have.  This year I'm building a Hugelkulture, and as things die out I think I will scoop out the dirt in my raised bed, and put wood on the bottom then replace the dirt.  I'm going to get better about mulching.  I also water my fodder under my very large walnut tree.  I justify thinking two plants one water.  I think it's a mind set, to not take for granted not only water but all of natures resources.  The little things matter, many small pieces of pie eventually make a whole.
 
Kai Walker
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Location: South Central Kansas
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:Thank you so much for sharing, It's a comfort to see such amazing changes if people are willing to open there mind and put there back into restoring nature.  I water too much.  Living in Northern California water is an issue!  I have made raised bed and plant less and pack more into the space I do have.  This year I'm building a Hugelkulture, and as things die out I think I will scoop out the dirt in my raised bed, and put wood on the bottom then replace the dirt.  I'm going to get better about mulching.  I also water my fodder under my very large walnut tree.  I justify thinking two plants one water.  I think it's a mind set, to not take for granted not only water but all of natures resources.  The little things matter, many small pieces of pie eventually make a whole.



I would like to point out that in places with reasonable rainfall, a trench might not be necessary and you could build your hugel on top of the soil.

Where I am it rains mid May to about end of June then almost stops and get VERY hot and VERYwindy.
So I need a trench with lots of wood in it to soak up the water for the dry period.

I wasn't able to dig mine deep enough nor use the logs I needed to mine to work out without having to water.

So I am stuck watering but not anywhere near as much as I used to.


Have you considered using Ollas for watering?

Fir a small garden it is a lot less expense and work than building a hugel.

I have a small 8" high raised bed garden that I use Ollas in.
It actually produces more than my hugel this year for some reason.

Had to use about 3,000 gallons of water in the past 10 days watering them both with the majority for the hugel.
Yes even with Ollas you still will have to water sometimes. Same with a hugel unless you build it big.

Much depends on the size of the hugel, the environment/climate, and what you are trying to grow.

My hugel is like a big rectangle with a skinny rectangle in the middle.

Makes for easier maintenance, harvesting, and watering. I just full the center of the hugel with water until it runs out one of the sides.

My trench is about 4 inches deep or so. Had hardpan I couldn't till through

And used a LOT of wood chips.

I did notice some large hollow places in my hugel. Seems the chips rotted and left a void I will have to fill in this fall.

That might be why mine is doing poorly - no soil and root contact to soil down below.

At least some Zinnias are growing pretty well on it


We use a soil moisture meter to check moisture levels near the important plants.
I do spot water some known dry places regularly.
I do not have Ollas on my hugel. Only on the raised bed.
Cost me $60 to make 5 of them. Too expensive to make a bunch at one time.

Trying to decide on whether to build a canopy over my gardens to keep some of the afternoon sun off them.


Or some kind of wind block. Wicked winds here. Usually 25mph to 35mph regularly. Couple that with 95F+ heat and it is hard on the plants.


 
Posts: 92
Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
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Hi, everyone! I thought I'd check back in and update my posts to say that the monsoon finally started here, late and a bit paltry as forecast. We've had essentially no mesquite bean harvest as a result (the trees are smart; they devote energy elsewhere when it's too dry), but we've started to harvest the delicious prickly pear variety with the more spherical fruits that I mentioned in this thread.

In the meantime, we've got our new garden -- which has no other irrigation than monsoon floodwater, directed by a feeder channel to sunken rows, or basins and ridges -- finished and are installing the gate. We got mixed tepary beans (Phaseolus acutifolius) seeded in there (brown, white, black, blue speckled, and Pinacate -- we're trying to create a landrace) and they're up. We need to terrify a few rodents out of there before we seed the squash and corn. We know it's awfully late for the corn, but our variety is Tohono O'odham 60-Day, so we figure we'll give it a shot and just make sure we save enough seed to try again next year just in case.

In one of the two "mesquite islands" in the new garden are several tree holes connected in to the basin and ridge earthworks, waiting for compost, mulch, and the native mulberry (Morus microphylla, I think) and Mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana) saplings and non-native jujube root suckers (Ziziphus jujuba). We're observing a couple more rains first to make sure the channels to the tree holes are working. If they don't, we're considering planting the little baby trees in the other mesquite island instead, at least temporarily, because it gets floodwater first (but there's less mesquite shade there, so in the long run, the other island would probably be a better nurse area). Do folks have warnings about or experience with moving trees around like this?

Later this season, we'll dig a root bed outside the main basin and ridge area of this garden that we'll fill with native roots as well as garlic in the fall and sweet potatoes, etc. in the spring. We're not quite sure how we'll engineer this yet (in terms of earthworks/irrigation).

In the old garden, which has limited grey(raincatch)water via buried dripline as well as redirected floodwater (similar to the new garden but the basins aren't as deep), tepary beans as well as mixed cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata: Yori Muni, Tohono O'odham, and Bisbee Gray) and Mechudo beans (a regular Phaseolus vulgaris that's a stable cross of pinto and black created by a local organic farmer), mixed squash (Tarahumara, Delicate, Navajo Hubbard, Kabocha, Calabasa de las Aguas, and Styrian), and a couple devil's claw (Proboscidea parviflora) seedlings are up in the sunken rows; and lots of things are up in the bed up top that gets a little more water. Those Mechudo beans are a slightly sprawling bush-ish bean on their home farm, but at our place last year they were tree-height vines, so we installed lots of yucca stalk poles. Some are still up, but we need to redo others.

I'm going to try again to post a few pictures, and then see about posting pictures from last year in a separate post.
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Greywater bed with tire shelters: basil, nasturtium, & a tomatillo
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Beans in basin next to greywater bed
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Beans & squash in basins in old garden; tire shelters in drier area
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Beans & squash in tire shelter in drier basin in old garden
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Tepary beans in basins in new garden; mesquite island at left
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Devil's claw seedling up! (Soaked seeds.)
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Prickly pear bed: purple fruits at left, spherical fruits at right
 
Jen Fulkerson
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hugelkultur dog chicken
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Thank you for your input.  I didn't know what a Ollas  was so I looked it up, and I'm definitely going to try it.  I am on a very tight budget, so I will use a DIY I saw on the internet.  The lady put a thin layer of cement in the bottom of a terracotta pot, let it set.  Planted it and used the saucer to cover the top.  It might not be quite as good as a ollas, but I can get the pots for a dollar at the 99 cent store, and I may improvise on the top, but I'm excited to give it a try.  Thank you  
 
Kai Walker
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:Thank you for your input.  I didn't know what a Ollas  was so I looked it up, and I'm definitely going to try it.  I am on a very tight budget, so I will use a DIY I saw on the internet.  The lady put a thin layer of cement in the bottom of a terracotta pot, let it set.  Planted it and used the saucer to cover the top.  It might not be quite as good as a ollas, but I can get the pots for a dollar at the 99 cent store, and I may improvise on the top, but I'm excited to give it a try.  Thank you  



Umm not so sure that cement is necessary.
I used weatherproof caulk on mine.

I have to fill mine about once or twice a week when it is hot, dry, and windy.
Depends on if the sun beats down on them too.

I used 8" ones. Took the saucers and put them on top to hold a shallow amount of water.

Gives the honeybees a drink

Whenever you go to refill them you might want to check for slugs. Seems they like the dark watery ollas!

Some of those can be elaborate.
Some install drip irrigation lines to them and a large container of water nearby to keep them full.

Some use Ollas balls.

Every see one of those 5 gal watering bottles in say an office?
I use those too in 2 places that need more water than an Ollas can provide.
Darned things cost $13 each at Walmart.
Not sure where to find any of them elsewhere.

Fill them, flip them, shove the neck into the ground.
If the ground is Dry they drain quickly. If it is wet or moist it will water pretty much on demand. Depends on the soil too.

It is so dry, hot, and windy here I had to water my hugelgarden 4 times in the past 10 days.
Nearly 3000 gallons each time too. (I water until it runs out the side and stop). Total garden areas combined are about 1000 cubic I think. Have to remeasure them again. Something just isn't right.
Sometimes I have to water the hugel from on top too.
Spot watering usually.
Spent 3 1/2 hours today running a well pump on a 2" line.
Feeble pump (it is new too) doesn't pump as much as it is supposed to. Maybe low water table I suppose.
Going to have to tear some of it down and see what the problem is.... Grrr...

By rights I an supposed to have a bushel of tomatoes per plant.
For 17 plants I barely got 1/2 bushel. Most was from the garden with the Ollas.
Hugelgarden not producing much.

Ahh but the Zinnas I planted are doing pretty well though. Some are a whopping 5 feet tall!

And the WEEDS sheesh.
Wish my foodstuffs would grow as well as the weeds.

I am finding squash bugs about 10 feet from where my squash plants used to be today too.
Soil is moist now but nothing wants to grow.....

Today most of my ollas still had water in them after about a week.
Only one was really low and others about 1/2 full.

Found some larvae from the squash vine borer today too.
Sprayed the daylights out of them and their location with soap and water. Looks like they are dead now.
Soap  and water also will kill Japanese beetles if you can get them sprayed underneath them.
Takes about 5 min for one to die.
1/2 cup per gallon of water in a sprayer.

Most squash bugs die in about 30 sec to a min.

Just sharing some experiences.

You can use cement in the ollas but that reduces the amount of water they hold.

You can also use a 1 quart Heinz apple cider vinegar bottle (glass only) with a 1/4 inch or slightly less hole drilled in the cap as a self waterer per plant.
It won't keep things well watered but can buy you some time if you are busy and can't get around to watering things.
That bottle will do one plant. Lasts about a day or two depending on the environment.

PS my soil in my hugelgarden was so dry in places the soil was like powder.
Not even sure a whole tree would provide enough water for here.



Edit: fix typos and fix sentence issues

Edit2: removed a brand name for the soap I used
 
Kai Walker
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Update. We got some rain last night.
A whole month's worth in one night too.
3.5 inches....
When it rains it pours....
 
Beth Wilder
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Location: Southeast Arizona, Latitude 31, Zone 8A, Cold Semi-Arid, USGS Ecoregion 79a
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Jen, if you have old corks around, you could try just jamming one of those in the hole at the bottom of a regular clay pot. The olla we're experimenting with right now is an early piece by my partner, who's a potter. We dig clay near us, he doesn't currently use glaze (you don't want any for ollas anyway), and he built a kiln out of an old oil barrel and other parts that we fire with local wood -- mostly desert broom (Baccharis sarothroides) because it replenishes so quickly. So all of that is free (actually I'm not sure where he salvaged the oil barrel -- it might have cost a few bucks). The jug he'd made holds about a half-gallon, I'd estimate. It has a handle and a narrow opening. I cut down an old cork to fit in the opening. The next olla to go in the ground is going to be one we bought at a local thrift store (I think it was a dollar) that was probably intended as a vase but is jug- or olla-shaped and about the same size as our first one. It has a big chip near the top, but that doesn't matter for our purposes. I'll do the same thing with a cork for the opening. So anyway, use things you find for free or cheap! Lucky you if you can get unglazed clay pots at the dollar store! Ours doesn't carry them. Try old corks in the bottom!
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the jug/olla, with a cut-down cork
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buried up to its opening
 
Kai Walker
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Location: South Central Kansas
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How does air get into the Ollas with a cork stopping it up?

Water goes out but air needs to come in.

Air getting in the same way water goes out then?

Most videos I watch show people placing a rock on top to keep bugs out and let air in.

No air in creates a vacuum and that stops water leeching, right?
 
Beth Wilder
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Hey, Kai! It's not an airtight cork (has my knife marks, ETA: and I believe corks themselves aren't perfectly airtight) and also, yes, the porous unglazed clay breathes as well as leaks. I think it would be pretty challenging, given the imperfect materials we're working with, to create an air seal even if we wanted to. ;)
 
Beth Wilder
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Beth Wilder wrote:In one of the two "mesquite islands" in the new garden are several tree holes connected in to the basin and ridge earthworks, waiting for compost, mulch, and the native mulberry (Morus microphylla, I think) and Mexican elder (Sambucus mexicana) saplings and non-native jujube root suckers (Ziziphus jujuba). We're observing a couple more rains first to make sure the channels to the tree holes are working. If they don't, we're considering planting the little baby trees in the other mesquite island instead, at least temporarily, because it gets floodwater first (but there's less mesquite shade there, so in the long run, the other island would probably be a better nurse area).


We were finally able to finish the trenches to the tree holes on our central mesquite "island" in our new garden area and collect enough compost and mulch to get those trees planted. We decided to stick with the original plan in terms of their location. The poor saplings had to wait so long to go in the ground that one of the two mulberries looks especially suffering-succotash, so I'm brewing a batch of fertilizer tea. I did also mulch all the trees with leaf litter from under several other mesquite trees in imitation of Tohono O'odham farmers, among other types of mulch (almost entirely mesquite-based). I'm hoping that gives them a burst of nitrogen and other nutrients, too.

The first picture I'm attaching is of the elder in its depression, taken earlier today when it was bone dry (despite the trees being watered this morning) not long before we finally got a decent soaker. The soil in our garden areas is largely sand and drains quite well, when it ever does get moisture, so I'm not too worried about the trees staying water-logged in any way they wouldn't want to, in this harsh environment.

The channel and sunken beds flowed well after getting enough rain, but sadly I didn't get a chance to take pictures when they were all full because we were busy checking and fiddling, making sure everything was working right and skimming out the place where the feeder channel enters the garden through chickenwire. The tree trenches do seem to be directing floodwater from the other sunken rows into the tree holes, although some better than others (imperfect grading on my part, I'm sure). So the second picture is the elder after the rain, once the flooding in the channels had gone down.

The third picture is of the old garden after today's rain (looks pretty similar to the new garden even though the new garden was planted later). It's pretty impressive to us given how little rain we've gotten this year, and how late. But for comparison, the fourth picture is from last year August 16th -- exactly a week later, when we'd had a very good monsoon rain starting nice and early -- of the exact same garden space, taken from a different angle. Almost all the same crops -- a ton of beans and some squash with a few devil's claw -- except that this year we decided not to bother with corn after all because I just don't think there's enough time left.
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Newly planted elder under nurse mesquite, 8/9/19 afternoon
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Same sapling after a decent monsoon rain, 8/9/19 evening
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Beans etc. in old garden after rain, 8/9/19 evening
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Beans etc. in old garden last year, 8/16/18
 
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