Last year we had one of the worst droughts in 50 years. It was also the first year I tried to garden. Not a good combination. My corn didn't turn out, my carrots were stunted, my watermelons and tomatoes burned up. This year I decided to do something a little different. Namely, figure out how to water my garden with little thought on my part. Voila, my research into automatic waterers.
The first thing to figure out is what kind of soil you have. Since we walk on the ground we tend to think of it as a solid mass of material. This couldn't be further from the truth. All dirt is made up of tiny particles, even that horrible red clay that so many of us are cursed with. Between each of these particles is air. The nice thing about soil is that you can force that air out of the ground by filling it up with water. Soil can hold a lot more water than we really think. The real problem is how to get the water down there in the first place?
There are several ways to create a drip system. The easiest is to buy a drip hose, and place in the garden. Hook it up to the water faucet and turn it on. Of course, this is a blog about DIY, not about Buy It. Depending on where you live (we'll get to this in a minute), the way I recommend is to buy some PVC pipe and drill some holes up and down the length of it. Cap one end, and add a place on the other end to hook up a water hose, lay that in the garden. Do this for every row, and turn the hose on once each day. I would probably rotate which plants get watered every day.
Depending on where you live (I said we would get back to it), if you want to save a lot of money on watering, you need to build some rain barrels. You'll have to check with your HOA and local city ordinances first. You'd be amazed at how much water you can save in a year, by collecting rain water. Take the square footage of your roof, multiply the square footage of your roof by 625 and divide by 1000. This will give you an approximate number of gallons of water that you can collect off your roof. For instance, I live in a 1400 square foot house, with an average annual rain fall of 50 inches. So I could collect over 40,000 gallons of water just off my roof. That's more water than my garden will ever need. Heck, that's more water than my whole family goes through in a year.
There are several different ways to collect rain water, and divert it to your garden. The easiest is to acquire (you can buy them, or you might be able to find some for free. Check out craigslist, restaraunts and such), some large plastic barrels. Put one under the down spouts of your gutter, and you can are well on your way to collecting free water.
The easiest way to get the water to your garden is to add a spigot to each rain barrel. Make sure you get one that you can turn on and off. You want to make sure they are off while it's raining. Add a few garden hoses, and you shouldn't have to worry about running out of water any time soon.
Next week, I've got a few more ideas for container gardening.