Monday, July 26, 2010

City Water

I arrived at the farm on the beach Friday evening with all my cheap and easy supplies. Dictating my irrigation choices was the 1-inch PVC pipe and fittings my wife had in her studio. At the corner hardware store, there were barely any parts that reduced from 1-inch to 3/4 inch -which is the size of the 'female' fitting on the irrigation timer. After an exhaustive, dust-inhaling search amongst all his inventory, we found three different components that could make it work.

Some may question using PVC (polyvinyl chloride) as an element in water systems, although I have little concern for this application. My alternatives were expensive brass or copper pipes or other plastic compounds with a similar set of issues. In NYC, conventional PVC use is in lawn irrigation and may be slowly replacing cast iron 'black pipe' or 'charlotte pipe' for waste water. That said, around the U.S. and Canada, PVC is becoming the most common choice for potable public water mains and domestic supply. So, I guess what I'm saying is that we're drinking it anyway.

The garden is set up with ancient 1-inch galvanized iron pipes, rusting on the interior like you can't believe. My piping begins with brass fittings and valves, but then attaches to a plastic automated valve, water then flowing through a flexible plastic tubing to the PVC system. I do not have a backflow preventer, but then neither does anyone watering with a hose in a community garden. If you were to install a hard-plumbed irrigation system at home, this would be something you would need.

I cut the pipe to fit and placed all the fittings where I wanted them. At first, I didn't glue anything so that I could change things if needed.

Then I dug the trench with my handy trench digger -it's a shovel only 4-inches wide.

I had an old timer, but it didn't work any longer -forcing me to buy a new one. Lowe's had this timer by a company called 'Orbit,' costing about 30 bucks. It looked cheap and crappy, but was very easy to program -in fact, it didn't come with instructions of any kind. Mechanically, it may be cheap and crappy, but so far so good. I was pleased that it came with a metal screen at the inlet to filter out those chunks of rust that are sure to make their way through to my system.

The whole setup is rather Frankensteinian. Scavenged flexible clear pipe is only 1/2-inch interior diameter with scavenged hose connectors having 3/4-inch connections. I needed to reduce my 1-inch PVC to said 3/4-inch connection. At my corner store I was able to find a 1-inch PVC sleeve-to 1-inch 'male' threaded, a 1-inch 'female' threaded iron pipe reducing to a 3/4-inch female threaded, and to connect it all a double-ended 3/4-inch male threaded galvanized iron! Oy.

I buried the pipes, never gluing the top fittings because I wasn't sure if I would want to replace or reuse those pieces in the future. The water flows gently, which I wanted, so as not to disturb the soil or spray water all over the place. In other words -it works.

This is how most folks at the garden (or any garden) like to water their plants. They probably have a trigger spray nozzle or some such device. I cannot explain the feeling given by watering plants this way, but it is definite and possibly trance inducing. Is it the sense of control over one of the most important elements in all of life? Is it the power of 'making it rain?' Or is it something more sensual -the wetness, the mist, its cooling effect? Could be its sound, the splish and splash, but what of the pfffffft? I cannot say. No matter, I make it rain with electronic valves and gravity, near the ground and at regular intervals.

This is smarter because no matter what anyone says about farms in the city, I will not be slave to watering or rain. I am a city dweller and I long to escape for two weeks at a time, to see the land and its produce, to marvel at the broad expanse of forest and field, to bathe in the cool moist understory of air seeping from woods on hillsides without ever worrying of his tomatoes or green beans -that is in the contract! You -in the countryside will have great expanse and distance between you and others, neighborliness and drive by wavings, a slow pace, cleaner air and honesty. We -in the city will be free from rising at dawn to milk the cows, will have variety in all things, hustle, bustle and irony, and never, ever, will we have to worry about the state of the food growing on our little 'farms.' Because I am a city dweller, I must tend to other pursuits.


  1. Well, first I was awed by the neatness and method of everything and then you write that last paragraph. That is eloquent beauty.

  2. I have to show the hubs your irrigation system. We were thinking about doing drip irrigation next year, because I'm a little tired of being a slave to watering. :)

  3. Marie,

    Meemsny, do the drip-it works!

  4. Very innovative... I found you via Marie.

  5. She sends me visitors every day:)

  6. Well, you have a great irrigation system. I like it and I want to make something like that for my garden. Anyway, thanks for sharing. I've got an idea.



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