Monday, July 19, 2010

Hot For Farming

We received our federal farm allotment this past week. On Friday morning, we begun the hard work of turning the soil from a weed-lot to cleared-lot. It was hot and humid, but a breeze was blowing in from the ocean, 1000 feet away.

The plot, F12, had been weed-whacked a couple of weeks ago by the Dept. of the Interior. The heat and drought fried what remained. Our weeds are heavy on the mugwort, queen anne's lace, and crabgrass -but mostly mugwort, Artemesia vulgaris. You can't see them here.

But just under the soil surface, mats of stolons running every which way. Each little piece of stolon can create a new mugwort plant, so clearing as much as possible is essential. The soil is decent, friable, but demands organic matter.

This job would've been much harder if it were clay. My choice for breaking ground, a mattock. Many of the long time Tilden gardeners (some as long as 40 years) suggested I use the tiller (broken, missing?) -but in my opinion, this is the best way to go. Although tilling is faster, it also buries the stolons. Betsy raked though the mattocked soil to clear out the weeds, and wheel barrowed them to the compost pile.

And you just might hit these rubber mats with the machine -ouch. There are many ways to control weeds -chemicals, mechanical or manual pulling, or barriers. Someone chose interlocking rubber mats in many of the pathways in and around my plot. I pulled up those in our area, and will check into the free woodchips that I heard about at the BBG.

This is Thaddeus, the ranger. While we were beginning Friday morning, he and a team of DOI employees came to check on the garden. He announced that he was looking for beautification projects for the summer. I gave him some ideas. I will forward him the woodchip info if that pans out. I also think a sign board where we can share info would be useful -place it right where those folks are sitting. In the mean time, they can mow the pathways that aren't covered in rubber mats or astroturf, and fix the plumbing.

Our standpipe and valve did this when turned on. No pressure. First thing to check was the line -how did all the other valves flow? Turns out just fine, including the one after mine in the line. Must be the valve then.

This took some doing. My ordinary wrench could not extricate this valve from the pipe. I needed a super sized pipe wrench. These valves are brass, but the pipes are not -they are galvanized steel. Anyone who has ever worked on an old home knows that if the building is filled with galvanized pipes for water supply, there will be expensive trouble in the near future.

Here's why. This is the inside of that valve that I removed. It's filled with small chunks of rusted steel that have corroded off the inside of those pipes. Pipes like these won't be good for much more than 5 to 7 years. The galvanized pipes here have been in place for a very long time. No doubt each valve has some of this rust in it. I saved mine to show Ranger Thaddeus.

The new system: all brass fittings, with a 'T' branching off to the public tap (red) and to my personal irrigation timer tap (black). Now I just need to figure out how I want to irrigate beyond the timer: trench flood, black pipe drip system, or soaker hose. My experience has been with the first two, although the black pipe and fittings for the drip will be expensive and time consuming (finding components/installing). This year, I may have to go with soaker or flood, although something about the soaker hose gives me pause. The rubber? The slowness? What?

All told, it took about 6 hours to clear the land, over two days. That was the hard part. The vegetables are sitting in the side garden waiting for us to plant them. I still want to get some organic matter in the soil before we plant. I am waiting on J&L for info about a compost delivery -looking at about 3 cubic yards worth. The plot to the left, belongs to an Irishman named Jimmy -he hauled in about 30 bags. I don't want to do it by the bag for cost alone.

Both days, it being so hot, we escaped to the beach after our work. The water is warm, maybe 70 degrees, but enough to cool us down. We hope that we don't get caught leaving the garden, where our van is parked -our permit is for active gardening only. How we see it is, though, that coming all this way to garden requires the benefit of the beach. That's where it's at, see. And driving to the adjacent Reis Park to pay for parking is silly. SO we leave our van, permit on mirror, and head to the beach, fingers crossed.


  1. Your patch looks amazingly inviting, post clearing.

  2. another crime committed. i knew it, after the lenient treatment of the no-turn-signal turn.

  3. I have some drip irrigation supplies you can have, if you want them: emitters of different sizes, spaghettis, and 1/2" (or 3/4"?) tubing. If you're interested I'll check when I get out to PA on Friday.

  4. Interesting post! I also have farm in our province and I put a drip irrigation there for watering plants. Glad that you do it too. Thanks for sharing.



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