Another drought this year? No irrigation - WWYD?

2ajsmamaMay 16, 2013

I just got back in after walking out back, noticed that areas that are normally soggy with poor drainage aren't now. Not that they're dry, the weeds seem to be doing OK in the trenches, but the flatter area across the road from there where the manure pile is isn't squishing as I walk on it. And the deep pit at the end of the trellised trenches I filled with chicken manure and sawdust, where I had all the volunteer tomatoes last year b/c it's glacial till underneath and doesn't drain (I never had to water those volunteers last summer) has only a couple small weeds growing in it. There are planty of tall weeds (mostly dandelions but some ragweed and mullein) growing in between my raised beds, not too many in the beds, even where the burlap and hay blew off. The wild blackberries look like they're doing fine.

We've had just over an inch of rain this month (TWC says we had 1.5" last month but Dad didn't mention any the night before we got back from vacation so I'm not sure about that day). We got just 1/100" yesterday (supposedly - my rain gauge broke and I haven't replaced it). We're expecting more next week, but of course it's too far away to tell how much - just a 20-30% chance early in the week and supposedly more later. But it worries me that we're getting 1-1.5" when we should be getting 4.5" a month this time of year - it's been below normal for almost a year now, we didn't even get as much snow as normal. Reservoirs and ponds are still looking OK, but our springs aren't running like they normally do - the one that feeds our pond isn't making it all the way there any more, and the one that runs along our driveway (we had to put in a culvert when we built) disappeared a month ago. The only thing that's keeping things green is the snow melt and that won't last much longer.

I'm wondering if I should scale back (though I've spent money on supplies, incl. lumber for hoophouse) this year, just sell my plants and keep a small garden near the house for us. I haven't sent in my fee for market yet. I just don't want to spend $200 for market, $50 for insurance certificate, and bust my butt (and run the well dry) all summer hauling water out back to keep the beans, edamame, 100+ tomatoes and 50 peppers watered and then find (like I did with peppers and onions last year) that it wasn't enough and I don't harvest (m)any.

This post was edited by ajsmama on Thu, May 16, 13 at 13:16

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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

That was us here in Kansas and many parts of the Midwest.

There was no rain from late March until the end of May. Then two, 1 inch rains in June, then basically nothing until early September. We ran drip irrigation all the time. That with plastic mulch, we were able to conserve all the moisture we could. Put this together with weeks of near 100 or over 100 degrees and that was the summer of 2012.

We stuck it out, grew, planted, seeded and had a good year. Tough it out, do the work and cut back on marginal crops. I cut out low end crops and focused more on the big sellers, melons, tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 4:12PM
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That was last summer here too - wet in May, then June though Aug was pretty dry and hot, hauling 100 gal of water at a time 1000ft and filling gallon jugs from the barrels to water by hand when gravity didn't work well enough to water 100ft long rows.

I've already planned for this year to grow greens, cukes, squash, and determinate tomatoes near the house (then replace them with cool-weather crops when they're done). The tomatoes did OK last year out back (though some of my cherries reverted to currant-size), so did the potatoes. But I got late blight along with everyone else so don't want to plant potatoes there again, planned on beans which were a pretty good seller when I had them. And I did a few edamame plants near the house, I know that's a good seller and I have seed from 2011 so I figured I'd plant it in the trenches so wouldn't have to water as often (I do have drip hoses for those 40 ft rows, seemed to work in 2011 for the month that I needed them with barrels up in the truck).

Of course 2011 was the exact opposite - we got 12" of rain in August (after a pretty wet May/June and a scorching hot July) and everything drowned or got diseased/rotted.

Can't do melons - too much space and too much water. But I'm wondering if it's worth planting the beans, edamame, tomatoes, peppers (which never do well for me - at least not bells - I've got some non-bell sweets to try this year since people don't want the hot chiles) where I have to haul water, even if they are good sellers? I sold about $500 of tomatoes last year, but that won't pay for market fees, insurance, and gas. And I can't guarantee that the green beans, peppers, and edamame will grow well without rain.

Then again I have over 200 tomato starts, had planned on planting 120 of them. I just don't have room for all of them near the house, even if that's all I planted.

Would you do it 2 years in a row is the question? Is this the "new normal"? I don't want to be hauling water all summer long every year. Just don't know if it's worth it (time/gas and precious water).

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 4:41PM
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Found long-range drought outlook and it doesn't look bad here, supposed to improve (though I don't know if it'll be "normal"). So I guess I'll plant as planned. Even if I have to get DS to haul buckets from the pond so I don't have to run the well.

Western states look bad though.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 5:00PM
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You could start saving water in rain barrels to use when necessary. I found when we didn't have a well, that when I saved the water, I didn't worry about rain much. When the barrels got low, it seemed to rain. I only had to transport water maybe 10 times in 10 years.

I wasn't trying to irrigate with in. When I did plan on having irrigation water for the garden, I bought a swimming pool and use it for backup water supply. Of course, we cooled off in it, just like the 'ole swimmin hole'. We NEVER washed the produce in this water. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 5:41PM
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The problem is, I have to put the barrels in the truck, so unless I can find a way to pump them, I'd have to leave the full barrels in the truck until I needed them. Not only does that mean I can't use the truck for anything else, I also don't think it's good for the suspension.

It was a pain at the end of the year, but we did set 1 barrel up to collect rain at the house, so at least we would have water to flush the toilets in case we ran dry or lost power (which we didn't, even during Sandy). The only thing downhill from the house is woods. But now we have 4 barrels so I can set up a couple and use them to water the house garden too in a pinch (though they won't work with the soaker hose I laid out, esp. not uphill LOL, so I'd have to hand-water).

But if USDA says conditions will improve at least 1 stage, I'll go ahead as planned. We're only Moderate Drought right now, I think we can handle Abnormally Dry without too much of a problem. Worst case we'll buy a foot valve and a pump for the pond (just to irrigate with) and borrow my dad's generator/welder to run it. Hope it won't be 2x/wk every week.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 7:25PM
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Keep 1 barrel empty, but it in the truck when needed. Pump a full one into the empty in truck, then load that now empty into truck, and repeat.

We are officially out of any Drought and have been since winter. We didn't get much snow, but enough moisture to keep 'water healthy'.

I used to have 10-12 barrels in different locations, including 4-5 in our smallest greenhouse (10x20) to help keep the temps up during the winter months and to use after plantings began. By the time, plants were big enough to go outside, the barrels were empty.

I believe the lack of water is becoming the 'new normal', and we will have to deal with it.

The mayor of our local city has purchased rain barrels (the expensive ones) and having people paint them to win a contest. I've been telling people to use rain barrels for years now.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2013 at 9:30PM
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