May 20 2011

DIY Raised Bed Garden – Part 2 – Security and Irrigation

Posted by Seth in Gardening

Continuation of DIY Raised Bed Garden Construction

It became apparent about 2 hours after planting some of my first vegetables, that I would need some sort of security fence around the plants. The squirrels or birds around my house seem to think it is fun to chop the plants in half and leave them for dead.  Originally, I made a wooden frame with some plastic poultry netting to keep them out, but I knew that was temporary and I needed something more permanent.

Cage installed, and you can see the tomato/cucumber trellis as well.

I took out my tomato cages and changed over to a trellis system, using some electrical conduit – this stuff is very cheap and easy to manipulate. To do that I needed to buy the conduit pipe cutter, so I figured I would get my money’s worth out of the investment in that tool.  I decided to use some 3/4″ EMT conduit along with some tent frame pieces that you would normally find vendors using to build tents at outdoor flea markets and shows.  Above is what I came up with, a nice “box” around the plants, that has plastic netting on all sides to keep out the creatures.  The temporary wood structure worked great, I’m sure I’ll get many a season out of the metal version.  It’s also hinged on one side so it just swings away.   You can find the pieces you need via a google search, mine came from http://www.ysbw.com/ .

1/4" Drip line connected to 1/2" main line

The next item I wanted to tackle was an automatic watering system.  I started to clear out the area along my fence to make way for some items like berries, and melons, and along with the second bed I built, I had things to water that were not so easy with a regular sprinkler. On top of that, sprinklers suck – they spray the leaves and it’s hard to get the roots in the beds soaked properly.  I decided to build a drip irrigation system and permanently install it.  Pieces for drip irrigation are available at Home Depot and Lowes under various brands, but right now the shelves are pretty barren because of the time of year, so I suggest buying online. I went with Drip Depot.

The systems are very simple to set up.  On top of that, they are efficient.  You will only be soaking the roots of your bed, for exactly as long as you need, so it doesn’t waste water. Mine runs on a timer, for 75 minutes each day at 5:30AM.   

 Basically, you hook it up to your hose outlet, run a main line near your beds, then branch off smaller lines to directly feed the plants. It literally takes minutes to install.  Mine took a little longer as my garden is nowhere near the hose hookup, and I opted to bury the 1/2″ line in the ground all the way to the garden.  The main line is called 1/2″ poly tube, the feeder hoses are 1/4″, and your garden hose hookup is a 3/4″.   At a minimum for the “foundations” of the system, you need:

That’s it for the foundations, then you need to accessorize in order to be able to water the plants.  How many emitters do you need? Well that depends on your plants. I did a good bit of reading to figure out which plants required which amount of water.  What I gathered is that Tomatoes needed the most water while peppers and just about everything else in my garden was good with 12″ spaced dripline running on either side of the plants to soak the roots.  I highly recommend a hose timer, so the garden waters itself. This Orbit one (and ones that look like it) had great reviews, that’s what I went with.

To water the plants, you have a variety of emitters to choose from.  My raised beds use mostly 1/4″ drip line which just plugs right into the 1/2″ main line with barb fittings.  The lines also need to be plugged at the end just like the main line, so you’ll need 1/4″ goof plugs for each run.  My raspberries and blueberries that are in the actual ground have adjustable drippers on them so that I can crank up the water as they grow if I need to.

Drip line for peas, and adjustable emitter on the oregano

Do some reading, and piece together what you need. My total investment for the irrigation system was about $100.  I work at night, and I travel a lot, so having this on an automatic timer is worth the $100 for peace of mind.  Plus, I don’t have to wake up at 5:30am and water the plants, ever!

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