Gardening is an adventure and you never know what is going to happen next, except that something will always happen. Gardening when you can only check in on the garden during weekends just exasperates that. One problem has been a perennial issue – irrigation. The other usually resolves itself by this time of year – deer. Both flared up the same week. One seems fixed, the other “seems” under control, even though I chased three deer out of the yard over the weekend.
The garden is in the high-desert mountains of central Arizona. As such, a functioning irrigation system is necessary to getting what I want to grow, to grow. The system has largely been replaced, repaired, expanded, and changed, from the dysfunctional mess the previous over left. One part that hasn’t been replaced are the control valves. With so few moving parts it is hard to figure out what can really go wrong, at least aside from debris or a malfunctioning actuator. Once I determined neither of those were the issue, the only thing left to try was replacing the valve itself. Other than the timing of this, it was a fairly straight forward. The rest of the original valves will be replaced this fall or next spring, when there is time not to finish the project without jeopardizing the whole garden.
The new valve is working great, apart from the fact that there is so much pressure now versus before (which should have given away there was a problem), that all of the weak parts of the system are being blown out. These are much easier to repair, assuming I find them before leaving for the week.
Finding the original problem, the malfunctioning valve, was a bit of luck, and had the problem not been found, could have been disastrous for the garden. For most of the plants, the tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, etc, I bury drip irrigation 6″ – 8″ underground, then put the transplants that deep so the roots get the water directly. This seems to work well, until it doesn’t. The one big downside is I can’t see water coming out of the lines. I have to gauge that the line is working based on how the plant is behaving. This would not be a big deal if someone lived close to the garden to monitor this on a regular basis. I only found the issue when I did because I was transplanting a few replacement tomatoes from the nursery. Oh, back to the disaster averted part – the irrigation zone in question is the primary garden zone, and waters all the tomatoes, most of the eggplant, onions, beets, flowers, and a host of other plants.
I dug down to find the drip lines to put in a tomato, but instead of the soil being moist, it was very dry; not a good sign. Digging around in other areas revealed the same issue. That is when the hunt for the culprit began. A week later the replacement tomatoes are doing well. One of the three, the San Marzano pictured above, even has tomatoes on it, which were not present when we bought the plant.
My other nemesis, deer, remain an issue. Historically they move to higher ground in the nearby National Forest over summer. That is not the case this year. They also don’t seem that afraid of people. I could get about 15 feet away from them before they ran off. Pet deer, let alone three, is not what I am after. This has resulted in increased fencing and other obstructions, as well as the spraying of a noxious smelling substance that seems to keep them from eating plants. Because I only spray this on non-edible plants or edible plants that haven’t fruited, I hope the general smell in the area keeps them away.
The best news of the week as concerns the garden is that the monsoon rains have started. This brings a welcome relief from the sun and heat and a bit of rain. So far we have not had any deluges, but the rains are just starting. Now that temperatures are moderating I expect the plants to set more fruit and the garden to be off and running (assuming my nemesis stay away).