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Contra Costa Community Garden, Fertigation, Irrigation Installation in Walnut Creek, CA

Smart Clock Installation, Fertigation System, MP Rotators, water efficient irrigation systems we installed for Contra Costa Community Vegetable Garden in East Bay, Walnut Creek

Our Garden: Our irrigation system
By Joan Morris
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 06/25/2009 02:00:00 PM PDT
Updated: 06/26/2009 12:47:35 PM PDT

What’s new

The talk about Our Garden has been about the new irrigation system donated and installed by CK Management Systems of Danville. It’s estimated to save us 50 percent of water use, and each time it comes on it’s “fertigating” the garden.

Here’s how it works. Incorporated in the system is a small tank that contains a two-month supply of organic fertilizer, bio-stimulants, nutrients and a little something that supposed to keep the squirrels at bay (more on that later).

The fertigation mixture is dispersed in tiny amount each time the water comes on, and because it’s being mixed with the water and put directly on the plants, it has 100 percent absorption.

Three of our four plots are now hooked up to the system. We ran into some problems with a water leak before the fourth one went in, but the work will be completed soon. Each bed has a different type of system. Bed No. 2 has variable flow microsprays, Bed No. 3 has multi-stream adjustable bubblers, and Bed No. 4 MP (match precipitation) rotators.

In addition to the systems, we also now own a weather station, which sounds much more impressive than it looks. It’s a white contraption not much bigger than a soda can, but it collects details on temperature, humidity, light, wind and a dozen other tidbits and relays them every five minutes to a “smart” clock.

The clock is programmed with information about the garden, from its longitude and latitude to
the type of garden we have. Using the programming and the information supplied by the miniature weather station, it decides when and how much to water.

Alex Cartwright, president of CK Management, and his team installed the system so expertly that when I showed up at Our Garden on Monday, I thought they hadn’t been able to do the work on Saturday. Our fences and bird netting were still in place, and the mulched pathways between rows looked exactly as I’d left them. It was only as I was walking around the garden checking on the plants that I noticed the emitters.

The company deals not only in irrigation systems but also gray water, rain water catchment and subterranean drip systems. Their generous contribution to Our Garden will go a long way to ensure our success not only this season, but for many more to come.

It also means that Master Gardener Russell Jones, who had been volunteering to hand-water the garden every day since we started, now has a bit more time to devote to his own garden. We send much thanks with him.

In other big news of the day, we had our first harvest last week. Volunteers gathered 10 zucchini and a handful of beans, which were sent off to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano along with a promise that more is on the way.

Squirrel update. I knew it was tempting to fate to say we had the squirrels under control. The minute they read that, they donned gas masks and bunny suits, fought their way through the fumes and ate, down to the ground, a small stand of chard that a volunteer had donated from her garden.

After that, they started on the newly planted cucumbers and beans, as well as most of the marigolds.

We suspected that all of the work done putting in the irrigation system disturbed the aroma barricade we’d erected, so we’ve reapplied it and hoped that it, along with the fertigation treatments, will keep the wee beasties away. But no. We’re moving on to another plan, whenever we think of one. I long ago accepted the fact that we are at war, and there is no end in sight.

What you missed

Last week’s class was compost tea. Bethallyn Black, with UC Cooperative Extension’s Contra Costa County Master Gardener program, brought in compost she’d bought dirt cheap from the Walnut Creek Recycling Center (check with your local waste management company to see if they also sell compost). Using a recipe of one part compost to 10 parts water, Black stirred up a tea that was then served to our Three Sisters plants.

Ideally, compost tea is “brewed” using an aerator, but Black says that stirring the solution for an hour can achieve passable results. The important thing is keep the compost suspended in solution, and to create an aerobic brew by agitating the water.

Also, Master Gardener Kathleen Rosania and her husband demonstrated a fast, easy and very cool way to build a trellis for our beans. Using three lengths of aluminum half-inch electrical conduit pipe, two elbow connectors, two pieces of rebar and a nylon trellis netting.

The pipes are sold in 10 foot lengths, so cut them in half. Use the elbow joints to connect a top bar to two sides, tie the netting in place and set the frame over the lengths of rebar, which have already been pressed into the ground.

You end up with a very sturdy, functional trellis that you can take down after the season, take apart and store until the next year. We now have two in Our Garden.

How our garden grows

Everything is looking good as the newer plants start to settle in and grow, and the older ones start blooming and producing. We’re anxious to see what the fertigation will mean for growth and production.

Our Garden online

Follow the progress of the garden and check out our how-to videos. Go to Contra CostaTimes.com/our garden or InsideBayArea.com/ ourgarden. Follow Our Garden’s progress on Twitter at twitter.com/gardeneditor.

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