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Friday, June 25, 2010

A Day In the Yard

Well, the past 2 days were near 100 degrees F, so I basically stayed inside.  But we have more hot weather coming up, so I took advantage of the "comfortable" 90 degrees and spent most of the day outside.  Actually, it wasn't too bad because the humidity was low and most of my backyard is shaded in the afternoon.

I had 3 goals for the day:
1.  Replant my pole beans and cucumbers (they simply did not grow the first time).
2.  Deeply water the veggie garden and flowerbeds (we have had a rain deficit every month since November and especially this month).
3.  Apply parasitic nematodes to combat grubs (mole food, and mole tunnels are vole highways).

First, the beans and cukes...  I am accustomed to presoaking my large seeds.  It usually works so well.  Unfortunately, I left the seeds soaking too long before the 1st planting, and only 2 plants came up.  Then I did the same thing 2 more times and didn't even bother to plant them because they were mushy.  There are times when you can really get annoyed at yourself!

Today, I took the last of my seeds, planted them in the cracked dry soil, and watered them deeply.  How dry was the soil?  Well. I watered it 3 days ago and today the soil was in dry clumps that I had to break up by hand in fine powder after I used a trowel to dig a row!  I watered the new seeds (and my existing small crops alongside) until it was damp 4" deep...  That ought to be good for a day.  I'll check again tomorrow.  That took a half hour.

Second, the garden and flowerbeds...  I spent 2 hours at that.  The flowerbeds are too narrow (generally 8' wide) to water with an oscillating sprinkler, and I didn't want to waste water on the lawn (which is in fine shape so far).  So I watered by hand so I could get the water right where it was needed. 

Now, watering by hand to get enough water into the ground is REALLY boring, so I have developed a liberating technique:

A.  Set up a stand for a radio, a timer, and a beer. 
B.  Set a chair next to the stand (in the shade of course).
C.  Plant a spading fork with a D handle in the ground 8' in front of the flowerbed.
D.  Place the sprayer nozzle (set on "shower") in the D handle.
E.  Set timer for 5 minutes.
F.  Turn on hose.
G.  Sit in chair, listen to radio, drink beer.
H.  When timer goes off, move spade 6' to the left, reset timer, sit in chair.
I.   Repeat until done.

Here is a pic of the sprayer I like to use for this.  It spreads large droplets in a wide cone, so there is little loss to wind and there is good coverage.  The nozzle gives control from a jet to wide cone, but no misting.

Here it is in the D handle of the spading fork.  The wide nozzle front helps it stay in the handle.

I use a spading fork because it is easiest to push into the lawn soil when dry, but any shovel with a D handle would work.  I am designing a better tool for the job.  If I am successful, I'll sell it.

Works great!  Of course, you can do other minor chores each 5 minutes, but I seldom do.  You can't weed ahead of the watering because the soil is too hard.  You can't weed behind it because the grass and soil is too wet.  And you can't do anything complicated because 5 minutes isn't enough time.  Yo can only sit and listen to the radio while drinking a beer.  Is that a perfect system or what?

Third, I had to apply the second batch of parasitic nematodes...  These little critters are great!  The wriggle through wet soil looking for grubs.  When they find one, they crawl inside it, lay eggs and die.  The grub producing thousands of new nematodes who go off through the soil looking for more grubs.

I don't actually have much of a grub problem as far as the lawn grass is concerned.  But I apparently have enough to keep the moles well fed.  I don't even mind the moles all that much.  I tread down their tunnels in the lawn and they aren't eating the veggies or flowers.

It's the voles I am after!!!  The voles follow the mole tunnels and THEY eat plants.  I have lost so many bulbs and perennials to voles that I am at war with them.  But they are hard to get rid of.  Part 1 of the plan is to get rid of the moles that provide them safe passage all around the yard.  Part 2 is to find the holes out of the mole tunnels and set up traps under buckets (mustn't let the cats step on traps) to catch the survivors and babies...

Anyway, applying the nematodes takes 3 actions.  You have to soak the ground, then apply the nematodes in a water mixture, then resoak the ground.  The instructions don't explain why, but I think I have figured most of it out.  The nematodes are essentially aquatic.  So if you spray them lightly on dry soil, they just die.

And after you spray them, the water droplets tend to stick on foliage and the droplets evaporate.  So here is what I think is happening...

The soil is soaked first to give the nematodes and place to land safely and survive the first few minutes after they are sprayed around.  Then, the followup spraying waters them down off the foliage and onto the soil, surrounding them in moisture.  Once they are on wet soil, they can start to move around freely.

They are applied in 2 batches a week apart.  The soil is to be kept moist for a week after each application.  Fortunately, the first application was easy.  I had a rainstorm in the afternoon to soak the soil, then I applied the nematodes, then there was a later shower and showers each of the 2 days after that.  The soil stayed moist.

I wasn't as lucky the second application.  Dry as a bone for days!  I spent 2 hours soaking the soil with the spade and nozzle arrangement in batches all over the area where I most often see mole tunnels.  I applied the nematodes (half hour).  Then I re-soaked the soil where I applied them (another hour).

I normally find it easy and satisfying to water the gardens.  I am heartily tired of it at the moment.  LOL!  3 1/2 hours of that cured me of the "pleasure" of watering (for a few days).

Let's just hope that the nematodes have a good effect on killing soil grubs for a while.


Anonymous said...

I have has success with aplying diatomaceous earth around select plants that I want to keep safe from voles.

I also use timers for watering, but use drip hoses, or even hoses with their joints loosened to leak on a particular plant.

Having planted 50 dogwoods and 50 pines (seedlings) in my yard this year, I am dripping a lot.

da bear

AFSS said...

Yes, the first couple of times I enjoy watering the garden. After that it becomes a chore. Part of the problem is I have to wait till late evening to water and by then I am already tired.

At the moment I am trying to figure out why one pineapple sage is dead, another is dying and the one next to it is huge and thriving. I treated them all the same, honest.

Derby, Ducky said...

You are so smart with the watering method. Mum will have to learn that one.