Sunday, July 26, 2009

As the Gentle Rain from Heaven

Project Mesopotamia: Phase I
After much travail, Matt got three of our watering zones fully automated. The hardest part, I gather, was finding a way to get the wires to go from the irrigation computer through the floor to the valves below. Poor Matt had to go under the house a lot, which is no kind of fun.

Matt ex machina

But the system finally works! O, glorious wetness! The lucky three are the shade garden and the two gazebo zones (the pecan side and the pond side). At present they're set to go off at midnight, one after another, but I may change that: I want to hear the posh-sounding hiss and gurgle of the watering system kicking on as I leave for work in the morning. The sound alone will make me feel happy and secure and adequately hydrated.

The new system may save the lives of the following plants:
  1. Oak-leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) - has been wilting every 3 days
  2. Monterey Cypress (Taxodium mucronatum) - crashed a few weeks ago; copious watering seems to have pulled it back from the brink
  3. Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) - hey, it's only 1/3 dead! It could still survive.
  4. Fern-leaf lavender (Lavandula multifida) - and this one's only 1/2 dead--no problem, right?
  5. Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil (Ocimum basilicum) - grown from seed--so little, but so spunky.
Also, the African hosta (Drimiopsis maculata) has been looking a little peaky, and the two Japanese maples, nurseryman's promises notwithstanding, have been crispy-edged and petulant. So the water should make a big difference for them as well.

Project Mesopotamia: Phase II
Next will be the bed around the front porch and the pole bed. This is particularly satisfactory, as the 'Yuletide' camellia has led a parlous existence ever since being transplanted from its pot, and the 'Ferdinand Pichard' has suffered dreadfully--possibly terminally--from Roundup drift. Both need regular water. Also, I've hooked our two 'Kimberly Queen' (Nephrolepis cordifolia) hanging ferns into the system, and so they'll give our front porch some privacy once they get enough water to really bulk up.

Fish Emulsion

Meanwhile, the roses have been growing and blooming, those enterprising creatures. For some of the plants near the foundation, the new growth is yellowy green between the veins. If memory serves, yellowness ("chlorosis") between the veins on new growth is a sign of iron deficiency. I'm guessing that the watering we've been doing has caused calcium to leach out of the cement and into the soil, where it ties up the iron in such a way that they plants can't access it. Sounds plausible, anyway. So I fish-emulsioned this morning, hoping that will help a bit.

I like organic fertilizers like fish emulsion because, among other things, they contain a wide range of nutrients. The bottle I was using this morning, for instance, claimed that it contained Nitrogen 2.23, Phosphorous 4.35, Potassium 0.30, Calcium 0.75, Sulfur 0.17, Glutamic Acid 8.03, Magnesium 0.04, Sodium 0.16, Iron 26.0 ppm, Manganese 3.0 ppm...

I also started on the manifold for the west-side irrigation zones (the roses, blue-and-purple bed, mutabilis bed, and trees). Yeah, that's right, I made a manifold. Sounds complicated; is simple. I had thought it was some sort of arcane automotive component, perhaps involving some sort of pleated fiber, probably manufactured by 3M. Not so. It just means "a pipe with several valves attached to it." Still, I got to work with PVC primer and pipe cement. The former is purple, and I love they way the two of them smell. Even better than permanent markers.

So we'll need one long pipe to get the water from the central point under the mudroom over to the west side's crawlspace access point, and then we'll attach the manifold to the end of the pipe. We'll run a bunch of wire to the valves in the manifold from the computer in the mudroom. Et voila! Automation! Again!

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