- Posted By: Foothill Farming
- Written by: Jim Muck
Is it irrigation or irritation? That is the question I always ask myself this time of the year. March was too wet and now April has been too dry so it is time to get the water flowing on the newly planted crops. I farm in what used to be a walnut orchard. The good and bad thing about using a former orchard is that it comes with the permanent sprinkler system that was used to irrigate the trees. The good part is that the pipes are all underground and there is a riser pipe every 60 feet. The trouble comes when the cover crop really gets to growing and pipes that used to be easily visible disappear in the lush growth of the vetch, bell beans and rye.
This year in addition to fixing the pipes I broke with the disc and mower, I am lowering all the riser pipes to a few inches below grade. This is my latest attempt at finding an easy way to farm the rows that contain the pipes. With the pipes below grade I can now take my mower or tiller right over the top of the pipes without breaking them (I hope). In the past I have just ignored the pipe rows and grown my crops in the alleys between, but I learned that is not a good idea. Two really bad things happen. First the weeds go nuts and sprawl all over the place, and second all the gophers and field mice move in to avoid the tractors and tillers going back and forth in the alleys. The rodents then stage nightly sorties into the alleys to chew on everything in sight. Not this year! This year I have a new plan. Now all I have to do is fix the irritation system so the plan will work. Did I say “irritation?” I mean “irrigation.”
The next week promises to be hard. I will be spending a lot of time on my hands and knees cutting pipes and gluing on new fittings. I am sure I will be making about fifty trips to the hardware store to buy more parts, especially the one part that I must have but forgot to buy the last time I was at the store. I would rather do this work now and conquer my pest problem in the beginning than trying to figure out a solution at the height of the growing season when I am lucky to think about anything other than picking and planting.