Friday, May 23, 2008


The tomatoes in the hoop house are doing brilliantly. I have to chalk that up to good soil - properly balanced, and irrigation. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and they need a lot of calcium. Having the proper calcium balance in the soil makes a host of micro and macro nutrients available to your plants and goes a long way toward suppressing disease and pest problems. That was the first step in building the greenhouse beds. Compost was step two. It's GREAT! Irrigation was the third step. Tomatoes that don't get enough water tend to have more problems with pests, fruit cracking, and other annoying things. The first two things are easy. Get your soil tested (I like testing facilities that use the Albrecht method. You can find more info and some testing facilities through Acres or ATTRA), supplement as needed, and use lots of compost. The third thing, irrigation, seems to be a challenge in most small scale greenhouses. This year I am using clay drainage pipes, plugged on one end and kept full of water, as my irrigation. The capillary action in the soil draws water from the pipe as the soil moisture declines. This way the plants get all the water they need, the soil never gets over saturated, and I don't have to be in there guessing every day. So far the system has worked very well. We'll see how it does as the temp goes up, but so far I am only having to top up the pipes every other day. I am already designing a linked system with a float valve and a 100 gallon feeder tank that will need very little daily maintenance. I'll post drawings and pictures as that part of the system developed.


Anonymous said...

Neat post. I have been thinking of rigging my square foot garden so that I could screw on a garden hose and irrigate it from perforated pipe below the soil. I'm interested to see how you made your system.

Alan said...

Hope to get the rest of the system in place in the next couple of weeks. Check back for the details.

The tomatoes are huge now.

Barbee' said...

I am wondering how you capped off the end of the drainage tile you used for irrigation. Isn't that tile pretty good size?

Alan said...


I used concrete pool patch. I poured it about an inch thick at the bottom. It isn't supposed to shrink much, and seems to be water proof. So far no leeks. (fingers crossed)

When I get my other bed done I will link all the pipes with a feeder pipe and a float valve. I expect I will have to do a bit of caulking to get it all water tight.

I'll post pictures of the process when I get it done.


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