It’s summer and that means high temperatures and no rain for my part of Texas. Everything dries out. My hugelkulter beds still retain moisture but I do need to add water a couple of times a week to get peak health from my vegetables.
One of my favorite ways to water my big hugelkulter beds is with soaker hoses. You don’t lose as much water to evaporation and you can water only what you want to water. Today I went out and put my soaker hoses in.
I like to direct sow my summer vegetables. It’s so much easier than trying to start things indoors and then slowly moving your plants outside. All you need for this project is a soaker hose, a hose end cap, some landscape pins and a couple of rocks, bricks or even pottery shards to hold stubborn areas down. My beds have beautiful soil in them, it’s mostly garden compost with some composted cow manure mixed in. Under the soil is a hugelkulter mound I made with bark chips, packing boxes and paper from a move. See how I built them here: Mother’s Day Raised Hugelkultur Bed! And here: Hugelkultur, Keyhole Gardens: Bridging Ideas
I also have a dog who loves to dig in my beds and a neighborhood cat who thinks it is his own giant kitty litter box. The best and cheapest way I’ve found to keep pets out of raised beds is to lay bird netting across it. If you have a dog (or rabbits, etc) that are not easily deterred, you might need to run an electric fence around your beds. Luckily for me, cats don’t like touching netting and my dog isn’t super crazy, so he avoids getting tangled in the netting without extra attention from me. (I’ll pull all of this up when my seeds sprout and then tent them across the beds.)
I have a few things that are already growing in my beds that I planted in the fall. A few bananas made it and the sweet potatoes and beans are filling in around the tomatoes. So I ran my hoses around those. Some tips to keep in mind when you are running soaker hoses are:
1. Find your female hose end and place it where you intend to attach your garden hose. This is the end you want to start with.
2. Make sure you’ve capped the male end of your hose. If you are trying to daisy chain your hoses together, you may end up with too little pressure at the end of your hoses and you won’t get that part of the bed watered as well. I have a 12 foot long bed that’s 6 foot wide. Depending on what I’m growing, 1 to 2 soaker hoses work, per bed, for me. The photo below is using one hose.
3. Lay your hose in a spiral. Soaker hoses are stiff and will kink if you try and bend them. They will also pull up your landscape pins once the soil is wet, if you’ve added too much pressure from forcing the hose into tight angles. I always have a couple of large rocks handy when I lay my hoses out because there’s always some sections that don’t want to lay the way I need them to.
4. Run your hoses with only a foot or so between each other in the spiral. Unless you have really hard, impermeable clay: the water from the soaker hoses will only soak what is right beneath the hose. This can make your garden grow in patches and you will have trouble keeping everything evenly moist.
5. Once you lay your hoses down and you’ve got the pins and rocks holding them in place, hook your garden hose up to the soaker hose and run it for ten minutes or so. Then go look at what has been watered and where you’ve got dry patches. If you have a good amount of water pressure in the hoses, you can take a small nail (or push pin) and poke a few strategically placed holes in the hose. This will create a stream of water that can water the dry patches. Once you’ve punctured your hose, keep track of it. My hard water plugs my holes up quickly, so sometimes they need to be opened up again.
Do not use a large nail, you just want a very small stream to sprinkle whatever areas the hoses miss. When you poke the holes in the hose, try and aim the hole to spray as low as you can. If you mess up and end up with a stream of water spraying out of the bed, just cover the area with a pottery shard or a decent sized rock and try again a little further down the line. You don’t need a ton of these, but it’s the best way to make sure that you are watering everywhere that you need to.
If you are wondering about the longevity of poking holes in hoses, my water is super hard. I have a huge amount of scale where I run tap water. This is probably the only time hard water works to my benefit. The holes close, over the season of watering. But, only if the puncture holes are very small. You can try using a sewing needle to begin with and change the diameter of what you are using as you deem it necessary.
This year has been super mild. My pear tree is completely covered in pears! This year my pear fruited so heavily that even the squirrels haven’t made a dent in them!