Monday, May 23, 2011

Flood Irrigation

 We have the good fortune to have access to our neighborhood acequia and with this access comes free irrigation water. We have a pipe that runs from the ditch, under our neighbor's "sidewalk" and empties into a distribution box in our yard. It takes less than 10 minutes for both the back and front yards to completely flood and our weekly watering is complete!

Using this water is not without concerns. We have no idea what is upstream along the other ditches, laterals, and acequias before the water gets to us.  Many ditches we have seen are littered with trash including shopping carts, tires and a plethora of beer bottles. The water is not filtered and supposedly comes directly from the Rio Grande.  In deciding whether or not to use the water to irrigate we asked ourselves these questions:

Do we want the benefit of free water?

Do we want to maximize on using non-drinking water to water the garden  when we live in a water-poor, arid state?

Is growing food 100% organically more important than water conservation?

We couldn't imagine using precious drinking water to irrigate so much space. This year our goal in the yard has been to grow grasses to keep the erosion down in the spring winds, start fruit trees, and try sunken vegetable beds. In considering these needs, flood irrigating from the acequia is the most rational choice. All of our other methods are organic (no herbicides/pesticides, starting with organic/open pollinated/non-gmo seeds) and while the water that goes into the edibles is important, we figured the benefits outweighed the potential "costs."

If we had the space, perhaps we would set up some sort of sand/charcoal filter to remove the largest impurities. On our wee little lot, however, we take what we can get and free, acequia water is it.

I mean, look at how well we can get water to our plants, trees, and veggies:

The view to the West

We've been sure to berm up next to the house to keep the stucco in good shape (and keep water out of the house).

The view to the East

The submerged veggies. You can see the turnip and carrot greens as well as some of the salad greens. I'm sure some of these would prefer not to be so soaked, but so goes it in our first experimental year.
  Of course we vigorously wash and rinse any veggies that come out of the garden. It's a good habit to get into anyway and it removes any silt that is often left behind from the flood. One drawback so far is that the ladybugs have been laying eggs on blades of grass that are low to the ground. I fear that they have most likely washed away in the torrent. Another drawback is that the clay soil surface can get very slippery and a fall in the muddy soup can be unpleasant.

Given those two drawbacks, for a lazy gardener such as myself, the weekly flood is definitely the way to go.

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