PVC Irrigation System Update

I noticed that there was another issue with the PVC irrigation system in the front.  Originally, the PVC system was setup with the hose coming into the PVC pipe, going through a "T" piece, and then splitting off into four other PVC pipes from there – two attached with "T" pieces and the other two using 90-degree elbows on the side.  You can see a bit how it is setup here – with the main horizontal piece , the T coming in from the hose, two T's going to two other PVC pipes, and not picture on both sides – the 90-degree elbows:

Front PVC System

Well, with the way the water pressure works, it was forcing most of the water down the very end of the horizontal PVC pipe through the two lines attached to the 90-degree elbows and therefore causing the two lines attached with the two "T" pieces to not get as much water.

So, this was corrected.  The hose is still connected to a T piece coming in which then splits off in either direction to a 90-degree elbow.  From there, each 90-degree elbow is then attached to another T piece – which splits it off into another horizontal PVC pipe.  Again, there is a 90-degree elbow on each side of this piece which forces it down each of the lines.  This way, it gets a better and more even water flow.  Here is the new finished product:

New Front Irrigation Connections

Green Beans, Garden Cleared, PVC Irrigation Update

It still has been incredibly hot here in Central Illinois and today was no different.  It is about 96 degrees outside with a heat index of about 105 degrees.  But, that didn't stop me today and yesterday because I had to get things done!

The front garden needed to be cleared.  At the beginning of this week, the cauliflower was all pulled up.  Yesterday (Friday), I needed to get all the broccoli pulled.  With the heat we have had recently, I didn't expect to get many side shoots of broccoli so I decided it wasn't worth keeping them in the garden to take out more nutrients.  So, the broccoli plants were all taken out of the front garden.

Now the front garden is 2/3 bare.  The peppers and green beans are the only thing left.  Speaking of peppers – I uncovered a nice looking pepper while pulling some green beans!

California Wonder Pepper

For the green beans, we got about 13 ounces out of the plants that are currently in the garden.  This was the first picking of green beans.  There are also a few strawberries that were picked today as well.  We keep getting them in 3 – 4 ounces a few times a week.

Green Beans

While everything was tore out of the front garden, I also took the opportunity to re-seed in more green beans where the cauliflower and broccoli used to be.  I also backfilled some spots where green beans didn't germinate previously.  During that process, I also decided it was time to re-do the irrigation system.

Since the front garden is on a bit of a slope, the irrigation system doesn't do well unless it is as level as possible.  So, I got out some twine and had to string up the PVC irrigation system to the overhead supports to try to level it out.  This still didn't work out very well.  I also then discovered that by running one faucet for both the front and back gardens, there just wasn't enough water pressure.  So, the top part of the front garden only got dribbles of water and the bottom part – at the bottom of the hill – got streams of water through the 1/16 inch holes drilled into the PVC pipe.  A lot of this water was then escaping the raised bed and a stream of water was flowing down the driveway to the road.

Therefore, I am just going to have manually water the front garden using a timer.  The back garden will stay on the automatic timer, but the front garden will use the spigot in the front yard and I will just have to turn on the timer to run for 10 to 15 minutes manually everyday.  This timer was only $8 at the local garden supply store.  The automatic water timers are about $28.  With the front garden on its own spigot and the water lines leveled out a bit more, the front of the garden is getting a better stream of water.  I took a picture of it in action (showing the big bare spot in the garden too) and although it is hard to see, there is a nice stream through all of the holes now.

Updated PVC Irrigation

Now for some other pictures.  My wife took a picture of the strawberries and they are looking very nice!  They are putting on more flowers so we'll continue to get strawberries!  The roots must be getting better because the strawberries growing now are at least twice as large as those that were harvested up to this point.  That is what I like about the tri-star everbearing strawberries – they keep producing all season long instead of just giving you one harvest and stopping.


The grape vines have really grown as well!  They are now almost up to the top of the grape arbor.  I'll admit, I had my reservations and didn't think they would get to the top this season, but they did!

Grape Vines

And look what we have here!  Each of the two grape vines have a small cluster of grapes each on them.

Grape Cluster

Stay tuned for next week!  I'm hoping we'll start to see those green beans come up in the week that were planted outside.

Garden Updates; Peas, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Broccoli, In-Laws Garden

I was going to make two entries for this, but decided just to do one.  I needed to make an entry a few days ago but we've been very busy at work and at home so I haven't had too much time to write here.

The weather here has been extremely hot.  The past week it seems it has been 90+ degrees with heat indexes over 100.  It is expected to continue until Sunday when it will finally get down to 89 degrees followed by 84 degrees on Monday and Tuesday.  There hasn't been any rain for the past four days either – but before then, we were getting some extremely strong storms.

Let's get down to the pictures.  The first two are from the in-laws garden which were taken on June 17th.  About 22 of 100 corn seeds came up – and they were spread everywhere in the corn area.  So I dug up each of those and placed them all closer together so they can pollinate.  Those shown in the photo below up front were transplanted there.  Out of about 250 seeds started (about 175 of them were seed from two years ago), only about 50 came up – and about 42 survived – which were then transplanted here.


The potato area left more to be desired.  It is hard to see the potatoes for the most part here, but they are down the middle.  Out of over 70+ potatoes, there are only 11 that are growing.  They are the plants that have the 'hills' of dirt around them.


Moving on to the garden at home –

This is a picture of the back garden.  The six tomato plants are all over the top of their four-foot tomato cages.  The peas are just about dead – the yellowing of the leaves is slowly going up the plant.  We have been picking the peas every two days, and in a week, there has been at least another five pounds of peas.  Today we picked another 1 pound 12 ounces and two days before that was just a little over a pound.

Back Garden

Here is a close-up of some Best Boy tomatoes coming in strong.

Better Boy Tomatoes

And a picture of some of the Red Cherry Tomatoes.

Red Cherry Tomatoes

Moving on to the "driveway garden" as I call it.  The one potato plant is doing well in there – at least when this was taken.  Because of all the heat today and yesterday, the plant now looks very withered and I hope it makes it.  This potato bin idea hasn't been working for me very well at all – although the potatoes directly in the ground at the house are doing well.

Potato Bin

And the carrots.  They are all pushing up against the bird netting.


I plucked another carrot just to see how it was going.  This one was taken from the far end – opposite of where the other was pulled.  This one appears to be smaller than the one picked a few weeks ago up by the potato bin.


Now – over to the garden on the side of the house.  Again, this shows the peas fully 4+ feet tall.  The onions in the front just keep growing and I hope they put on some nice-sized bulbs!

Side Garden

Here is a closer look at one of the onions getting ready to open it's flower

Onion Flower

These are the potatoes right by the side of the house as well.  All of them are doing well.  Some of these pictures look pretty dark – that is because a big storm was just getting to roll in before I took these.

Potatoes in Side Garden

Here is a close-up of some of the potato flowers.

Potato Flower

Alright – now to show the strawberry patch.  These tri-star strawberries keep yielding about six ounces of strawberries each week.  The strawberries keep putting runners out everywhere and I'm having to cut them and keep them under control!

Strawberry Patch

Lastly, now to the front garden.  A full view of the garden shows that the broccoli heads have been cut off.  I cut off two over the weekend and unfortunately did not last long.  Overnight they all flowered into their yellow flowers in a gallon ice cream container in the house.  I was going to keep them for fresh eating instead of blanching and freezing – but that didn't work out.

Front Garden

The lettuce was all pulled today.  Unfortunately, there must have been four pounds that we pulled today – and it is all bad!  I noticed last time that the lettuce was a little bitter, but this time it was really bitter. So, it all was thrown back out into the front garden to compost into the soil and also help hold the water better.


And a closer view of the green beans and peppers.  The green beans are putting on some beans and I think we'll start to pick some by the end of this week.

Beans & Peppers

So those above were all taken on June 19th.  Now, to the photos taken today (June 23rd).

All of the cauliflower has now been pulled.  Out of the eight plants, there were two of them that didn't put anything on to harvest.  There was the first one harvested that weighed almost a pound, and these other five weighed in just a little over a pound.  They were much smaller.


Between the lettuce and cauliflower being pulled up today, there is a lot of space now in the garden!  I am thinking that tomorrow I am going to pull the broccoli because it has just been too hot for the broccoli to produce even side shoots.

The wife and I went out to pick the peas about an hour after tending to the cauliflower and lettuce.  Boy, let me tell you it was HOT outside with the head index and humidity.  Usually pulling the peas from 100 plants takes me around an hour, but it took half that time with the help.  But, it was still bad enough that it looked like I just sat in a sauna.

Me Sweating

This weekend the green beans will most likely be planted in the front garden where the lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower once were.  This should give another 60 green bean plants.  I'll also backfill the areas where the green beans didn't come in previously for another try.

Bitter Tasting Lettuce

Today was the first time I took some of the lettuce to work that was from the last harvest of over two pounds.  I noticed immediately that the Black Simpson Elite leaf lettuce was very bitter tasting.

Well, I know that the bitterness isn't due to lack of water nor the soil since both have been kept up well.  So, it appears that the issue must be due to weather.

While I didn't really think it was extremely warm the week before while it was growing, it still was averaging around 75 – 78 degrees during the daytime.

Unfortunately, that most likely will be the end of the lettuce for the year.  This week the temperatures really rose in our area.  It was about 88 degrees yesterday and it is 92 today – and the weather for the next week will be just as warm.  Even the heat indexes are past 100 degrees.

Oh well, we got a pretty good amount of lettuce over two months from the plants.  We easily got over ten pounds of lettuce from 11 plants.  I will most likely pull the lettuce out on Sunday when I do the last harvest  – and this will make some room for more green beans – just as long as the green beans will grow in this intense heat!

More Good Veggies!

On Monday, I uncovered the one cauliflower that was doing well.  Well, it weighed in just 1/4 ounce under a pound!  Not too bad.  Unfortunately, it will most likely be the only one of the eight that produced much of anything.  I checked a few others and they have the small button or golf-ball sized curds.  I guess they must have got stressed out during a transplant or something else caused a problem.  So, I am going to pull those out of the garden this weekend and make room for bush green beans if they don't improve.  Anyways, here is that almost one-pound cauliflower curd!

One Pound Cauliflower Curd

Today I picked another two heads of broccoli and a whole bunch of peas!  I was picking peas off the 100 plants for over an hour and a half this evening!  Both of the broccoli weighed in at 1 pound, 7 3/4 ounces and I was very surprised with the peas.  I didn't think we would get even five pounds of peas with the beginning weigh in of not even a pound.  Four pickings later, there was 1 pound, 12 1/2 ounces of peas.  The peas are still growing but they are way over the top of the chicken wire fencing – so as long as they don't fall over on their own weight, I should get a few more pickings and maybe get seven or eight pounds of peas total.

Peas & Broccoli

Broccoli & Lettuce Today

Today was another harvest!  I pulled a little more than two pounds of Black Simpson Elite lettuce and two pounds, six ounces of Green Goliath broccoli.  I didn't take any pictures of the lettuce since I have too many of those, but I did take a few of the broccoli.

Here are two of the three heads of broccoli.  I planted out eight broccoli plants and three have completed thus far.  One is right behind and will be picked in a few more days whereas the others still have about a week.


After I blanched them over boiling water (only do about a pound at a time) for four minutes, they were put in a nice ice water bath.  These will be frozen for a bit until we use them.  I will most likely keep at least one head of broccoli to have fresh with some veggie dip.

Broccoli Ice Bath

On a side note, the cauliflower seems to be doing better.  Two more cauliflower plants have very small curds starting – I just hope they grow and I don't get the dreaded "button head" that is only about the size of a golf ball.  Right now the two other cauliflower plants have small curds about this size – I just hope they grow!

PVC Irrigation System & Garden Update

Recently I have been wanting to get some type of automatic watering system setup for the garden.  Last year I used an automatic timer that would kick on at 9 pm and run for 30 minutes using about 50 feet of soaker hose.  This year, the garden has really grown in size (and split between three different locations instead of one).

I wanted to ensure that the water was only going to be used where it really needed to be.  For example, soaker hoses will put out water all along the hose.  Well, since tomato plants are about four feet apart, this was a waste since water didn't need to be used along the entire hose.

Researching online, I came across a University of Utah guide on how to setup a PVC irrigation system.  In this article, there is a guy that has about a 1/4 acre garden.  He used 1/2 inch PVC pipe along with several fittings to automatically water all of his garden.  The benefits to this over just watering your garden on a schedule is that it saves water, cuts down on weeds, and also saves time for the gardening because there isn't any watering that has to be done manually and also saves time because there are quite a few less weeds in the garden to pick – no water for the weeds, no weeds will grow.  This is what is great about this system – it targets the areas that you need to water.

After researching, the University of Utah discovered that it is best to drill 1/16 inch holes into the PVC pipe – nothing larger nor smaller.  So I used the same bit as well.  Most of all of my PVC pipes had holes drilled every six inches.  This is because of the peas and green beans that I'm growing – which are all six inches apart.  The one difference was with the tomatoes – I drilled three holes – all two inches apart – just where the tomato stem was.

What is also great about this system is that there are many different fittings you can use for PVC piping and that this system is quite adaptable.  If you grow your tomatoes or a different kind of veggie, then you can change out your PVC pipes in those areas to better match your needs with the holes in the pipe.  For instance, next year where I have the broccoli and cauliflower, I will use pipe with three holes drilled two inches apart – every 18 inches.  I space those plants out every 18 inches.

I put all of it on a timer and this year I set it to every other day at 7 am.  While more research shows that it is better to water plants in the morning, I really also wonder about that because that leaves all day for the water to evaporate.  Last year I had it automatically irrigate at 9 pm – so the water at least stayed overnight – so which is better?

Here are a few photos of the system I have setup – although it is a bit hard to see.  The most expensive part of the system was the connector between a standard 5/8-inch hose to a 1/2 inch PVC pipe.  I had to purchase two of them at $5 each.  Otherwise, the fittings ranged from 10 cents to 30 cents – and the 10-foot sections of PVC pipe were on sale for 78 cents when I bought them.  Total, I spent about $40 on the complete system that will last for many years (longer than soaker hoses too!).

PVC Irrigation

PVC Irrigation
The above shows the automatic timer with a Y-adapter just afterwards with on/off regulators.  The hose off to the right is going all the way around to the front of the house.

Meanwhile, the garden still is doing nicely.  The carrots and broccoli/cauliflower are coming along so well that they are actually pushing the bird netting off the PVC pipe!

Front Garden


The potatoes are beginning to put on their flowers.

Potatoes Flowering

The broccoli is huge and I'll bet it will be picked tomorrow.  There are about four of the eight broccoli plants with these large heads.  I am not going to wait for the smaller shoots on the side because I'm anxious to get some green beans in this space so I can get a summer crop in the same spot as the spring crops!


Wow, remember what that looked like only a week ago!  It has at least tripled in size – if not more!

The beans that have already been planted are doing well too.

Green Beans

The peppers just behind the beans have also put on multiple flowers so the peppers will be coming in soon as well.

Lastly, here is the back gaden with the three varieties of tomatoes and half of the peas.  I will be picking the third bunch of peas this evening when it cools down a bit – but all of the tomatoes have already grown to the top of the tomato cages.  There is a small Best Boy tomato growing on the second plant too!

Back Garden

Carrots & Peas

So far I have picked two pickings of peas.  The first set was picked on June 8th and the second set just today.  The first harvest – from about 100 plants – was around 5 ounces.  Today's picking was almost 7 ounces.  So, not quite a pound yet, but I should get over a pound with the next harvest in two days.

It is quite a lot of work looking for the peas because they blend right in – and they sure do take up a lot of space for the amount of peas you get.  I understand why people typically don't grow peas in the garden – because there is quite a lot of work involved with peas for the amount you get.

Second Pea Harvest

A few days ago the neighbor was curious to see what the carrots looked like.  My wife also asked me to pull one as well to see how they were coming along.  I knew they weren't ready yet since they were not peeking through the soil.  But, I went ahead and picked one and they seem to be about half-way done.  Since they only get maybe 4 – 5 hours of sunlight a day, they are going to take longer than what is typical – about 60 days for the Burpee A#1 carrots.


Garden – Week of June 7

The garden just keeps growing beyond belief!  We just got back from our week-long vacation to a few theme parks in Ohio (posted those pictures in the picture gallery).  Upon return, there was a lot of items that needed to be maintained and harvested!  Heather picked a little over a pound of strawberries, there was over two pounds of lettuce, and about five ounces of radishes.

The broccoli are beginning to put on their clusters in the middle!  It won't be much longer before they are ready.

The front garden is doing very nicely.  The peppers are coming up well and the green beans are still coming right along.
Front Garden

We are not too sure what the name of these flowers are, but they are blooming!  The first year we moved in, there were only two of these flowers.  The second year seemed to triple the flowers and this year, there are a huge amount more!
Flowers in Landscaping

The potato bin is a bit of a disappointment.  Unfortunately, I noticed that three of the potatoes were wilting last week before we left.  I gave them a huge amount of water and this didn't help.  Upon returning, the three potatoes are completely gone now.  I even dug down a little bit where they were and didn't find anything.  I attribute this to covering the potatoes up too much.  I covered almost all of them up, and I don't think that they were able to get enough sunlight to continue.
Potato Bin

The other potatoes are doing very well.  Just hilled them up and also got all of the weeds out of the area after I took this picture.
Potatoes in the Garden

The carrots are over a foot tall now.  They are almost up to the bird netting that I put over the area to keep the birds and rabbits out.

The peas are just about ready to be picked!  Here is a photo of some of the flowers that are still growing on them.  The peas are well over three feet tall now as they are way past the chicken wire fencing behind it.
Peas in Bloom

And a few pea pods…
Pea pods

The tomatoes also tripled in size since the last week!  It looks very overgrown, but I weeded and cleared out this area after I took this picture as well.  I'm hoping that the peas will be done in the next week otherwise I won't be able to get back to them with the tomatoes growing so quickly!

And here are pictures of the lettuce harvested along with the radishes.  A few are really small, but there was one perfectly round one that was at least two ounces by itself.


We went to the in-laws on Saturday to see how the garden was growing there.  Unfortunately, it was an extreme disappointment.  They told us that about a dozen potatoes were up and the corn was growing.  I thought maybe they didn't count the potatoes and there were more.  Nope!  There were only 11 potatoes that grew out of at least 80 that were dug into the soil.  For the corn, it was even worse.  The original 42 transplants of corn were still doing great right in the front of the garden, but we planted another 100+ directly into the ground.  Out of those, only 22 came up!  They were also spread very far from one another so they won't pollinate very well.  What I don't understand is this area used to be farmland, so I would have thought the soil would be great for it.  It seems that the soil can take care of the transplants well, but trying to grow anything from seed just didn't work out.  I guess next year we'll have to see about finding what is wrong with the soil and maybe trying to fix it – but then also do 100% transplants instead of seeding them in the ground (although I don't know how the potatoes will work).