Pondering The Challenge Of Watering An Expanded Garden

An expanded garden requires more watering, but getting water to the garden can be tricky if a convenient water source isn't located close by.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Over the course of New Year’s Day weekend, I committed a few hours to one of my favorite annual pursuits. I poured through the seed and plant catalogs that arrive by mail each winter, planning out the coming year’s garden.

This is always an enjoyable exercise. But it was made even more fun this year by the knowledge I am prepared to pursue a significantly expanded garden. No fewer than 15 new raised beds are waiting to be filled in the main garden. I will also install four extra-large raised beds within the protected confines of my orchard deer fence.

One Problem

The orchard beds are great because they provide a lot of room for growing large plants like pumpkins and watermelons. There’s only one problem. The orchard isn’t as close to a water source as the garden.

Since I’m doubling the number of beds from four to eight for 2022, I’m going to need twice as much water to keep the plants suitably supplied.

This is going to require a little thought. My current solution, which works well, is to place a 35-gallon leg tank filled with water in the back of a wagon and haul it to the orchard using a lawn tractor. But dispensing a tank by gravity takes time. If I were to purchase a larger tank to serve my needs—say, a 70-gallon tank—I’m apt to spend twice as long watering the garden beds.

During the peak of a busy farming summer, I’m concerned I won’t be able to find the extra time.

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Read more: Growing pumpkins vertically solves multiple problems. Here’s how to do it.

Potential Solutions

This is prompting me to explore other options. For example, I could purchase a second 35-gallon tank and dispense water from both tanks at the same time, cutting down on watering time for the expanded garden.

I’m also curious whether the tanks could provide enough water pressure to work effectively with soaker hoses. If I could thread soaker hoses through each bed, I could theoretically open the tanks and let the water flow evenly through each bed without supervision. This would allow me to work on other orchard projects in the meantime.

Of course, time isn’t the only question here. Fresh water weighs about 8.34 pounds per gallon. My 35-gallon leg tank tips the scales at nearly 292 pounds. That’s a fair chunk of weight to haul around with a wagon and lawn tractor.

Part of me wonders if doubling the payload to 584 pounds is asking too much of my tractor. I’ll have to consult the user manual and see how much weight it’s rated to tow. If it exceeds or pushes the limits, I may need to find a different solution.

Maybe the old John Deere Model 40 has found a new job?

Read more: New year, new tractor? Wait! That old machine can still be plenty useful.

Catch in Place

In addition, I’m pondering whether I can install gutters along the top of my orchard deer fence to catch rainwater and guide it toward a rain barrel. The front section of the fence is made of wood and spans more than 200 feet.

During a heavy summer rainstorm, it might catch a fair amount of water that I wouldn’t have to haul to the expanded garden using the tractor and wagon.

Suffice to say, there are a lot of possibilities to ponder. I don’t know yet which option (or combination of options) will prove most suitable.

But one thing is certain. My expanded garden presents a fun logistical challenge to analyze while waiting for spring!

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