Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Fall Garden

The weather has cooled off, so it's time for the Fall garden.  I started some kale and cabbage seeds in the garage a while back.  I don't remember when exactly.  Once they got big enough I moved them into one of the raised beds.
I also planted seeds directly in the beds.  They've sprouted and seem to be doing OK so far. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Companion planting with hairy vetch

I've read that growing tomatoes with hairy vetch works well.  So I thought I'd give it a try.  You plant the vetch in the fall once the tomatoes are done.  It grows through the winter.  In the spring you chop and drop it.  The vetch becomes mulch for the tomatoes.

I started by clearing out some of the raised beds.
I got several pounds of hairy vetch seed from a local gardening store.  I hand spread the seed on the bed.  I didn't know how much to put down.  So I just threw down several handfuls.
 It took a while for the stuff to germinate. 
The picture above isn't very good.  We've had a lot of rain and clouds the last few days.  I'll have to get some better pictures as it progresses. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Harvesting peppers

I didn't have a lot of luck starting peppers last spring.  I started seeds in my garage and moved the plants into my raised beds in April.  Then we had a month of clouds and rain and the plants didn't grow at all.  I had to start more seeds in May
Pepper harvest on 9-25-2013

I can't really complain now though.  The peppers are pretty much the only things left in my garden.  The tomatoes got too much rain didn't do too well as a result.  I still have one or two tomatillo plants hanging on.  I've taken the rest out.  They were falling over and turning brown.  I got tired of looking at them and took them out.
I don't know what kind of peppers these are.  I should really learn how to identify them.
Here's the raised bed where most of the peppers reside.  Some leaf lettuce in the corner came back to life once it got cool again.  The tomatoes at the end need to be removed.

Pepper harvest 10-09-2013
We had some strong winds the other day so I went out and picked as many peppers as I could (see above).  I left a lot of the small ones.  I don't know if they'll get big or not.  It's getting kind of late for peppers.  If they don't make it I won't complain.  I'm really happy with what I was able to produce.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DIY Check valve

The other day I wrote a post about one of my rain barrels being too low and as a result it was overflowing.
I've spent a lot of time trying to come up with a solution to this problem.  The best option I could think of is to fill the barrel from the top and empty it from the bottom like I did with the barrel under my deck.

This requires a float valve at the top to stop the flow of water when it's full, and a check valve at the bottom so water can flow out but not in.

The check valve I used previously was $15 (with shipping).  I didn't want to spend that much again, so I had to come up with something else.  That's when I found the following video on youtube. 
Making a check valve is pretty simple.

Parts list:

I started by cutting both ends off of one of the nails with a pair of wire cutters.
 Then I drilled a 1/16" hole through the PVC pipe and inserted the nail.
Then I placed a rubber O-ring in the slip side of the slip x FHT PVC fitting.  The rubber ball went in next.  The pressure from the water will push the ball into the O-ring and plug the hole.  This will prevent the flow of water in that direction.  When the water pressure from the other side is higher, the ball will dislodge and be stopped by the nail.  That creates enough room for the water to flow out.
The final step was to screw the barb into the fitting and glue the pieces together.
Water should only flow from the hose side to the barbed side.
As soon as I had thing thing put together I had to test it.  I got a short piece of irrigation tubing and a fitting that I had laying around.  I attached the newly created DIY check valve to the rain barrel, connected the tubing, and turned on the water.
 I verified that the water was able to flow in that direction.
 Then I reversed the connections.
 No water came out of the check valve.  Success!
The next step was to attach this thing into my overflow rain barrel.  I connected the irrigation tubing so that it'll fill the barrel from the top.  (I still need to get a float valve so it shuts off when full.)  Then I put the check valve on the outlet at the bottom and connected it to the tubing coming from my other barrels.  That way they'll be able to draw from this barrel when they get low. 
This barrel also feeds the overflow barrel by my shed.  That barrel is much lower than this barrel, so I don't need to worry about putting a check valve on that side of the splitter.  The water from that barrel won't run uphill and overflow this barrel.
The check valve caused some clearance issues.  It was too close to the ground which caused a kink in the tubing.  I remedied this by installing a 3/4" elbow between the PVC fitting and the barb adapter.

This setup seems to be working so far.  The barrel isn't filling from the bottom and overflowing.  I think I'll have a better idea of how well it works the next time we get more rain.