After the Volunteer Dream Team knocked out the bulk of the installation in early May, we were ready for plants and water.
Irrigation Set Up
California-based irrigation company, DripWorks, offered up design services, equipment and shipping to boot and they were quick about all of it. We sent them a rough schematic and they sent back an improved design and everything needed to build it out. Clearly they’ve delt with folks like us before because they had the good sense to include a parts list organized by order of assembly and copies of the schematics. Thus armed the system assembled so easily that it felt like a day at the playground.
Rain barrels were already set and full which led to the inevitable moment when the drip system had to be patched in to the full barrels…less dramatic than we expected:
Feeling The Heat
Our system has its challenges. It needs to deliver the same amount of water to each pot, be miserly to stretch rainwater, function under very low pressure and water on a timed but variable schedule. DW’s system has done all of that amazingly well. As last Wednesday’s temp shot past 90 – undoubtedly even hotter on the roof – I headed up there thinking that I’d watch months of work sag out of existence. Surprisingly, the soil was moist and everything looked content, even the lettuce which when triggered by heat shoots up a flower stalk and becomes bitter – “bolting” in farm-speak.
Within a week and a half of transplanting into the mixes it was clear that the crops were reacting to them. Thus far, plants in the straight Rooflite (just right of center) are showing the most robust growth. The others appear to be smaller as the amount of biochar/compost in the mix increases. The mixes with the highest percent biochar are on the far right – compare the tomatoes on the far right to those just right of center. That said, all of the mixes are producing great looking plants, and the variation in size is not necessarily indicative of nutritional content.
Lettuce should be ready for harvest in a week or so and then its off to the USDA lab at Cornell for analysis.