Friday, June 21, 2013

DIY Project: Hop Sprinklers

Last year I tried running a drip irrigation system on my hops.  I continually blew the cap off the end due to the pressure.  This year I wanted to install something a little hardier to water my hop yard.  My pastor is moving away and had a lot of 1" PVC pipe he was getting rid of and I was able to get nearly 30' of it.  My original design was to just run 40' and drill 1/16" holes in front of the hops and leave it above ground.  The UV light from the sun would eventually degrade the PVC, but the frost would burst it if there was any water in the line once Winter came.  

In light of this I decided to bury it and run actual sprinklers to the hops.  I didn't want actual sprinklers though since I didn't want to get the leaves and bines wet which could lead to Downey Mildew it left wet overnight; I wanted my water going deep to the roots.  I opted to go with the mushroom top bubblers on 6" sprinkler pipes.  I installed a drip irrigation filter at the beginning of the system and then a PVC ball-valve to control flow.  

After I got the trench dug up, cut all the pieces, glued, and buried, I gave it a test run.  I opened all the bubblers full blast, and turned the ball-valve to about 25% open which gave a good flow straight to the base of each mound.  After a little time I noticed some of the water was flowing away from the mounds and around the mounds which is not good since the roots and runner bines (underground rhyzomes) will follow that water.  Too much watering away from the mound and the hops will try to move to the water.  I took my spade tool and trenched right in front of the sprinkler in a half-moon around the hop mound creating a half moat that allowed the water to drain directly down into the roots in the mound.  

I also have the ability to put a small scoop of Miracle-Gro plant food in this trench before a watering to get fertilizer straight down to the roots as needed.  At this point it looks like my Santiam will have 1 bine, Blisk is struggling to keep one bine going, and I have 8+ bines starting to go on my Chinook.  We'll see what the new watering system and all this sun does for the others.

I was also able to find a set of garden label stakes which have a U shaped stake for tying the twine to as well as a metal face plate for writing the hop variety on (see first pic of Chinook).

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