Thursday, July 19, 2012

In the Trenches...


Volunteers from Bishop Eustace Prep, showing off their handiwork
The solstice has come and gone and our students have left the Dreamkeeper garden for the summer.  Eggplant and pepper leaves droop beneath the unforgiving summer sun as temperatures reach into the 90's before noon.  Tomato plants give out as the heat overwhelms their spring sensibilities, and everything that remains just looks thirsty.

Most days the only sounds in the garden are chickens clucking or the occasional gardener watering.

On the bright side, the mix of materials in our lasagna layers is finally breaking down into soil, and the rows should be ready for planting in just a couple months!  The only problem is this: with over 800 new feet of growing space, how are we going to water it all?!

Normally we water the Dreamkeeper garden by hand.  We turn on a hose and let it run, moving from raised bed to raised bed until all the soil in the garden is moist.  Once the lasagna layers are ready, watering by hand would take at least an extra hour, if not two.

Instead of giving ourselves more work every week, we've decided to install an irrigation system to water our plants for us.  When completed, the system will run on a timer and send water from the school's supply directly to the plants.

So how do we get water to the plants without having clumsy pipes for our scholars to step on?  Easy!  We bury them underground!  Well... not so easy, as it turns out.  Most of the soil in our garden is pure clay, which is the hardest kind of soil to dig because it's so thick and heavy.

Luckily for us, New Orleans Outreach and Rustic Pathways had volunteers at the ready to help us dig through that tough clay.  Last Wednesday we had more than twenty volunteers who came all the way from Bishop Eustace Prep in Pennsauken, New Jersey.
Before...
When we started digging we had no idea how long it would take to break through the clay.  Each trench had to be dug between 12 and 24 inches deep and six to eight inches wide, and each trench would be dozens of feet long!

...during...
The volunteers worked quickly, each starting with their own short section of trench and expanding it in either direction.  In less than an hour we had made a pretty big dent, and by the time we were done, all the trenches for one half of the lasagna layers had connected up!
...and after!  A job well done.
All in all we managed to dig over 80 feet of trenches!  Thanks to our volunteers' hard work we're on schedule for the completion of our irrigation project (knock on wood! or PVC!).

Our next post will feature more of the design process, including the building and installation of the underground piping system.