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irrigating ~10,000 sq ft

 
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Hello, I am looking for help and advice with regard to irrigating a ~10,000 sq ft. fenced in area at high elevation in the southwest mountains. I would like to focus on annual vegetable production in this area. Mostly corn, squash, potatoes as the staples. The field was formerly pinyon-juniper woodland that was cleared probably 30 years ago. The soil is mostly clay. One great thing that we have access to is water from a perennial mountain runoff stream on the weekends. It comes in at the high elevation point of the property, which is generally sloping at about a 10% grade, one foot of rise for 10 feet of run. The water runs down into a substantial pond that is located below the field. I am attempting to attach images, I have marked out the location of the ditch with the teal line.

Previous residents here attempted some growing in this area, mostly hemp with some vegetables. They irrigated by pumping water back up from the pond and using drip emitters. They dug out holes for individual plants with an augur, then added topsoil brought in from elsewhere to the holes along with the transplants, then positioned two emitters by each plant forming somewhat of a basin. I am interested in irrigating using gravity, diverting the water to the field before it runs past and perhaps using a gated pipe to flood furrows on contour. I'm not sure how it will work exactly given the 10% slope we are on. That way I'd be able to avoid reliance on an electric pump and disposable plastic drip lines, though I think the drip lines would probably be easier to start effectively irrigating with. I would also like to do some direct sowing for crops that can reach maturity in a 90 day growing season, and generally avoid relying on bringing inputs like top soil from elsewhere. I am going to till the field this year at least, to get started, and will probably dedicate 2/3 or more of the field to cover crops this year in an effort to improve the soil. I also plan on mulching pretty heavily, though I not sure with what exactly. There is a lot of excess straw/rotten hay around here but I am hesitant to source it because I think glyphosate spraying is prevalent. I have access to some pinyon - juniper wood chips from pruning around the property.

If anyone has any thoughts or general advice it would be greatly appreciated, or any other details needed I am happy to provide. Also, I wasn't sure exactly where to post this, thought I'd try here before starting a new thread, if there is a more appropriate place please suggest. Will attempt to attach images in following post.
 
Parker McClelland
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images of the field in question
field-1.png
10,000 sq ft garden
10,000 sq ft garden
field-2.png
10,000 sqft garden
10,000 sqft garden
 
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Parker,

This is an interesting question that I have no knowledge of how to irrigate a 10,000 sq ft. garden.

Will this be a market garden?

I see from your pictures that there is a pond so as you mentioned you will have plenty of water.

From what I have read farmers use different methods to water crops from sprinklers to flooding the field.

Do you plan to buy some sort of equipment to water your crops?

You might find these helpful:



 
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Flood irrigation would be the most stable and reliable form of irrigation, then you don't become dependent on the availability of plastics, metals, and/or electricity.
 
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I like the idea of those drip emitters.  If they are like the ones I have used, they can give consistent, slow and steady water release exactly where you want/need the water.  The soil does not become saturated and there is no runoff.  If you think you can continue to use drip emitters, I would say go for it.  

For personal reference, I live in a humid zone with hot summers and I have clay soil.  I only used 1/2 gallon per hour emitters.  I think that slow and steady is the way to go.  But maybe 1 gallon per hour is better for you.  Honestly it depends on the soil type.

Eric
 
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Not sure if this is feasible in your situation, but have you considered building a new pond above the field? Gravity is superior to pumps, as it tends to be historically reliable, and requires no parts, maintenance, or repairs. You could just temporarily divert your stream source to flood irrigate, but a pond gives you the option to stock fish, and the fish waste nutrient rich water can be used to irrigate.. not to mention the possible subsurface infiltration of water under your field. Please keep us updated, whatever you decide!
 
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Can't you just dig some little channels and then put a blocking removable wall thingy to it you lift and let the water run in.
 
Parker McClelland
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thanks for the replies so far. To answer a few questions, this is just to provide food for family not a marketgarden.

Joseph,re flood irrigation, is that something that you think could work on a 10% grade slope like I am on? That is sort of what I had in mind, hoeing furrows and then flooding them one by one on water day (sunday).

Eric thanks for the food for thought regarding emitters. It likely would be the easiest way to get started at this point, and may very well be what I stick with for the first season.

Ted, I don't think that is really feasible for me, there isn't a ton of room up there between the field and the property line. Though I concede it would be really great to have all the water stored up there rather than where it is. Granted, most of the permaculture food foresty type stuff I plan to attempt will probably be below the pond, so any irrigation needs I have for that will be pretty simple.

Thanks all.
 
Ted Abbey
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Your idea of furrows or swales on contour is excellent. People have been doing this, and terracing slopes much steeper than your 10% for ages. Good luck on your project!
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Furrow irrigation works well on steep slopes, if the furrows are made nearly on contour, with a slope of around 0.1% to 0.5%.  Up to 3% slope may work in certain soil types.

You may either feed the furrows a few at a time from one edge of the field, or arrange the furrows in a serpentine path across the field. Serpentine is less labor, but the rows end up being different widths as they snake across the field. Reminds me of my main field, which is not square, and sides are not perpendicular.  Took me years to accept that plants grow just fine all skewampus.

The field is small enough that you don't need surveying equipment. Run water onto the field, see where it flows, and make furrows that move the desired amount of water without carrying off too much sediment. The steeper the grade of the furrow, the more water (and sediment) is transported.

 
Anne Miller
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Where I live there is an old Spanish fort.

There was an irrigation canal that was built by the Spanish in 1756.

This is in a valley so the land is relatively flat so I am not sure how the water was moved unless it was the force of the river, which today is not much.

Since it looks like your land is higher than the pond pumps could be used to send water into the canals.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse is the most experienced in doing wat you sked about.
On water day start experimenting at the highest point with a shovel and hoe and see where you can get the water to flow.

If you can gradually develop swale paths covered with pruning's  to protect the water as it infiltrates.
 
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