Installing Irrigation

The summer of 2012 in much of Quebec and Ontario was hot and dry so setting up the irrigation system early in the season was a major priority. A new well was sunk at Hendrick Farm with just enough capacity to cover our watering needs. A typical rainfall year in Chelsea sees 772.2mm of precipitation but drought hit and by August we’d only had 320mm so the system needed careful management to ensure the well didn’t run dry.

  • Planning – an irrigation plan was essential; different crops need different sorts of watering. Most crops are happy with overhead sprinklers but those that are susceptible leaf mould and similar diseases such as solanacae (tomatoes, potatoes and  eggplant) or cucurbits (melons, squash and cucumbers) do better then water is applied with drip tape.
  • Components – selecting according to price, availability and re-usability. The total cost of the system was about $3000 however most of the components can be re-used next year.
  • Installation – connection to the well, digging ditches to run lines underground and reduce the risk of them being run over and damaged.
  • Management – Moving irrigation lines, checking timer programming and electrical connections took about an hour each day. The installation of electric timers meant sprinklers could be set to turn on and off when we weren’t physically in the fields.
  • Pack down – Freezing conditions in winter mean any irrigation piping needs to be packed up and stored until the spring. While the overhead sprinklers were simple, pulling up the drip tape meant navigating through overgrown pumpkin and melon beds but it all came up. Labelling the length of piping to be stored was essential for re-using and planning the following year.

What did we learn? Irrigation, for the most part, isn’t that fun but it’s here to stay as part of any modern farmers skill set and without it the harvest