Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Garden irrigation

3rd August - There's been a bit more rain since the last harvest, the soil is heavy and water retentive so watered and control plots are both pretty wet. There is much more foliage on the irrigated plants than the control.

As in July, a metre of row was harvested from the carrot and beetroot rows. As can be seen in the photos, the irrigated beetroots and carrots are visibly larger than the controls.

All of the beetroot has grown considerably since the last evaluation a month ago. Both plots are producing roots suitable for eating and some of the irrigated ones are getting quite big. The variety grown, Cylindra, produces long roots. Most of the root is above ground. This makes them easy to harvest, but also easy targets for mice which have been very busy, especially in the irrigated plot where the leaf canopy is much denser. The yield from control plot was 800g, from the irrigated plot 1400g - 75% more. Quality was much the same from both.

The irrigated carrots easily out yielded the control - 1800g verses 1225 grams a difference of 47%. However, this is not the whole story as the irrigated carrots looked stumpier and had more splitting so that the yield of good quality carrots was 980g in both treatments. It did look as though, at least from a quality point of view, that the carrots benefited from having to search for their water. As previously noted, this was in heavy soil, the story could well be different in free draining soils.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Solar garden irrigation - massive yield increases

Solar garden irrigation increases 1st July yield by between 127% and 268%.

1st of July - time to sacrifice some carrots and beet root in the name of science. (Maybe not real science with labcoats, replicates and statistics).

The first metre of row, of watered and unwatered carrots and beet root were lifted from the trial plots. From the pictures above and below, you can see that there is more foliage on the watered plants.

The tops were removed from the roots, which were then cleaned and weighed.

You can see the results above. The beetroot yielded an astonishing 268% more when watered using a WaterWand than when unwatered. Carrot yield increased by a very respectable 127%.

Will these advantages be carried through to the end of the season? Who knows - it probably depends on the weather. One thing which can be said with certainty now is that the irrigated carrots and beetroots were large enough to use. The control carrots could be used if you like very small carrots, but the control beetroots are not worth bothering with.


Beetroot quality was uniformly good, no skin blemish, no pest damage.

The control carrots were very straight, barely any forking and good skin quality. The watered carrots were stumpier - they were about the same length but much fatter, there was a low percentage of forking, bit the skins were not as smooth as the control carrots. Taste was good for both treatments.


The next metre of row will be lifted and assessed in August. The differences this time were so huge as to be almost unbelievable. For that reason I would appreciate the presence of an unbiased witness to verify whatever the results show. If you want to do this you can get in touch through my website.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Garden irrigation - root vegetable watering trial

Irrigation gives 46% weight increase

It's now 22nd June
and the root vegetable trial has been running since sowing seeds on April 12th. Although it has been a pretty dry spring there have been occasional showers, lower than average temperatures and soil moisture has generally been okay. The last few days have been much warmer and quite windy so the soil is now drying quickly. Watering was started when the seeds were sown. Each irrigated row has its own seep hose line. There are 5 watered rows. Each is connected to a WaterWand Heliomatic 130 pump in rotation, so they are watered one day in five.

All the vegetables in the trial have been grown under fleece and only uncovered for weeding and occasional photos. This keeps them a little warmer but more importantly keeps carrot root fly at bay. The plots have been hand weeded twice, but weed growth has been quite modest.

The top picture shows the irrigated plot today, the second the unwatered plot. Both plots continue to look good but there is clearly more growth where watered.
The third image compares plants from irrigated (left) and control plots.

The combined weight of the unwatered roots
is 65g, watered 95g. This represents a difference of 46% though the sample size is too small to draw any conclusions.

The WaterWand Heliomatic 130 is a small scale, fully automatic, solar powered garden irrigation pump designed to use stored rainwater from butts or tanks.

Garden irrigation - root vegetable irrigation trial

Root vegetable irrigation trial update 14th May 2010

On 14th May the root vegetable plants had grown enough to be seen and so had the weeds. The fleece was removed and plots weeded, pulling weeds by hand within the seedling rows but hoeing them off (with the edge of a trowel) between the rows.

Germination in both plots was pretty good with relatively few "slug gaps" where slugs have grazed off the seedlings.

Since sowing in April the weather has been much cooler than normal and probably drier too. The irrigated rows have been watered on a five day rotation, in the photos the row being watered is easily visible. The irrigated plants are noticeably more advanced than the unirrigated, which can also be seen in the photos.

Monday, 12 April 2010

WaterWand seep hose irrigation of root vegetable trial

Do root vegetables grow better with irrigation?

A trial to find out was started on April 9th 2010.

The trial

There is a watered plot and an unwatered plot. Each comprises: -
  • 6m row of beetroot, variety Cylindra.
  • 2 x 6m rows of carrot, variety Chanteney Red Core.
  • 2 x 6m rows of parsnips, variety Albion.
The watered plot will be irrigated using a WaterWand Heliomatic 130, feeding seep hose laid along the rows. One row will be connected to the pump at a time, with the delivery tube being moved daily so that the rows are watered in rotation.

The plot

The vegetable patch has been newly made in the corner of a field which has been down to grass for about 5 years. This has not been grazed, but mowed by tractor several times a year so the soil has been seriously compacted as the veg garden is where the tractor turned at the field end. The compaction was so bad that rainwater just puddled on top without soaking in.

In December the plot was hand dug using the traditional double digging technique where the soil is dug to one spit deep with a spade and the soil beneath is then broken up with a fork. This breaks up the compacted soil to allow drainage and aeration.

Although the soil is fairly heavy with plenty of clay, the heavy frosts through January and February have done a good job of breaking it down so that making a seedbed was relatively easy. I have taken care not to compact the soil, using decking boards to spread my weight when I need to go on to it.


The decking board also came in handy as a guide to making a straight seed drill, using a hand hoe to scrape the soil out (picture left). Beetroot seeds were sown individually about every 5cm along the row. Carrots were sprinkled thinly into the drill. The hand hoe was then used again to lightly cover the seeds which were then watered in with a watering can to settle the soils around the seeds and accelerate the onset of germination.

The parsnips were treated slightly differently - a broom handle was used to make a small hole about 2cm deep every 15cm along the row. 3 or 4 seeds were sown in each hole which will be reduced to one plant later on by thinning. These too were covered over and watered in.


8mm diameter seep hose is used with the WaterWand. The larger sizes you often see apply water far too quickly and will not work with the pump.

A stop end and stake were fitted to the hose as shown, which is staked down at one end of the row. The hose was pulled straight along the seed row and staked about every 2m. It was cut to row length and a barbed connector pushed in. The end of the seep hose was staked so that the connector looks up as in the picture. This is repeated for each row.


Very often with parsnips and carrots there will be gaps in the rows and sometimes no apparent germination at all. Make sure the seed you use is fresh, parsnips in particular will not grow from old seed, but all seeds become less viable over time. Equally important is slug and snail control. I apply a sprinkling of slug pellets before germination, while there is nothing else to eat, to clear the populations before the seedlings emerge. Parsnip seedlings are slugs favourite food and they can eat your seedlings before you even know they have germinated. Your crop is likely to be devastated without protection. It is important to keep birds away to stop them eating the pellets. Horticultural fleece is a great way to do this as it also keeps warmth in, to accelerate growth and keeps carrot root fly out, which can become a problem later on.


The WaterWand is mounted in a sunny position. It draws rainwater from a water butt. In this situation it will have a "wanderlead" delivery tube attached to the outlet. This is long enough to reach any of the seep hoses. The WaterWand is turned to its maximum setting and the "wanderlead" is connected to one of the seep hoses as shown left. Each day it is moved to the next so that all rows get watered on a regular cycle.

It is very important for the soil around germinating seeds to be kept moist, it provides the water essential for growth and keeps the soil soft enough for the tender young seedlings to push through. It also softens the seed coat allowing the seedlings to shed them more easily.

Where soil fertility is poor, soluble fertiliser can be added to the water source to encourage growth. It is important to remember than dilution rates for soluble fertilisers sometimes allow for clear water irrigations between applications. Using quarter strength is usually about right.

The WaterWand will irrigate every 3 hours during the day. The water is applied very slowly so it has time to soak in, but application continues for a long time so sufficient water is applied. The pump applies more water when it is sunny and your plants need it most.

Follow this blog - if you are interested to know how this trial progresses sign up as a follower now.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Spring baskets

On Feb 25th I planted up 6 hanging baskets with evergreen shrubs, ivies and violas. You can see how this was done by going to my information sheet "planting spring baskets" which you will find at

The baskets are being grown for display at the Harrogate Spring show, on behalf of one of my distributors - Hotbox International

The baskets have been grown on for one month now in a frost protected greenhouse. The top picture shows a couple of baskets as they are today - 26th March, the lower photo is how they looked immediately after planting. There's about another 4 weeks until the show so I am hoping the baskets fill out some more so that the plastic can't be seen at all by then. At the show the display will show the "Hotbox" Heliomatic 130 being used to water the hanging basket display.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

My very first blog

A quick intro.

I refer to myself online as Solar gardener. This is because over the last 3 years I have developed a range of irrigation kits which use solar power to automatically irrigate plants with rainwater. They are called WaterWands and you can see them at

As a part of the development program I have built a research garden in which to test out ideas and equipment in a garden like setting.

The objectives of the blog are: -
  • To inform anyone who is interested what is happening in the research garden.
  • To pick as many brains as possible when I don't know what I am doing.
  • To find out about garden watering problems that don't occur in my garden.
  • To get to know you, who knows, one day you might buy one of my products (some gardeners already have!)
What will you see if you follow this blog?

The research garden includes extensive rainwater storing raised beds, kitchen garden, container (pot) gardens, greenhouse, hanging baskets, tree establishment trials and more.

I will also be developing and testing new kit - see it here first!

I will also report on interesting projects which WaterWand is involved in such as the new "One planet food project" at Occombe Farm near Paignton in Devon.

There is also WaterWand Australia and from time to time I will let you know what is happening there.

Help me please

  • To keep my blog interesting and relevant
  • Feel free to comment on style and format - this is my first attempt.
  • Ask questions and give answers.
  • Not to talk to myself - if you find this useful, interesting, or otherwise entertaining, tell your friends.
Talk to you soon.