This Post tries to be a simple and clear manual with which we want to transmit to the reader the interest that has this hobby from many points of view.
Orchard Irrigation Systems
In the containers, the water runs out more quickly than in the soil, which will force us to be more aware of the irrigation.
On the other hand, sometimes, we fall into an excess of water that can cause a washing, and therefore loss, of nutrients essential for the plant.
For this reason, one of the most critical tasks and where we have to be more precise is in irrigation, always seeking to maintain a constant humidity, adjusting it to the time of year and the vegetables we are growing.
We can water manually, which will be a suitable method, especially in small gardens (3 or 4 pots).
The most appropriate thing, in this case, is the use of the watering can and to make the irrigation little by little to avoid the formation of cracks in the substratum.
On the other hand, if we have a relatively large orchard and especially if in the summer season we receive a lot of sunshine, it is beneficial to install a drip irrigation system with timer.
This system will allow us to control the irrigation flow and frequency more accurately, providing the substrate with the water it needs, without wasting it and without causing excessive irrigation.
There are complete self-irrigation kits on the market that adapt very well to small urban orchards.
We also have the option of gardeners with self-irrigation, which have a water tank in the lower part that keeps the substrate permanently wet. This system can give good results, especially in vegetables less demanding with water.
Any of the mentioned irrigation systems can be useful, although its proper operation will depend on the substratum being of good quality and well structured since this will allow that when watering, the water has adequate distribution in horizontal and not so much in vertical.
If the structure of the substrate is not adequate, the water tends to filter through the cracks that form and will end up being lost under the substrate, before soaking it properly.
Seeds and Seedlings
Once we are clear about the space we are going to use, the containers we are going to use, the substratum and the form of irrigation, we only have to get the plants we are going to cultivate, which we will be able to develop from seeds or seedlings.
For the beginner farmer, we recommend starting cultivating using seedlings.
More and more nurseries near cities are offering seedlings (especially in spring) due to the significant increase in home gardening enthusiasts.
This is an exciting option for those who are new to the crop because, although we do not see the first part of the cycle of the plant, it simplifies the tasks of the orchard.
Little by little, as we acquire experience, we can combine the use of seeds and seedlings, preferably opting for the purpose of organic seeds.
Finally, in an advanced stage of our experience as urban farmers, we can also consider obtaining seeds from our crops, selecting the most vigorous plants and those that have produced the best harvest.
Sowing, transplanting, and harvesting are undoubtedly the most attractive tasks of the home garden.
Sowing the garden
The sowing can be done in a seedbed, protecting the plant in its early stages of development, or directly in its final location, in the case of vegetables that do not withstand the transplant well as carrots, radishes or beans.
For most vegetables it is going to be interesting to make a protected sowing in a seedbed, since in addition to protecting the plant, it will allow us to make better use of the space in the orchard, selecting the plants that we are going to cultivate in the seedbed and taking them to the final container when they already have some development.
There are many types of seedbeds on the market:
- Plastic alveoli (in trays or individual). They have the advantage that they can be recycled, as long as they are washed well after each use.
- Peat alveoli (in trays or individual). Peat is a type of substrate, so when transplanting it is not necessary to remove the root ball but rather the entire alveolus is planted, with less impact for the plants.
- I have pressed peat tablets. They are comfortable since it is not necessary to provide extra substrate, just wet the tablet.
- Protected seedbeds. Some seedbeds include a transparent lid to avoid damage from frost or temperature changes or to bring forward the sowing.
- Electric seedbed. In winter we ensure a temperature higher than 20 degrees, which significantly facilitates the germination of our seeds.
- Recycled seedbeds. As seedbeds, we can also use small containers as yogurt containers.
The steps to follow at the time of realizing a seedbed are:
- Look for a place where the Sun gives it enough. Although then at night (in unprotected seedbeds) it is necessary to protect the seedbed in another place safe from the low temperatures.
- Put the substrate. The same substrate is used in the final containers. For the case of seedbeds in the tray, a tip, once spread the substrate give a few strokes to settle the substrate and put more.
- Sow. The depth at which the seed is buried is 2 or 3 times its diameter, but in the case of the smallest such as strawberries, are mixed with fine sand and distributed this mixture.
- Water. In this first phase, the plant is susceptible to lack of water, so the substrate must always be moist. When watering, use the watering can near the seedbed and make a pendulum movement.
- Clarifying. If several seeds have germinated per alveolus, it is necessary to thin the seedling, the one we see stronger.
When the newly germinated plants have several real leaves (without being cotyledons), and their height is higher than that of the container, the time has come to transplant following these recommendations:
- Remove the root ball from the alveolus or pot. Better if the day before it has been watered because the root ball will come out more easily if it is somewhat wet, on the contrary, it is not necessary to try it if it is dry or flooded. If it gets stuck anyway, with a few small blows, it will separate, although it must be done with care in the case of cucurbits (cucumbers, zucchini, …). On the other hand, lettuces, onions, or cabbages take better this operation being able to transplant even to bare root.
- Plant in the final container. Once we place the plant in its last location, it is convenient to grind a little around the stem to ensure that there is no air pocket between the roots and the soil, but without passing because we can compact the substrate.
- Water. The first watering after the transplant has to be abundant so that the substrate settles and the roots remain well in contact with it.